AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Americans prepare for the first COVID-19 pandemic Labor Day, in addition to social distancing, mask wearing and keeping crowds to a minimum, there are other practices to keep an eye on: your meat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every year 1 in 6 Americans, or about 48 million people, become sick from eating contaminated food. Additionally, 128,000 need to be hospitalized and 3,000 die.
“Cooking food thoroughly and handling it correctly is critically important,” Carmen Rottenberg, a former administrator with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, previously told USA TODAY. “The food produced is not sterile. … People want to cook raw food and prepare it at home. If you prepare it at home, you have to know there are some risks associated with it.”
The ingestion of raw meat can cause food poisoning, especially where E. coli bacteria are found. E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, pneumonia and a host of other illnesses, CDC says.
- Cook meats at proper temperatures and use a thermometer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently changed its recommended cooking temperatures and recommends 160ºF to 145ºF for whole cuts of pork. The 145ºF recommendation for beef, veal and lamb cuts remains the same, but now a three-minute “rest time” is urged. “Rest time” simply means the amount of time a product sits at its final temperature after it’s been removed from a heat source.
- Keep meat and vegetables separate when grilling kabobs. Because vegetables cook much faster than meat, it may cause you to pull kabobs from the grill before the meat is ready.
- Don’t reuse plates or utensils that have had raw meats on them. Practice cleanliness overall in the kitchen or at the grill. Keep hands sanitary.
- Be aware of how other food items are holding up. Cold salads, desserts and other dishes should be kept outside for minimal amounts of time, no longer than two hours at most. If the temperature outside is above 90ºF, don’t keep cold dishes out for longer than an hour. Don’t keep leftover cold dishes that have been outside, if possible.
Labor Day during COVID-19
While the holiday weekend will likely tempt Americans to celebrate, health authorities nationwide and locally are urging residents to exercise caution.
On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the Labor Day weekend will be crucial in how the next few months play out. During the pandemic, case surges have been linked nationwide to other holiday weekends, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
Locally, this week, Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, gave residents a warning, saying:
“If we go too far, if we take too much risk right now, when we’re about to start the opening of schools, we’re going to pay for it in two to three weeks.“Dr. Mark Escott
In the Austin-Travis County area, cases surged almost 50% after Memorial and Independence days.