Health and Family Services Cabinet
Remember Food Safety as You Celebrate the Labor Day Holiday

Press Release Date:  Friday, September 02, 2011  
Contact Information:  Beth Fisher or Gwenda Bond, (502) 564-6786, ext. 3101 and 3100  


Picnics and large family get-togethers are a favorite means of celebration during Labor Day weekend and the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) wants all Kentuckians to practice safe food handling techniques as they close out the summer.

“We want everyone to enjoy the holiday – and that means avoiding illness and staying healthy,” said Acting DPH Commissioner Steve Davis, M.D. “Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat that can be extremely debilitating and sometimes deadly. However, with a few simple precautions, it can be easily avoided.”

Foodborne illness is common throughout the United States and it is often caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 found in foods that have either been undercooked or left in conditions where bacteria were allowed to grow. Improvements in food safety, such as pasteurization of milk, safe canning, and disinfection of water supplies, have curtailed those diseases, but people should continue to follow the tips listed below when handling, preparing and eating food.

DPH recommends these tips for packing a safe picnic basket:

− Plan ahead. Try to plan the right amount of food to take so you will not have to worry about the storage or safety of leftovers. Place perishable food in a cooler with ice freezer packs. Replenish the ice as it melts.

− Pack safely. Keep cold foods cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Don’t put the cooler in the trunk; carry it inside an air-conditioned car. At the picnic, keep the cooler in the shade. Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings. Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing perishable food will not be constantly opened and closed.

In addition, remember to:

− Keep hands and utensils clean when preparing food.

− Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.

− Run firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.

− Food left out for more than two hours may not be safe. Do not eat anything that has been left out in the hot sun.

− A clean, metal-stemmed meat thermometer is an essential component of food safety.  When grilling, cook hamburgers and ribs to 155 degrees Fahrenheit or until the center is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Cook ground poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry parts to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Reheat precooked meats until steaming hot.

− Do not partially grill extra hamburgers to use later. Once you begin cooking hamburgers by any method, cook until completely done to ensure any bacteria are destroyed.

− When taking foods off the grill, put them on a clean plate. Do not put the cooked items on the same plate that held the raw meat.

− Put leftover foods in the cooler promptly after grilling or serving. Discard any leftovers after one hour of being left outside. If there is still ice in the cooler when you arrive home, the leftovers are safe to eat.

DPH wishes all Kentuckians a safe holiday. For more information about safe picnic planning, call Pam Hendren in the Food Safety Branch at (502) 564-7181 or your local health department’s environmental health specialist.