WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- As you fire up the grill and get ready for a long weekend of outdoor fun to commemorate America’s birthday, the Westchester County Department of Health has a dozen tips to help you celebrate safely and to prevent West Nile virus, salmonella or a food-borne illness from spoiling your fun:
- Spray insect repellent containing DEET on your clothes and exposed skin to avoid mosquito bites.
- Empty out standing water from all outdoor containers to keep mosquitoes from breeding.
- Avoid attracting animals – collect and dispose of food and litter.
- Thaw meat and poultry slowly in the refrigerator or under cold running water before cooking.
- Harmful bacteria usually grow in the "danger zone" between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so marinate and hold meat and poultry in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill it.
- Transport food inside a cooler filled with ice to keep it at 40 degrees or below. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun and avoid opening the lid too often. Keep beverages in a separate cooler.
- Cook your food to the right temperature -- that’s 160 degrees for ground beef and pork, and 165 degrees for chicken and hot dogs. Always use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Discard any food left out for more than two hours after cooking, or one hour if it is more than 90 degrees outside.
- Don’t cross-contaminate: don’t reuse marinades on cooked food unless you boil them first and don’t use the same plate, cutting board and utensils for cooked food that you used for raw meat.
- Wash hands, surfaces and utensils frequently with soap and water or antiseptic wipes.
- Drink lots of water to avoid sunstroke, avoid the midday sun and reapply sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater every two hours to avoid sunburn.
- Never swim alone and always keep your eyes on your children when in or around water and be sure they swim only when and where lifeguards are on duty.
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