July 4 barbecue tips: Don't give your guests food poisoning!

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- Foodborne illness, often referred to as food poisoning, is more common than you might think, especially when it comes to outdoor events like Fourth of July barbecues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one in six Americans -- that's some 48 million people -- gets sick from foodborne illness every year. Tens of thousands wind up in the hospital, and 3,000 actually die.

Trisha Bergman from the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department laid out a traditional spread so she could demonstrate the most common mistakes people make.

The key to serving a safe meal, she said, is clean -- clean utensils, clean produce, clean hands.

Not only do you need separate cutting boards for produce and raw meats, you also should make sure to have separate plates and tongs for raw meat and cooked meat.

"The big thing that we actually see its the tongs," Bergman said. "People use the same tongs to put the raw meat on the grill to take the meat off the grill.'

It happens with plates, too, she continued.

"We want to make sure it's all separate," she stressed.

The chef and host should keep a close eye on the temperatures of the food they're serving. Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees. Hamburgers should be cooked to 155.

Temperature monitoring is important for the cold stuff, as well. You want to keep items as close to 41 degrees (colder is good!) as possible. Setting the containers in a bowl of ice can help with.

In Bergman's demonstration, the temperature of a container of potato salad left on the table rose 20 degrees in about an hour. That puts it squarely in the danger zone -- above 41 degrees and below 135.

If you aren't going to get your food back in the fridge right away, watch the clock.

"If it is going to sit out, four hours is your big time frame," Bergman said.

After that, it need to be tossed out.

Symptoms of foodborne illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramping, fever, fatigue and joint aches. Those symptoms can crop up as little as two hours after eating the offending food. Sometimes it can be as long as 12 hours -- even a day or two -- before you get sick.

Oftentimes, the issue will resolve on its own, but if the symptoms persist or you find yourself become dehydrated, a trip to urgent care or possibly even the emergency room might be in order.