“Is there a safe way to serve marinade that had raw meat in it?”    “Can I serve potato salad outside?”

These were just a couple of the issues tackled by the USDA today during a live chat on Twitter, with questions asked and answered in real time about food safety before the July 4th weekend.

Here’s a roundup of the questions tweeted, which were answered by the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline experts.  Remember this was over Twitter, so they’re all very brief!  (…although some questions took a couple of tweets to answer – they’re condensed into one response here.)

Q:  Why does food poisoning increase in summer?

A: Most foodborne bacteria grow fastest btwn 90-110°F.  Bacteria also need moisture 2 flourish. Summer weather is hot & humid. Ppl also cook outside more in summer, w/o a fridge or sink. For more info: http://go.usa.gov/Zcw

Q: Can children be too young for pork or steak?

A: From a nutrition standpoint, that’s a good ? for your pediatrician.  For safety, small children r @ high risk 4 pathogens. FULLY COOK all meat/poultry b4 serving http://go.usa.gov/ZbK

Q: How can you detect food poisoning and alcohol poisoning?

A: Food poisoning symptoms appear immediately or take a few wks. Common symptoms, what to do: http://go.usa.gov/ZDy We focus on food safety, but here’s info on alcohol poisoning, helpful for July 4 http://go.usa.gov/ZDN

Q: How do you clean a food thermometer? Can it go in the dishwasher?

A:  “Good old hot, soapy water” works just fine for cleaning the stem of a food thermometer. No special cleaner needed!  Don’t put food thermometers in the dishwasher, unless manufacturer’s directions say it’s ok. Hot water & soap r best

Q: What is the safe temp for cooked pork and has it changed?

A: Old temp for pork was 160F. New recommendation is 145F w/ a 3-min rest time after removing from heat http://go.usa.gov/ZbK

Q: Do you expect other products to have a revised temp recommendation?

A: @ this time, no.   There are 3 temps: 145 for beef/pork/veal/lamb. 160 for ground meats. 165 all poultry. Easy 2 remember!

Q: What is meant by “rest time”? Does the meat need to stay on the heat source or be covered?

A: “Rest time” is letting food rest away from heat source, b4 carving/consuming. Temp rises during this time. No need 2 cover.

Q: What about potato salad and other food w/ mayo. Are they ok to serve outside?

A: Like all perishables, leave mayo-based foods @ room temp. no more than 2 hrs, or 1 hr in hot weather

Q: At cookouts w/ neighbors, ppl like to graze all afternoon. What do you suggest to make sure things stay germ-free?

A:  If there’s no access to running H2O, keep lots of towelettes/ hand sanitizer around so everyone can keep their hands clean.  Use the 2-hr rule: Chill food w/in 2hrs @ room temp indoors, or 1 hr outdoors in high heat. Discard if left out longer.  Use 2 platters, 1 for raw & 1 for cooked food, plus a food therm @ the grill. Cook 2 the right temps

Q: Is there a safe way to serve marinade/sauce that had raw meat in it?

A: Bring marinade that held raw meat 2 a boil b4 reusing. Better, reserve a portion b4 adding raw meat

Q: Is it ok to travel to a party w/ a cooked casserole, or should I heat it once I arrive?

A: Cook casseroles to 165F, & keep @140F or higher. Wrapping in newspaper or blanket helps trap heat if traveling short dist.

Q: Can I cook hamburger patties frozen? If so, what’s the best way?

A: VERY important 2 use a food therm & cook to 160F, checking in several places, if cooking frzn burger patties w/o thawing

Q: What should I do if I think I have food poisoning?

A:  First, call a doc or 911. Resource for reporting a prblm here: http://go.usa.gov/ZZi. U could help someone else!

Q: Food poisoning isn’t that big of a deal, is it? Just tough it out for a day or two.

A: Some foodborne illnesses can lead 2 long-term conditions like arthritis, & 3k Americans die each yr http://go.usa.gov/ZZx


Have food safety questions of your own before your July 4th picnic?  Call the Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) weekdays 10:00am-4:00pm EDT.