Cooking Up a Safe Summer Barbecue

Related topics: Safety

It's summer! Time to fire up the grill and prepare some savory treats! Grilling is a favorite way to prepare meats. More backyard chefs also are discovering the delights of grilled veggies, tofu and even fruits.  Before you put on your monogrammed chef's apron and pick up your tongs, take a look at some advice from national health organizations.

Seniors grilling

Avoid an Unwanted Barbecue Guest

While ants, yellow-jackets and mosquitoes can spoil an outdoor feast, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) reminds us that the most dangerous potential invaders are the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Says ADA spokesperson Jim White, "Expert grillers will want to practice proper food safety habits anywhere food is prepared, not just in the kitchen. It's important to apply the same home food safety techniques to help keep you and your guests safe from foodborne illness."

Even when you're roughing it in a more rustic outdoor setting, it's important to clean the grill, all utensils and containers with hot, soapy water before using. Wash your hands before, during and after handling foods outdoors. Keep raw meats at a safe temperature before putting them on the grill, and refrigerate leftovers promptly. (Bring a well-iced cooler if you will not be near the refrigerator within an hour.) Use a food thermometer to be sure meats are cooked to the recommended temperature—145° degrees for steak, 160° for hamburgers and 165° for chicken.

Visit the Home Food Safety.org website for more tips on safe grilling.  

Update Your Grill Skills (and Menu) for Better Health

If grilling is a regular part of your summertime diet, could you be raising your risk of cancer and other diseases? We know that heavy consumption of red and processed meats does raise the risk of heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Grilling beef, chicken and any other meat can create cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines, especially when the meat is charred. The American Institute for Cancer Research, an organization that promotes research and awareness about the role of diet in cancer prevention, offers four tips for healthier grilling:

Cut back on steaks, hot dogs and fatty burgers. Focus first on grilling colorful vegetables and fruits. Try asparagus, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, corn on the cob and eggplant. Apples, peaches, bananas and pears also cook nicely on the grill.

Marinate meat. Marinades reduce the formation of the harmful substances that form during grilling.

Partially precook meats. In the microwave, oven or stove top, cook meats halfway or more to reduce the time they sit on the grill.

Go slow and low. To reduce harmful substances caused by charring, use a lower flame. Cut off visible fat that might cause flare-ups. Discard charred portions of the meat.

The AICR website offers a safe grilling slideshow, suggestions for delicious alternatives to meats, and a wealth of healthy recipes, including delectable marinades.

Grill Brush Danger: Urban Legend, or Real Hazard?

Recently, stories have been circulating on Facebook and the rest of the internet about people injured by inadvertently swallowing a metal bristle from a barbecue grill brush. Sometimes stories like these are just rumors—but this one is very true. The CDC confirms that the small metal grill-cleaning brush bristles can detach from the brush, adhere to the grill surface, and become embedded in food. In the reported cases, injuries ranged from cuts in the mouth to gastrointestinal injuries and infection requiring surgery. Researchers want to raise physician and consumer awareness of these accidents; in many cases, victims have undergone numerous medical tests as healthcare providers attempted to diagnose the cause of their abdominal pain. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is also reviewing the data to see if a consumer recall is warranted.

To prevent the accidental ingestion of these small metal pieces, consumers who use metal brushes are advised to inspect the brush regularly and discard if it shows signs of wear. After brushing the grill, use a wet paper towel to clean the grates. Inspect and wipe down the grill before using it again. Read more on the Journal of the American Medical Association website.