Experts warn of cooking hazards in the summer heat

National News

LOS ANGELES, CA. (CBS) — July 4th weekend is here and that means many of us will be enjoying family, fun, and food. But health experts are reminding everyone that foodborne illnesses increase with warmer, humid temperatures.

“A food that’s cold and does not remain cold, that provides an opportunity for bacteria that may be in the item to multiply. It’s the same when you’re dealing with hot foods. If they’re supposed to stay hot, when they get cooler, again, it’s an opportunity for bacteria to multiply,” says Sandra Eskin, the USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety.

According to the CDC, it’s estimated that every year 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. “For most healthy adults, it’s unpleasant and results in a few days of discomfort. However, older people, young children, pregnant women, someone on chemotherapy, or anyone who has a deficient immune system, can get a very serious infection,” Eskin says. She adds, prevention is critical.

USDA FOOD SAFETY TIPS:

  • Make sure hands and surfaces are clean
  • Keep raw meats and other foods separate to prevent cross contamination
  • Cook food to the proper internal temperature, measuring with a meat thermometer
  • Cook raw ground beef, pork or lamb to 160 degrees
  • Cook raw poultry to 165 degrees

Experts stress that color is not a good indicator of whether a food is cooked thoroughly, and a thermometer is best to use. “If food is contaminated, the most effective way to kill any contamination is through heat. Cooking is the ultimate kill step,” Eskin says.

And once you’re done eating, put the food away. According to the USDA, food should not be left out for longer than two hours, one hour if it’s over 90 degrees outside.

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