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Don't get sick at your holiday BBQ: 5 food safety tips for summer cookouts

Food safety tips for holiday cookouts
Food safety tips for holiday cookouts 01:30

Many Americans will be enjoying the warm weather and firing up the grill this week, but health experts warn that the summer season is also the time they see more cases of food poisoning.

"Because of hot, humid temperatures and because folks are often away from the kitchen at picnics and cookouts, foodborne illness may actually increase," Chris Bernstein, director of consumer information at the USDA, told CBS News.

The major reason is that harmful bacteria can multiply more quickly when it's hot outside.

To stay safe, the USDA recommends the following:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before prepping food
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked food
  • Use a clean cutting board and discard marinades that have come in contact with raw meat
  • Cook all meat and fish to a safe internal temperature
  • When saving leftovers, chill food promptly and properly

Experts say using a food thermometer is the best way to make sure everything is cooked thoroughly. Yet only a third of Americans use one.

George Moore is a pit master at a Dallas area smokehouse and explained how to get a good read.

"165 [degrees F] is usually a preferred temperature that you're going to want to get there. You want to stick it [food thermometer] in the fattest part of the meat, which is going to be where you can get the most accurate reading of your internal temp," he told CBS News.

Bernstein notes that you can't tell if the meat has reached a safe internal temperature simply by looking at it.

"That magic number is really the only way to be sure that you've killed any bacteria that might be present," he said.

The USDA also reminds consumers that anything perishable should usually not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. In temperatures over 90 degrees, nothing should be left out for more than an hour.

Finally, experts warn not to rely on the sniff test to check if something is good because odor alone is not a reliable indicator if a food will make you sick. Foodborne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli are caused by bacteria that don't have any smell to them. 

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