To millions of Americans, Independence Day is a time for fireworks and backyard cookouts. Unfortunately, for many it is also a time of E. coli poisoning and Salmonella infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 48 million Americans per year suffer from foodborne illnesses. Luckily, by following a few basic food safety tips from Virginia Tech food safety expert Robert Williams, consumers can make sure their holiday fun isn’t tainted by food poisoning.

“We recommend that consumers remember to clean, separate, cook and chill meat products prepared at home,” Williams said. “Food preparers should start clean by washing food contact surfaces and their hands before preparing raw meat. Raw meats and their juices should be kept separate from foods that will not be cooked, such as hotdog and hamburger toppings. It is best to not use the same cutting board for raw meats and vegetables that won’t be cooked.”

In addition to avoiding cross contamination, Williams emphasized the importance of proper cooking and refrigeration in staying safe from foodborne illness.

“The truth is that color is not a good indicator of doneness,” he said. “Ideally, you’d use a food thermometer to ensure that the proper temperature has been reached. Hamburgers should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees as measured in the thickest, most central part of the burger patty, and leftover cooked meats should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking.”

Williams also noted that fresh hotdog and hamburger toppings shouldn’t be left out too long unless they’re kept cold.

By following these basic food safety tips, consumers can reduce their risk and keep their Independence Day about fireworks, cookouts and time with friends and family.

Written by Alex Hood  

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