NEW ROCHELLE, NY — As you fire up the grill and get ready for a long weekend of outdoor fun to commemorate America’s birthday, the Westchester County Department of Health has a dozen tips to help you celebrate safely and to prevent mosquitoes- or a food borne illness from spoiling your fun.
“We want Westchester County residents to have a July 4th weekend that’s memorable for all the right reasons, so use sunscreen and repellents to avoid sunburns and mosquito bites, and remember to drink lots of water when you’re outdoors,” said Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD.
Peter DeLucia, Assistant Commissioner for Public Health Protection, recommended residents also take the temperature of the foods they grill with an NSF-certified thermometer.
“If your weekend plans include a cookout, follow the health department’s food safety tips so your guests will go home satisfied,” DeLucia said.
· Thaw meat and poultry slowly in the refrigerator or under cold running water before cooking.
· Harmful bacteria usually grow in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140° F, so marinate and hold meat and poultry in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill it.
· Cook your food to the right temperature – that’s 160°F for ground beef, 150°F for pork; and 165°F degrees for chicken. Hot dogs should always be cooked to steaming hot (at least 165°F). Use a food thermometer to assure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.
· Don’t cross-contaminate: boil marinades before reusing them on cooked food and use different plates, cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and cooked food.
· Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Discard any food left out for more than two hours after cooking, or one hour if it is more than 90°F outside.
· Transport food inside a cooler filled with ice to keep it at 40°F or below. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun and avoid opening the lid too often. Keep beverages in a separate cooler. Avoid attracting animals – by collecting and disposing of food and litter.
· Wash hands, surfaces and utensils frequently with soap and water or antiseptic wipes.
· Drink lots of water to avoid sunstroke, avoid the midday sun and reapply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more every two hours to avoid sunburn.
· Never swim alone. Keep your eyes on your children when they are in or around water and swim only when and where lifeguards are on duty.
· Spray insect repellent containing up to 30 percent DEET on your clothes or skin to avoid mosquito and tick bites and follow the label. Wash it off before bedtime.
· Empty standing water from all outdoor containers to keep mosquitoes from breeding.