Memorial Day Kick’s Off Outdoor Cooking Season: Here’s How to Stay Safe for BBQs & Picnics!

By Jaya Bharathi Peddi, M.D., Internal Medicine, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – West Grand Parkway

Memorial Day weekend is a time to remember and honor the men and women who served our country. It’s also the traditional start of summer and travel season – a time for family getaways and flavorful barbecues and picnics.

While it could be easy to get lost in easy summer days, it’s important to take precautions when it comes to safe food handling, preparation, and cooking, to avoid food-borne illnesses like Salmonella and E. coli, which can be serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.[1]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.[2]

Typical food-poisoning symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and fever, all of which may range from mild to serious and can last from a few hours to several days.[3] Health care professionals caution that certain people have an increased risk of becoming very sick[4] from foodborne illness including pregnant women, older adults, young children and people with weakened immune systems[5]

To help you keep your families healthy and protect them from food poisoning, here are some general food and kitchen hygiene tips to help you safely prepare and serve your Memorial Day meal.[6] Foodborne illnesses tend to increase during the summer months because bacteria multiply faster when it’s warm, so following food safety guidelines is especially critical for raw meats, summer salads, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, which are among the most perishable foods at cookouts.[7]

  • Clean everything: It is important for those preparing and handling food to frequently wash their hands before, during, and after they start cooking, and to use fresh, clean plates and utensils for serving cooked food.[8]
  • Do not cross contaminate: Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat food unless you keep them separate.[9]
  • Cook to the right temperature: The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature.[10]
  • Refrigerate perishable food within two hours. When food is left unrefrigerated for more than two hours, bacteria grow rapidly. [11] For temperatures over 90F, food should be refrigerated within an hour.[12]

Have fun this Memorial Day, while also prioritizing food safety to help protect against foodborne illness.

[1] Food Poisoning Symptoms | CDC

[2] Foodborne Germs and Illnesses | CDC

[3] Food Poisoning Symptoms | CDC

[4] Factors That Increase Your Risk for Food Poisoning | Food Safety | CDC

[5] People With a Higher Risk of Food Poisoning | Food Safety | CDC

[6] Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC

[7] Food Safety by Events and Seasons |

[8] Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC

[9] Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC

[10] Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC

[11] Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC

[12] Four Steps to Food Safety | CDC