Summertime is the perfect time for cookouts. That means meat on grill, which also means meat in the cooler and out in the open.

Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department Director of Health Education Carrie Eldridge said the importance of correct food-handling and cooking procedures are imperative.

“Always pack it and transport it safely,” she said.

That means:

 Keeping cold food at 40 degrees or less: This can be done by packing meat while frozen and keeping drinks and food in separate coolers, which means the food cooler is opened fewer times.

 Avoid the danger zone: While cold food needs to be kept at 40 degrees or less, hot food needs to be kept at least 140 degrees. Anything between makes for a prime environment for bacteria to grow.

 Don’t leave food out: Most days food can be left out for two hours, but on days with 90-plus degree heat, food shouldn’t be out more than one hour.

 Following safe grilling tips: Marinate foods in a refrigerator and don’t reuse marinade; cook food thoroughly — the correct temperature for meats range between 145 and 165 degrees; don’t reuse platters or utensils.

Not following these guidelines can lead to foodborne illness, Eldridge said.

“That’s just going to get the public sick,” she said.

For more information, call the health department at 618-993-8111 or 618-439-0951.

618-351-5080

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