How to avoid Fourth of July food poisoning

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If you’ve ever been felled by food poisoning, you know you’ll never want to experience that again.

Yet every year, 48 million Americans, or one in six of us, are sickened by food borne illnesses. And food poisoning is especially problematic during this time of year, when warm temperatures and poor food handling practices create the perfect petri dish for harmful food bacteria.

If you're among the 81 million Americans planning on enjoying a barbecue this Fourth of July, here are a few precautions to better ensure a safe and enjoyable Independence Day.

  1. Use a food thermometer before pulling beef and poultry off the grill. Why? The  USDA warns that a quarter of all hamburgers turn brown before they reach the safe internal temperature of 160 degrees.
  2. Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods. Use separate cutting boards, knives and platters for raw meats and other foods. Wash the boards, knives and platters thoroughly between each use.
  3. Hot and Cold: Keep hot foods hot and keep the cold foods cold throughout the day. Then refrigerate  leftovers within two hours.  

Symptoms of food-borne illnesses — including stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea — can start hours or days after eating contaminated or undercooked foods, health officials say.   Most people who suffer from a food-borne illness will recover without medical treatment. But food poisoning can be life-threatening for young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.  

Food borne illnesses cause about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.