Grill for Fun, Not Food-Borne Illness

Avoid the most common meat mistakes when you cookout

By Mark Moran, MPH
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

The holiday weekend is here, and your grill is calling you. Americans will consume millions of hamburgers and countless tubs of salad, coleslaw, and potato salad this weekend with friends and family.

Will your weekend be memorable for fun and relaxation? Or will it be a food poisoning nightmare?

Experts agree that from the farm, to the manufacturing plant, to the grocery store, your holiday foods undergo the most rigorous safety monitoring of anywhere in the world. But at the end of that food chain, it's the chefs in your kitchen and at the backyard barbecue who can make or break the weekend.

Food-borne outbreaks are as likely to be due to careless handling of food at home as they are to errors in the manufacturing and processing of foods, says George Sandler, PhD, of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Chicago.

In preparing virtually every kind of food likely to be gracing picnics and barbecues, "cross-contamination" is one of the most common food safety mistakes, say food safety specialists at Kansas State University Research and Extension Service. Cross-contamination happens when potentially harmful, disease-causing organisms are transferred from one food to another. For example, by using the same knife to cut raw meat, then vegetables.