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Having a July 4th cookout? Follow these food tips to make sure your guests don't go home sick

Listeria, E. coli and salmonella are always a concern when cooking for a lot of people. The health department offers these tips to keep your friends and family safe.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Many people will be gathering this weekend for Fourth of July cookouts, and the Knox County Health Department has tips to keep guests safe. 

Allison Rosenberg manages the food division at the Knox County Health Department. Rosenberg recommends washing hands frequently and cleaning frequently used surfaces. 

"Listeria, E. coli, salmonella are always concerns," Rosenberg said. "We always watch for those and try to encourage folks to follow food safety practices to prevent those from multiplying and making them sick."

The health department asks people to avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw animal foods away from ready-to-eat food items.

Cooking food to these recommended internal temperatures and checking with a thermometer is important, too:

  • Poultry: 165°F
  • Ground meat: 160°F
  • Whole meats (pork tenderloin, steak): 145°F
  • Fish: 145°F

Food that's at room temperature can only stay there for around two hours before being refrigerated again. If the food is outside, and the temperature is above 90°F, it should be thrown away. 

Rosenberg recommends thawing and marinating foods in the refrigerator overnight, and to avoid thawing foods at room temperature. 

"Another tip related to food items that have been left out. We call it commingling," Rosenberg said. "If you've got one casserole dish out, and everyone's eating, maybe all that's left is a spoonful or two, you bring out a fresh casserole to replenish and it's the same. Don't scrape what's left on top of the new one, go ahead and let someone enjoy that or throw it in the garbage."

Lastly, avoid cooking or attending a July 4th cookout if you are sick.