By Marie Spano, MS, RD/LD, CSCS, CSSD

Every year one in six Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and about 3,000 die from foodborne illness, according to the CDC. Sure, it’s time to fire up the grill and get the picnic table ready, but it is also important to keep food safety in mind. Following these four tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will help:


Wash your hands, utensils; cutting boards and any surface that comes in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs both before and after handling them.


Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs away from foods that won’t be cooked. In your refrigerator, be sure to keep these foods wrapped or contained so their juices do not spill onto foods that will not be cooked.


Cook foods thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to make sure that meat; poultry and seafood are cooked throughout. Tips on how to use a food thermometer along with USDA recommended safe minimum internal temps can be found here.


Put foods away immediately and chill leftovers at 40°F or below. Foods should not be left sitting out for long periods of time. If they are left out for over 2 hours, throw them out. Also, be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold when they are being served.

In addition to keeping these tips in mind, you may wonder how you can protect yourself from food borne illness in everything from peanut butter to salad. After all, every year we hear about cases of salmonella in foods that typically aren’t associated with this bacterium! The best way to prevent being infected this way is by finding out immediately about food recalls. You can search food recalls and safety alerts and sign up for food safety alerts by email on the FDA’s website. The sooner you find out, the quicker you can take action to avoid contaminated foods.

The warm weather means cookouts, picnics and outdoor celebrations – all great ways to enjoy your friends and family and celebrate good food. Just be sure to keep that food safe by transporting it at the right temperature, cleaning everything before and after (including your hands), cooking food thoroughly and storing it appropriately.