As Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day with their loved ones, friends, and outdoor cookouts, ensuring food safety is paramount in safeguarding everyone against food-borne illnesses. This Fourth of July, it is important to remember proper food handling practices.

Traditionally, the Fourth of July involves outdoor gatherings with classic dishes like hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled meats, and fresh fruits. To guarantee the safety of these delectable treats, special attention needs to be paid to the significance of cleanliness and adherence to recommended guidelines.

First and foremost, washing hands before and after handling raw meat, poultry or seafood is crucial in preventing the transfer of bacteria. Additionally, preheating the grill and scrubbing the grate thoroughly prior to cooking eliminates remnants from previous sessions, ensuring a clean cooking surface.

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Grilling enthusiasts are advised to discard any marinade used for raw meat, poultry or seafood, placing these items at a safe distance apart on the grill. It is essential to cook foods to their appropriate internal temperatures to destroy dangerous bacteria. The USDA provides specific temperature guidelines: beef, pork, lamb, and fish should reach 145 degrees F, ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees F, and all poultry should reach 165 degrees F.

The USDA emphasizes the necessity of using a food thermometer to accurately determine if the food is safe to consume. “You can’t tell by looking at food whether it’s done.” This device should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat or poultry, or through the side of burgers and thin filets of fish for precise temperature readings.

Click to enlarge. Courtesy of the USDA

In addition to proper grilling techniques, it is essential to handle leftovers efficiently. Within two hours of serving, any remaining food should be properly packed and refrigerated. However, in hot weather conditions above 90°F, the USDA advises refrigerating leftovers within one hour to prevent bacterial growth.

To ensure comprehensive food safety information, consumers can contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MP Hotline (1-888-674-6854), where experts are available to answer questions in English or Spanish. Consumers can also seek assistance via email at [email protected] or engage in live chat at

By following these guidelines and taking necessary precautions, individuals can contribute to a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July celebration, safeguarding the health and well-being of their loved ones.

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