Fourth of July is a great time to fire up the grill, but did you know the summer months typically see a spike in foodborne illness? Make sure the fun in the sun doesn’t get spoiled by food poisoning.
Here are some simple steps to grilling food safely from the county’s Health Department.
- Keep cold food cold. Meat and poultry should be refrigerated until ready to use. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter and avoid opening the lid too often.
- Use a food thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature. Cook chicken to 165F and ground beef to 160F. You cannot judge “done” by how the food looks.
- Keep hot food hot. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served (at 140°F or warmer.) Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures.
- Completely thaw meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. For quicker thawing, you can defrost in the microwave if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.
- Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not use the marinade for the raw food as the sauce for the cooked food. Keep a fresh portion aside for the sauce.
- Don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
- Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90 °F).
Posted at 2:30 p.m.
any of us will gather around the television on Sunday to watch the big game. And more than likely we’ll have lots of food and beverages to enjoy the action between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.
But there are several things you need to remember to ensure that you, your family and any friends you’ve invited over for a game party stay safe with any food that you’re serving.
If you’re having chicken wings — a football fan’s favorite — take a temperature of your wings and place them on a clean plate covered in paper toweling. Use a clean food thermometer to check the internal temperature; for food safety the temp should be 165°F. You should measure several wings before you finish cooking each batch. Another option, of course, is just buy a platter of wings from your favorite restaurant.
For this weekend’s game, or any time you’re in the kitchen, remember these four simple steps: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
Most importantly, make sure to keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
- Hot foods must have a heat source to keep them at or warmer than 140°F.
- Cold foods should be kept on ice to remain at a safe temperature at or below 40°F.
- Perishable foods left out longer than two hours should be discarded and replenished with fresh servings.
For more on food safety — and what it means to clean, separate, cook and chill — watch this video with Ron Campbell from the Health Department.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds to avoid spreading bacteria to your towels.
- Never reuse paper towels. This product is for single use only. When used multiple times, bacteria can find their way onto the towel and hitch a ride around the kitchen.
- Kitchen towels build up bacteria after multiple uses. To keep the bacteria from getting the upper hand, you should wash your kitchen towels frequently in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
Enjoy the game and the food — and stay safe!
Posted at 2:15 p.m.
As you plan your Thanksgiving menu don’t forget about fire safety.
Did you know Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires? The number of home fires double on Thanksgiving. So, let’s add a pinch of fire safety to the menu.
Keep these safety tips in mind as you prepare your meal.
If you’re roasting your turkey, make sure you set a timer. This way, you won’t forget about the bird as you watch the parade or a football game. If you’re frying your turkey:
- Use a fryer with thermostat controls. This will ensure the oil does not become over heated.
- Thaw your turkey completely. Ice on the bird will cause the oil to splatter.
- Don’t overfill the pot with oil. If you do, the oil will overflow when you add the turkey causing a fire hazard.
- Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the fryer.
- Also, always use the fryer outdoors.
Stuffing and Potatoes
Stand by your stove when you’re boiling your potatoes or frying onions for stuffing. It is best to stay in the kitchen when you’re frying, boiling or broiling. If you’re in the kitchen, it is easier to catch spills or hazardous conditions before they become a fire.
- Keep the area around the stove clear of packaging, paper towels, and dish cloths; anything that can burn.
- Be sure to clean up any spills as they happen.
- Be prepared. Keep a large pan lid or baking sheet handy in case you need to smother a pan fire.
- Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove so you don’t bump them.
By following these safety tips, you will have a delicious and fire safe Thanksgiving. Let the firefighters have dinner with their families, not yours.
Reprinted from FEMA’s “Individual and Community Preparedness e-Brief” e-newsletter, Nov. 17 issue
Posted at 4:20 p.m.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a flash flood watch in effect from 6 p.m. this evening, Wednesday, Sept. 28, through Friday morning, Sept. 30.
A powerful low pressure system over the midwest will bring periods of heavy rain to our area tonight through Thursday night. NWS reports that widespread rainfall is expected with localized spots potentially getting up to a foot of rain. NWS notes that we should expect rain beginning this afternoon and continuing through Friday afternoon; heaviest amounts are expected to occur between midnight tonight and Thursday.
Precautions and Actions
These next few days will require more than the usual awareness, planning and preparations.
- If you are near streams or drainage ditches, keep an eye on them and be ready to quickly seek higher ground. Water may rise rapidly.
- Clear out storm drains and gutters to ensure that they are not clogged.
- Those prone to basement flooding should prepare. Move items off basement floors and consider moving valuables to an upper level of your home.
- Communities prone to flooding should prepare. Move vehicles to higher elevations. Don’t park in restricted areas and try to avoid parking under trees when possible.
- Be prepared to take action if a warning is issued for where you are or if flooding is observed.
Continue to check in on the forecast for updates. Warnings will be issued for areas where flooding is imminent. Ensure that you get warnings from the National Weather Service through your mobile phone and or NOAA weather radio. Sign up for severe weather alerts from Fairfax Alerts.
With all high-intensity rainfall, street flooding is possible. If there is any possibility of a flash flood:
- Move immediately to higher ground.
- Do not wait for instructions to move.
- Be aware of streams, drainage channels and other areas known to flood suddenly.
- Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
And please remember to keep children away from creeks and their potentially rapidly rising waters.
In addition, remember if you experience water on roads, Turn Around. Don’t Drown. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. And it takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.
Blocked stormdrains prevent the flow of rain from reaching streams and stormwater detention ponds. The water then backs up into streets and yards and may flood basements. Blocked stormdrains also may damage residential and commercial property and cause traffic delays.
Keep the openings of storm drains clear of debris to help alleviate potential flooding and to protect the environment. At no time should you attempt to enter a storm drain to remove debris.
Property owners are responsible for driveway culverts and bridges that are part of the driveway structure and are not public storm drainage system structures. Storm drains outside rights-of-way and easements are privately maintained by the property owner.
To report a blocked storm drain, call Fairfax County Stormwater Management, 703-877-2800, TTY 711, or the Virginia Department of Transportation at 703-383-8368, TTY 711.
Posted at 2:45 p.m.
Remember: Grills should be placed at least 15 feet from any home, building or combustibles to ensure adequate air circulation. For those of you who live in condos or apartments, never use a gas or charcoal fueled grill on your balconies; doing so is not only unsafe, but it’s also against the law.