Americans Need a Helping of Food Safety When Dining Outdoors: New Survey Reveals Fourth of July Holiday Most Popular Time to Cook Out

CHICAGO -- Americans will soon paint the town red, white and blue, celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks and food. In fact, this holiday marks the most popular weekend for families to cook and eat outdoors, according to a new survey conducted by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and ConAgra Foods Foundation in April. As grills across the country heat up for picnics in the park or backyard barbeques, so does the risk of food poisoning. Luckily, summer chefs can protect their patriotic feasts by sticking to a few easy food-handling and preparation steps.

When it comes to safely preparing foods for outdoor dining and/or the grill, the survey found that while a few play it safe, most of us are striking out. For example, a majority of respondents (56 percent) don't know what temperature favorites like hamburgers (160 degrees F) and chicken (170 degrees F) should be cooked to for safe eating. And, when it comes to leftovers, one-third (33 percent) report leaving foods out unrefrigerated for more than an hour in hot weather (90 degrees F or above) -- an environment that allows harmful bacteria to quickly multiply.

"Consider your picnic basket, grill and cooler an extension of your kitchen," said Carolyn O'Neil, registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the ADA/ConAgra Foods Home Safety program. "Remember to apply the same home food safety techniques whether preparing meals inside or out."

This is especially important when grilling, as this type of outdoor dining continues to top family menus -- with three out of four planning to fire up the grill at least once a week over the summer. Only a few (5 percent) report consistently using a meat/food thermometer to check the doneness of meats. And, 35 percent continue to transport raw meats both to and from the grill on the same plate, risking cross-contamination.

Follow these home food safety tips from the ADA and ConAgra Foods to guard your grill, protect your picnics and bust any dangerous bacteria:

-- Suds Up the BBQ. Be sure to scrub the grill, outdoor utensils, coolers

and other containers with hot soapy water before cooking up or packing

up your favorite summertime treats.

-- Props with Purpose. Make home food safety a topic of conversation at

your Fourth of July and other summer celebrations by incorporating

colorful red, white and blue soft and hard-top coolers, cutting boards,

plates and aprons that not only fit the party theme, but serve an

important safety purpose for your guests.

-- Separate Treats for Backyard Feasts. Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat

foods separate. Pack extra plates -- always use a separate plate for

raw foods and another for cooked to prevent cross-contamination. This

holds true for your refrigerator, too -- store raw meats on lower

shelves to prevent raw juices from running onto ready-to-eat foods.

-- Got it Made in the Shade. Stock coolers with plenty of ice and/or ice

packs to keep foods refrigerated at temperatures below 40 degrees F.

Drop a refrigerator thermometer in your cooler to make sure foods are

stored at a proper temperature. And then, transport foods in the air-

conditioned back seat of your car instead of the hot trunk. Once at

your outdoor dining destination, try to keep foods out of direct

sunlight. Set up camp in the shade to make sure your food and guests

stay cool.

The ADA/ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety ... It's in Your Hands program educates consumers that home food safety is a serious issue and provides solutions so Americans can easily and safely handle food in their own kitchens and out of doors. This program complements government-sponsored food safety initiatives that speak to the leading critical food-handling violations by emphasizing the following four key messages: 1) Wash hands often; 2) Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate; 3) Cook to proper temperatures; 4) Refrigerate promptly below 40 degrees F.

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Source: American Dietetic Association; ConAgra Foods