Guest column: Food safety is a must for cookouts with friends and family

The Daily Ardmoreite
Danielle Wells Carter County FCS Educator
Hot dogs

Nothing says summer like shorts, flip flops, sunblock, and a backyard cookout.

While you are thinking about fun in the sun and tasty hotdogs on the grill, it is a good idea to keep food safety in mind, too, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

“Inviting people over for a cookout can be a lot of fun, but summertime can be a prime time for foodborne illnesses,” Brown said. “Listeriosis is one of the most deadly foodborne illnesses. It’s a dangerous fast-growing bacteria that can grow in both warm and cold temperatures.”

Listeria is commonly found in raw milk and foods made from raw milk, as well as ready-to-eat foods such as raw vegetables, deli meats, store-bought salads, raw sprouts and the ever-popular cookout food – hotdogs. Many people enjoy grilling hotdogs at a cookout and Brown has some tips on how to prevent Listeria.

“Don’t eat hotdogs right out of the package. They must be heated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit or steaming hot inside before consuming them,” she said. “Wash your hands before and after handling uncooked hotdogs.”

In addition, try not to get the juice from the package on other surfaces, foods or utensils. If the juice is spilled, make sure to thoroughly clean all cooking surfaces, utensils and cutting boards.

After the hotdogs are grilled, keep them at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit until served. If your barbecue is an all-day event, keep them on ice until ready to cook and make sure to refrigerate or put any leftovers on ice within two hours of being removed from the grill.

“If the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees, cut that time in half and get hotdogs refrigerated within an hour,” Brown said. “If you want to reheat leftovers for later in the day, make sure the internal temperature again reaches 165 degrees or higher. Consume all leftovers within three or four days. If all leftovers aren’t eaten, just throw them away.”

Symptoms of Listeria include fever, stiff neck, muscle aches, loss of balance, confusion, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea. Keep in mind Listeria is extremely dangerous for pregnant women, older adults and those with weakened immune systems. Listeria often requires hospitalization and is treated with antibiotics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,600 people fall ill with Listeria each year and 260 deaths occur annually in the United States.

“Backyard barbecues are a staple of summer fun for so many families. Using a little extra care will help ensure everyone stays healthy,” Brown said.