Our old friend- the month of April- has returned, and aren’t we glad to welcome her back? The temperatures are warm, flowers are blooming, and the spring air is sweet. The snow has been melted for weeks and color is slowly returning to our landscape – it’s all very exhilarating, isn’t it? And no segment of the population is more eager to celebrate April’s arrival than college students who have been confined to our dorm rooms and dreary basements. Yes, April is back, and there is great cause to celebrate with the traditional end-of-the-year barbeques and parties. How can we partake in these celebrations and emerge safe and healthy? Here are some tips!
Everyone loves a barbeque, but barbequing can go dreadfully wrong if the persons igniting the charcoal and holding the spatulas don’t know what they’re doing. Any cooks worth their weight in kabob should know that ensuring the safety of their feast begins with the pre-grill preparations. Your resident grillmeister should begin by thoroughly washing their hands, as well as the preparation areas that will be used. Washing utensils and preparation areas helps prevent cross-contamination when working with raw meat. Also, a meat marinade should be discarded after it has been used. Exposing a marinade to one cut of raw meat, and then to another can spread bacteria.
When your cooks finally head out to their grills, you need to be sure that they are thoroughly cooking the meat. Ground beef and other meats should be cooked to a MINIMUM internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures below this level will not kill bacteria such as E. coli that cause potentially lethal infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control, thermometers are a useful tool for ensuring that minimum temperature requirements are being met. Why? Because color may not always be the best indicator of “doneness.” After the barbequed goods have been cooked, they should be displayed on a clean plate that hasn’t previously contacted raw meat. Placing cooked items on a plate that has already held raw meats can also spread bacteria.
From a health safety standpoint, a quality barbeque should address all of these precautions. And don’t forget to take precautions for the other foodstuffs that you’re likely to encounter.
Barbequed food is delicious, but all food needs complementary items. From this day forward until Labor Day, all of us will be enjoying the customary “summer salads,” such as macaroni and potato salad. Allowing these salads to bake in the sun can be a big mistake. A wise choice would be to keep these items cold, or on ice, to prevent the growth of bacteria at the serving table.
While you’re enjoying a barbeque this April, or just hanging out with friends on the back porch, you’re going to need a tall glass of SOMETHING to quench your thirst –
whether your drink of choice is fresh-squeezed lemonade, or perhaps an adult-beverage. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t sharing cups, bottles, glasses, or cans with your friends. Sounds familiar, right? Like something your parents told you back in kindergarten? Well, the rule still applies- no sharing! Shared drinking items can pass respiratory germs such as cold viruses, influenzae and even the bacteria that cause meningitis. Health care providers, including Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Dr. P.J. Brennan, will tell you that this is a no-nonsense rule.
“Respiratory germs are spread through close contact,” Dr. Brennan said. “It can be tempting to share beverages in a social setting, but you just can’t.”
Following these simple precautions will ensure that you’ll be able to safely and healthfully enjoy many Aprils to come. Take advantage of all that April has to offer you – grill and sip delicious beverages (in moderation of course!).