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Waves, Sun, Grill and Food Safety

Posted by Janice López-Muñoz, BS, MSIH, Public Affairs Specialist, FSIS in Health and Safety
Jun 19, 2019
Sunglasses and the word summer spelled out in tiles on sand
Cooking outdoors is challenging, especially during the summer. Be sure to follow these steps to food safety to prepare for the occasion!

The summer months are the perfect excuse to spend time at the beach. The best memories in my childhood are with my family enjoying a day at the beach grilling. My parents organized every detail of the trip but looking back and knowing what I know now about food safety, our beach grilling fun could have easily been spoiled with bacteria that could have made us sick.

There are always challenges when cooking outdoors, but a little bit of preparation can have you basking in the sun, enjoying some well-deserved beach time with the family.

Before Firing Up the Beach - Grill

  • Make sure local ordinances allow grilling activities. If yes…it’s time to pack!
  • Only pack the amount of food you will consume to avoid leftovers.
  • Season your favorite meats, poultry or seafood at home before packing them for the trip. Remember to wash your hands before handling the raw items and in between spice containers when seasoning.
  • Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler.
  • Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry tightly wrapped and store them at the bottom of the cooler. This will help keep any running juices away from cooked foods or foods meant to be eaten raw (e.g. fruits, veggies, salsas, guacamole or bean salad).
  • Pack the drinks in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
  • A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. If you still have space in your portable cooler, pack it full with more ice.
  • Don’t forget to bring moist towelettes and the food thermometer!

Keeping Food Safe Ashore

  • Once you arrive at the beach, partially bury your portable cooler in the sand, cover it with blankets or towels, and shade it under a tree or with a beach umbrella.
  • Do not open the lid of your cooler containing perishable foods unless necessary. This will keep perishable foods colder for a longer time.
  • Don't leave any perishables sitting out in the hot sun for more than 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
  • Start setting up your grill and get it clean before bringing the food out.
  • Clean your hands before placing any foods on the grill.

Beach - Grill Time

  • Make sure your grilled items are safe to eat by using a food thermometer and checking to see if they reached the right minimum internal temperatures:
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145°F with a three-minute rest.
    • Fish: 145°F
    • Ground beef, veal, lamb, or pork burgers: 160°F.
    • Poultry (whole or ground): 165°F.
  • Serve all your delicious food using clean plates and utensils.
  • Remember: Clean your hands before starting to eat!

If you have a question about food safety for your summer activities, call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, ET. Callers may also listen to food safety messages on various topics, recorded in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day. You can also email or chat via Ask Karen.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety