As smells of food on the grill and fireworks fill the air this Fourth of July, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black would like consumers to remember some important food safety priorities during this year's Independence Day celebrations.
"July 4 is a day to celebrate the wonderful nation we live in. It is also important to remember, as we gather together with family and friends, that food safety needs to be a part of our picnics and barbecues, too," Black said. "Not to mention, we have the perfect opportunity to serve up a variety of delicious, nutritious and fresh Georgia grown items this Fourth of July holiday."
With many Georgia grown products in the peak of their season, Commissioner Black encourages residents to look for locally sourced items for their Fourth of July cookout. When planning this year's Independence Day menu, consider the benefits of serving up seasonal Georgia grown produce, including watermelons, peaches, berries and melon; sweet corn, Vidalia onions and tomatoes; fresh meats and seafood products, and many other local products you can find at your local grocery stores and local farmers markets.
Then, to ensure a safe family celebration, Georgians should keep in mind these four important food safety tips:
1. Clean – Wash hands and surfaces often, especially in between prep for different food items.
2. Separate – Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked/ready-to-eat food to prevent cross-contamination.
3. Cook – Cook food to a safe internal temperature and check temperatures with a food thermometer (cook pork and beef products to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, poultry to 165).
4. Chill – Refrigerate or freeze food promptly. Store in a cooler with a cold source, such as a frozen gel pack. Unpack the cooler just before cooking or serving the food. Meat and poultry should be returned to the cooler or stored in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours after being cooked (one hour if the outdoor air temperature is above 90 degrees).
For Georgians looking to find locally grown items, visit www.georgiagrown.com and click "What's In Season" to find lists of registered vendors currently offering seasonal products. Find additional tips and information for summer grilling food safety at www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Safety_Education/Grill_It_Safe.