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The end of summer is a great time for one last party, but make sure to take a few simple steps to ensure you and your guests have safe food to consume! Warm weather means more opportunities for food-borne illnesses for a number of reasons, including the fact that many bacteria multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F and thrive in warm, moist environments.


  • Shopping – When shopping, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last, right before you check out. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To protect from cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into separate plastic bags.
  • Wash your hands – Before beginning any marinating or cooking, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and wash work surfaces, utensils, and the grill before and after cooking.
  • Make sure your cooking surface is clean, as well – Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, make sure any wire bristles haven’t dislodged and become stuck to the food or grill surface.
  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator and not on countertops – Don’t taste the marinade or re-use after it has been in contact with raw food, particularly meat.
  • Use a clean plate for serving all food once cooked – Never place cooked food on a plate or surface that previously held raw meat of any type.
  • Avoid cross contamination – Do not use the same platter, cutting board, or utensils for raw and cooked foods. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate cooked food. Use clean utensils and a clean plate to remove cooked meat from the grill.

Specific foods have special considerations:

  • Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill. When transporting, keep below
    40°F in an insulated cooler.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked thoroughly. When smoking, keep temperatures inside the smoker at 225°F to 300°F to keep meat a safe temperature while it cooks.
  • Meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of:
    • Burgers/ground beef = 160°F
    • Chicken/turkey = 165°F
    • Sausage = 160°F
    • Steaks = 145°F
    • After grilling, meat should be kept at 140°F or warmer until it’s served
    • Potato salad, eggs, dairy: Any food that includes mayonnaise, eggs, and dairy needs special attention.
      • Keep prepared salads at 40°F or colder, and keep them in the refrigerator or cooler until served.
      • These foods should be chilled after sitting out for two hours, or no more than one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F.
      • Keep pans of these foods on a bed of ice while out of refrigeration.
      • When in doubt, throw the food out!
      • Make sure to thoroughly rinse all produce before using.

After the meal: Chill!

  • Divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Put in freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (one hour if above 90°F outside).



*this article was originally published by Merchants August 31, 2019.

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Merchants Insurance Group

Merchants Insurance Group sells its products through a network of more than 1,000 independent insurance agents in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. We sell our products through independent insurance agents because we believe they provide value to policyholders through their broad range of products and their insurance expertise.