As Americans stop to remember veterans, fallen soldiers and their own lost family members, many still use the day off to enjoy time with friends and family. Often, that also means get-togethers and grilling out.
And as grilling season kicks off, the American Meat Institute said steaks and burgers will top the list of foods consumed most this summer. In a national survey, 29% of Americans polled said steak would be the first thing they'll grill. Hamburgers, turkey burgers or lamb burgers came in a close second at 27% and chicken and ribs were the third and fourth choices, AMI said.
While hot dogs weren't at the top of the list, AMI noted they'll still be a mainstay; Americans will eat an estimated seven billion of them between Memorial Day and Labor Day. More than150 million hot dogs will be consumed during the Fourth of July holiday alone.
However, food safety can be an issue at backyard grill-outs, ballparks and anywhere "picnic" food might be prepared. AMI said six out of 10 consumers don't know proper finished temperature for burgers.
"Foods commonly served at cookouts can carry pathogens that can make people sick, especially those most vulnerable to foodborne illness such as young children, the elderly, and pregnant women," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said.
"When you fire up the grill to cook out this summer, make sure you are extra vigilant in taking the appropriate safe food handling steps to prevent foodborne illness," she added.
USDA and AMI both note that taking proper steps means cleaning preparation areas, separating meat and poultry from cooked foods, cooking to the proper temperature, and cooling leftovers immediately.
USDA said safe minimum internal temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit for specific foods include: hot dogs, 165; poultry, 165; ground beef, 160; whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal and beef, 145 (followed by three minutes rest time); and fish, 145.
As for chilling food, bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees F. To keep bacterial growth at bay, keep hot food on the grill and place cold food in a cooler or ice bath, USDA said. Never let perishable food sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is higher than 90 °F, food should not sit out more than one hour.
More food safety tips and proper cooking temperatures may be found at www.meatsafety.org, AMI said.