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Summer is a time for family vacations, backyard barbecues and plenty of outdoor activities with food as the star. But before those steaks, chicken, and burgers go on the grill, the USDA and Inspection Service wants to remind you to keep you and your family safe from foodborne illness. One way to ensure this, use a food thermometer to be certain meat and poultry is cooked to the correct internal temperature.

The best and only way to make sure bacteria have been killed, and the food is safe to eat is by cooking it to the correct internal temperature.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

So how do you avoid becoming a part of those statistics?

Follow USDA’s four easy steps to food safety this summer.

Clean: Make sure to always wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat or poultry. If cooking outside or away from a kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate: When taking food off of the grill, use clean utensils and platters. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat and poultry. Place the

food thermometer in the thickest part of the food.

• Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach 160°F.

• All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165°F.

• Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and of beef should be cooked to 145°F. Allow meat to rest for three minutes before eating. A “rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature after it has been removed from a grill, oven or other heat sources. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.

• Fish should be cooked to 145°F.

• Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, and by using a food thermometer you can be sure items have reached a safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Chill: Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food that has

been sitting out longer than two hours.

For more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (1-888-674-6854)

Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Memorial Day Weekend Safe Grilling Tips  was originally published on