Dietitian says to keep food safety in mind during cookout season

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — June is National Safety Month and dietitians at Sentara RMH say one aspect of safety that often goes overlooked in people's lives is food safety.

All meat should be cooked to the correct temperature, and utensils should be washed to avoid cross-contamination of raw meat.

Kathryn Huntley is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Sentara RMH, and she said it is easy to prevent foodborne illnesses, and often times it starts with properly washing your hands.

"That's 20 seconds with soap or you can sing 'Happy Birthday.' Do that when you're handling raw food items, after you go to the bathroom, handle garbage, touch your face," said Huntley.

She said it is also extremely important to cook meat to the correct internal temperature. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, ground meat to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. She suggested checking the meat using a thermometer in the thickest part to prevent illness.

"Foodborne illnesses happen all the time and they, unfortunately, can end up being very serious, especially for those who are prone to more infections like the young, the elderly, and those who are immune compromised," said Huntley.

She said to be mindful of utensils or plates used to transfer raw meat and make sure that they are properly cleaned before touching the ready-to-eat items.

All perishable foods should be refrigerated after two hours, or one hour if it is over 90 degrees outside. Huntley said to bring the items down to 40 degrees through refrigeration.