News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  July 24, 2001

Christine Grant

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Marilyn Riley
609- 984-7160


Department of Health and Senior Services
Offers Prevention Tips Against Summer Food Poisoning

TRENTON - While summer is a perfect time for backyard barbecues and picnics, Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Christine Grant is urging New Jersey residents to heed simple precautions to prevent food poisoning as the summer heats up.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 75 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths are associated nationwide each year with pathogenic microorganisms in food," said Grant. "Many of those illnesses are a result of improper food handling practices that cause contamination and can be significantly reduced if food is handled properly."

Under-cooked meats and cross-contamination from raw meats to ready-to-eat foods can spread food-borne pathogens such as e. coli, salmonella and many other food-borne diseases. The reported cases of food-borne illnesses usually increase in summer months because the harmful bacteria in food can grow quicker in warm weather, especially when foods are left out in the heat or in cars for extended periods.

The Department of Health and Senior Services offers these suggestions for protection from food-borne illnesses:

  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that meats are cooked well enough to ward off bacteria, such as e. coli, that could lead to illness. Ground meat should be cooked until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit; chicken should be cooked to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If a thermometer is unavailable, cut into meat to check that the meat is not pink and that the juices are clear.

  • Wash hands frequently. Use plenty of soap and warm water to wash hands immediately before preparing foods and between handling raw meats and then ready-to-eat foods that will not be cooked, such as fresh vegetables for salads. Everyone should also wash before eating to reduce the direct contamination of the food.

  • When making salads, such as potato or chicken salad, make sure that all ingredients have been properly chilled before combining them in the salad. This ensures that the salads will be at temperatures that inhibit bacterial growth.

  • All fruits and vegetables should be washed before cooking or serving. Once cut, watermelons and cantaloupes need to be refrigerated or kept on ice to prevent bacterial growth. Other fruits and vegetables should be kept cold to prevent spoilage. Use a service dish on ice and immediately store in an ice chest when serving outside.

  • Be sure to clean all utensils and cutting services to avoid contamination from raw meat and other foods.

More information is on the Department's web site at

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