Serve Safe Food At Labor Day Outing Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  4/19/2005 10:28:29 PM

News You Can Use For September 2004

Many people celebrate Labor Day with a cookout or picnic. Certain groups are at higher risk for foodborne illnesses if food is not handled properly, according to LSU Agricultural Center nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Very young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk from any foodborne pathogen, the nutritionist explains, adding, "Make sure your Labor Day picnic or cookout is safe and enjoyable for everyone by following four important guidelines."

• Clean – wash hands and surfaces often.

• Separate – separate raw meat and poultry from cooked/ready-to-eat food to prevent cross-contamination.

• Cook – cook food to a safe internal temperature. Check temperature with a food thermometer.

• Chill – refrigerate or freeze promptly. Store food in a cooler with a cold source such as a frozen gel pack.

Reames says most bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. This range is known as the "Danger Zone." Bacteria multiply rapidly at these temperatures and can reach dangerous levels. Raw meat and poultry products may contain bacteria that cause foodborne illness. They must be cooked to destroy these bacteria and held at temperatures that are either too hot or too cold for these bacteria to grow. To keep foods safe to eat, hold at 140 degrees F or higher or 40 degrees F or lower.

To make sure food is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria, Reames advises using a food thermometer. Be sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food.

Cook hamburger patties to 160 degrees F and ground poultry to 165 degrees F. A food thermometer also should be used to check the internal temperature of combination dishes, casseroles and reheated foods.

Wait to remove meat from the refrigerator or cooler just before cooking or reheating. Meat and poultry should be returned to the cooler or stored in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours after being cooked and only one hour when the temperature is above 90 degrees F.

To cool food rapidly, refrigerate in shallow containers. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days, but after that, they could begin to spoil. When you’re ready to eat leftovers, heat them to 165 degrees F, or until hot and steaming.

For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at  For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or

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