Hosting A BBQ This Weekend? Follow These Food Safety Tips
With COVID-19 limitations, restrictions, and precautionary advice seemingly ever changing, your holiday weekend plans probably look a bit different this year. But if you live in a place where safe and small gatherings are not only government approved, but are something you even feel comfortable partaking in, there are some safety tips for 4th of July BBQs to ensure that you and everyone on your limited guest list is as protected as possible.
Yes, you can still enjoy the requisite delicious grilled dishes that the holiday is synonymous with and yes, you can still sip summer cocktails al fresco while taking in a fireworks display — but you might just have to add on a few new measures for an ultimately safer soiree this year. "While some places may be reopening, be mindful that there is no way to escape the risk entirely," explains One Medical family provider and Regional Medical Director, Dr. Natasha Bhuyan.
So while some parts of the world are loosening up restrictions, the best way to create a socially responsible celebration this year is by implementing a few practices when it comes to serving, preparing, and consuming food and beverages. To see exactly what those are, straight from experts like Dr. Bhuyan, read ahead and plan for a (small) gathering that might be a bit more cautious but still just as fun as the ones you're used to.
Safety Tip For 4th Of July BBQs: Stick To Backyard Gatherings
First things first — outdoor gatherings are inherently safer, according to Dr. Bhuyan. "Although COVID-19 is transmitted via droplets from one person to another, open air locations slightly minimize the risk," she explains. And to limit it a bit more, Dr. Shawn Nasseri, an Otorhinolaryngology Practitioner, recommends opting for a backyard over a more open, public outdoor setting. "It is better to have a backyard BBQ rather than doing it at the park or beach since there are more people around and you do not know if they have been quarantining or if they are healthy," he says.
Safety Tip For 4th Of July BBQs: Don't Get Too Close
In addition to limiting your circle, you'll also want keep a safe distance when you interact. "Always maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others, says Dr. Bhuyan. "As much as you may want to, you should also avoid hugging and kissing your loved ones. Opt instead for hands-free greetings like elbow bumps, air hugs, and air high-fives."
Safety Tip For 4th Of July BBQs: Everyone Wears Masks
Even if you're limiting your social interactions and implementing safe distances, you should still be wearing masks — all of you. And that especially goes for whoever is preparing and serving the food (more on that ahead).
Safety Tip For 4th Of July BBQs: Sorry, No Sharing
If you typically do a potluck, serve family style, or share your food and drinks with loved ones — you'll want to put all those practices on pause, at least for the time being. Instead, Katie Heil, Certified Professional in Food Safety, advises having a designated person prepare and serve all the food and beverages, and only offer individual servings. "For instance, you could ask the head of each household dish up plates for their family members, instead of having every family member dish up their own," she says. "Serving drinks should work in a similar way. Ideally, you will provide pre-filled cups or packaged drinks so people don't have to wait in line to get their own drink. Alternatively, you could provide multiple pitchers or drink dispensers so people aren't congregating in one central area."
To further minimize your risk, Dr. Bhuyan offers the option of having everyone bring their own food and utensils. But if you choose to go that route, be sure to avoid any sharing or cross-contamination.
Safety Tip For 4th Of July BBQs: Cook Foods To Proper Temperature
"Always practice good food safety when preparing food, including washing your hands before preparing the meal, preventing cross-contamination, and cooking foods to proper temperatures," says Heil. "Not only will those measures help prevent foodborne illness, they're also helpful in preventing COVID-19. In fact, infectious disease expert Dr. Stephen Berger has said that cooking foods to at least 132.8 to 149 degrees may inactivate the COVID-19 virus."
Safety Tip For 4th Of July BBQs: Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize
This one is pretty self-explanatory. "Have hand sanitizer easily available and encourage regular hand hygiene by modeling it yourself, and having plenty of soap and water accessible for guests," advises Dr. Bhuyan. "Disinfect commonly used surfaces, such as door knobs, counters, and refrigerator handles."