It‚ almost time to pull out the lawn chairs, open the sparklers, and put on your red, white and blue. Whether your plans for the Fourth of July are to head to the beach, attend a parade, or simply relax with friends and family, chances are food and drink will be involved. Here are some suggestions on which products to pick and which to avoid in order to have a safe and healthy holiday.
Let‚ start with the meat. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA, summer is the prime time for foodborne illnesses. But with proper precaution, you can keep your guests from getting sick. Always make sure to cook meats thoroughly (160¬∞ on the inside, even steak , see table below and previous entry) and double-check the expiration date on the package. Paying careful attention to the expiration date is especially important because some processors use carbon monoxide gas to keep meat looking red and fresh even if it is several days past its prime. Another thing to look out for is meat marked with the irradiation symbol . Some stores , like Wegmans , promote irradiation as a solution to prevent contamination. But in truth, irradiation does not miraculously purge the product of any and all harmful elements, transforming that steak or patty to sushi-grade meat. In fact, irradiation destroys many vital nutrients and vitamins, and consuming irradiated food may cause immune system failures, tumors and a host of other problems. In addition, the process of irradiation often creates a nasty texture, smell, and taste.
|TYPE OF MEAT||MINIMUM INTERNAL TEMP (¬∞F)|
|- Beef, lamb and Veal (steaks,
roasts and chops)
**Important note: Steaks
and roasts that have been
boned, rolled, tenderized,
etc. should be cooked to an
internal temperature of at
|- Ground beef, pork, veal, and
- Pork (chops, roasts, ribs)
|- Poultry (ground, breasts,
legs, thighs, wings, whole)
- Stuffing and casseroles
|References: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service ,
‚Foodborne Illness Peaks in the Summer – Why?”
‚Thermometer Placement and Temperatures“
For those of you who plan to serve up seafood, there are a number of things for you to consider as well. Much of the seafood available in the United States is imported from foreign, industrial aquaculture farms. Bacteria, viruses and parasites thrive in the unsanitary conditions that often characterize these farms, such that some imported fish have been described as “filthy” by inspectors, with Salmonella and other contaminants not uncommon. Where chemicals and antibiotics (many of which have been outlawed in the United States) are applied in an attempt to eliminate the disease-causing agents, harmful residues can accumulate in the flesh. To protect yourself and your guests, ask your grocers where the product is from and how it was produced. Generally, the best bet is to opt for domestic, wild fish. A particularly healthy and sustainable option is U.S. troll-caught Mahi Mahi. If you are set on having salmon, choose U.S. wild Pacific salmon over Atlantic/farmed salmon. Domestic halibut, whiting, and tilapia are also good choices. If shellfish is on your menu, again stick to products from the United States.
Now undoubtedly you will need something to drink. But pass up the bottled water and instead treat your guests to (if you will not be near a tap, fill up a cooler before you leave and take it with you). Bottled water is not safer than tap water; in fact, tap water is better regulated and tested more frequently. True, there may be impurities and the mineral content may not be to your liking, but these issues can be easily fixed with a simple filter. Bottled water creates unnecessary garbage and pollution, plus it is expensive (it costs more per unit volume than gas). So save your money or spend it instead on that fancy cake you’ve been eying.
So remember, when it comes to food, the bottom line is to cook meats and eggs to appropriate temperatures and choose local, sustainably-produced products. Not only will you be supporting local producers, you will also be protecting your safety and the environment. For resources and more information, consult the Eat Well Guide. And check out our to learn how to serve the best water in town, straight from your tap.
Have a good Fourth!