Memorial Day weekend food safety

Grill2Memorial Day weekend is here and it is the unofficial start of summer–hooray! This weekend many of us will be going to cook-outs. Although these can be lots of fun, if you are pregnant, it is very important to make sure that you take the appropriate precautions.

Keep these safety tips in mind when preparing foods that are frequently associated with food-borne illness:

• CLEAN: Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. And wash fresh fruits and vegetables carefully.

• SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate!  When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

• COOK: Cook to proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles. Internal temperatures should be 145°F for whole meats, 160°F for ground meats, and 165°F for all poultry. After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

• CHILL: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. So, refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying

Hamburgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken need to be cooked thoroughly. And make sure that any pasta or potato salads, especially those with mayonnaise, are kept cold and out of the sun. During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, keep it hot (at 140˚F or above). After meals are over, refrigerate leftovers quickly and don’t keep them out for too long (within 1 hour during the summer).

Remember that although food poisoning is miserable for anyone, it poses special risks to pregnant women and their unborn babies because pregnancy affects your immune system. Your immune system is your body’s way of protecting itself from illnesses and diseases. But when you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to illnesses as it was before pregnancy. Your body knows that pregnancy is OK and that it shouldn’t reject your baby. So, your body naturally lowers the immune system’s ability to protect you and respond to illnesses so that it can welcome your growing baby. A lowered immune system means you’re more susceptible to illnesses, including those bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Enjoy your Memorial Day but just make sure you take the appropriate precautions at all of those backyard cookouts so that you have a fun and safe weekend. And of course, we want to say thank you to all the many men and women and their families who have given so much to keep our country safe and secure. It is important for us to recognize their dedication and sacrifice Memorial Day and everyday.

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