WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Food safety is always important on the Fourth of July but this year, get-togethers will face additional safety concerns due to COVID-19.
Experts say safety starts with washing your hands frequently with soap and water and keeping hand sanitizer handy for you and your guests.
“Having things like moist towelettes like little packages of wipes as well as hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content is going to be helpful to make sure your hands are clean and sanitized both for foodborne illness and food preparation purposes as well as COVID-19,” Meredith Carothers, USDA Food Safety Expert told Eyewitness News.
The next step is having a bacteria-free grill. This can achieved by turning on the heat before cooking to burn off any old food debris. Scrubbing the metal off with a brush may be a good idea but those using one should be aware of what the tools can leave behind.
“Once the grill has cooled off, taking a wet rag and trying to clean off the grate and make sure any of those potential left-behind bristles have been removed and that everything looks spic and span,” Carothers said.
Foodborne illnesses are a serious health threat whether you’re at home, camping or on a picnic.
“Even with COVID-19, we’re recommending to following our four food safety steps which are clean, separate, cook and chill,” Carothers said.
In addition, Carothers says to make sure your hands, surfaces and utensils are clean. It’s also important to separate raw meat and poultry from any ready-to-eat foods. Everything on the grill should be cooked to a safe internal temperature and cold foods must be kept cold and hot foods hot during serving. Leftovers should in the fridge within an hour or two.
When it comes to the rest of your menu, Carothers suggests rethinking “finger foods”.
“What would be smart as well is not really having any appetizers that involve more than one hand going into a bowl,” she said.
The USDA also recommends having only one person serving food to limit hand contact from food preparation to serving.
Questions about food safety can be directed to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 or by using their live chat function available here.