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Tips for a Safe and Healthy Barbecue

EMSL Analytical tests for foodborne pathogens such as E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria.


Outdoor cooking was once considered to be a summer activity, but now more than 50% of Americans say they cook outside year-round. With the increasing amount of barbecues, it is important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, from causing foodborne illnesses.

Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning:

First, when in the grocery store, make sure you pick up meat and poultry last. While at check out, place them in separate bags, so that they do not drip onto other foods. Try to drive directly home afterwards to avoid thawing. One option to avoid thawing is to place meat and poultry in a cooler for the drive home. Make sure perishables are refrigerated within 1 to 2 hours depending on the outside temperature.

It is also important to completely thaw meat and poultry before cooking on the grill, so that they cook more evenly. If you need your food thawed quickly, it can be defrosted in the microwave as long as it is cooked immediately afterwards.

If you plan on marinating, marinate the food in the refrigerator rather than on the counter. Poultry, cubed meat, and straw meat can be marinated up to 2 days. Beef, veal, and lamb can be marinated up to 5 days.

It is important that refrigerated food is kept cold until it is ready to use. If the food must be transported, ensure it is in a cooler that is 40 °F or below.

To reduce grilling time, food can be pre-cooked partially in the microwave, oven, or stove. Food must then go directly onto the pre-heated grill to complete cooking.

When preparing the meat or poultry, it is imperative that it is cooked to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. A food thermometer can be used to check the internal temperature of foods. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 °F. However, if these meats are ground, the internal temperature must be 160 °F. Any poultry, whether it is whole, ground, or a breast, must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Hotdogs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 °F. It is important to never partially grill meat or poultry and then continue cooking at a later time.

If food is not being served immediately after it is grilled, it should be kept hot at a temperature of 140 °F or warmer. This can be done by setting food directly to the side of the grill rack. Food can also be kept in a hot oven set to about 200 °F in a chafing dish or warming tray.

When serving the food, avoid using the same dish that held the raw meat or poultry because the raw juices could contaminate the cooked food. After eating, food should be refrigerated promptly. Do not leave the meat or poultry out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the outside temperature is above 90°F.

These tips will help backyard barbecuers minimize harmful pathogens, such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, on their food.

“Tests are conducted by companies and federal inspectors to detect if these pathogens are present in food, but not every individual piece of meat or poultry can be analyzed for pathogens,” states EMSL’s National Food Microbiology Supervisor, Joy Dell’Aringa, M.S., R.M. (N.R.M.), C.F.S.P. “Hopefully, these informative tips will limit incidences of food poisoning.”

“For those who wish to test food products, commercial testing labs such as EMSL Analytical provide the food industry with scientifically and legally defensible data concerning foodborne pathogens,” she continued.

For more information about EMSL’s food testing division, please contact EMSL at 800-220-3675, , or visit or

About EMSL Analytical, Inc.
EMSL Analytical is a full service testing company providing quality lab services under the same private ownership since 1981. Including the corporate lab facility in Cinnaminson, NJ, EMSL Analytical operates over thirty laboratories nationwide in the US and Canada. The company has an extensive list of accreditations from leading organizations, as well as state and federal regulating bodies



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