BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – In a time of post-pandemic recovery, Virginia Tech food safety expert Joell Eifert urges backyard grillers to remain vigilant with proper handwashing when preparing and handling food.

First and foremost, the first step in food safety is proper hand cleaning. If you do not have access to running water when outdoors, have a water jug, soap, and paper towels on-hand. Also, make sure cooking and eating surfaces are clean.

Packing and transporting your food items properly is key in preventing food-borne illnesses. Eifert suggests keeping cold food in a cooler stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This prevents bacteria growth.

Meat, poultry, and seafood can be packed while still frozen, ensuring they stay cold longer during transport.

Avoid cross-contamination by securely wrapping raw meat, poultry, and seafood and keeping these items separate from fruits, vegetables and, previously prepared foods.

Packing beverages in a separate cooler from perishable food items will limit the times the lid is opened, allowing the cold air to escape.

When grilling, have a food thermometer ready. Eifert suggests cooking steaks, pork, and fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Ground meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, while poultry, ground or whole, stays on the grill a little longer to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Lastly, maintaining proper temperatures of cold and hot food items is key. Never let your food fall into the “Danger Zone,” which is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, for more than two hours. If outdoor temperatures are above 90 degrees, this window of time is even smaller, just one hour. Doing so will limit the potential for bacteria to grow and help keep you and your loved ones from getting sick at your Fourth of July picnic.

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