COLLEGE STATION Another holiday is upon us, and with the fun and games come certain associated hazards. As families everywhere prepare for Fourth of July picnics and barbecues, they need to keep a few helpful guidelines in mind to ensure a fun, safe holiday.
Dr. Carol Rice, Texas Agricultural Extension Service health specialist, said there are several precautions to consider when spending a day outside in the sun.
“First of all, people need to try to find shade and avoid being outside between the time of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is the hottest during the day,” Rice said.
Of course, shade is not always available, and many people want to get an early start on their celebration of America’s independence. Other options can minimize the chances of sunburn and skin cancer.
When outdoors during the day, Rice said use a sun screen with a sun protection factor(SPF) of 30 or greater. To maximize the effectiveness of sun screen, follow these instructions:
-Apply 30 minutes before heading into the sun.
-Smooth lightly and evenly across skin without rubbing in completely.
-Reapply often (every hour or two), especially when coming out of the water or sweating heavily.
-Apply sun screen on all exposed areas, including ears, nose and back of the neck.
Select the appropriate type of sun screen if you are going to be sweating or swimming,Rice said.
“When buying a sun screen, make sure it is waterproof,” she said. “Some sun screens made for sports activities last longer between applications.”
Sun screens are helpful, but they are not the only method of sun protection. Use a sun screen, and wear a hat and shirt. A hat with a 3-inch brim is recommended because a baseball cap leaves the back of the neck uncovered. Any areas of your face, neck and ears repeatedly exposed to sunlight, without protection, have a greater chance of developing skin cancer, Rice said.
Although any type of shirt is better than not wearing a shirt at all, a dark-colored, long-sleeved shirt provides the most protection. If a white shirt is worn, choose an older one that has been washed multiple times.
“Washing the shirt repeatedly helps the fabric shrink so that holes are less penetrable than those that have not been washed much,” Rice said. “In addition, washing shirts in detergents with optical whiteners adds protection, too.”
Rice also emphasized the importance of wearing sunglasses with a minimum 99 percent Ultra Violet protection rating to minimize the impact of bright sun on the eyes.
After securing the best possible sun protection, consider the food preparation. Barbecues are a big part of picnics, and there are a few precautions to consider.
For best results when grilling outdoors, select high quality fresh meat, poultry or seafood.
If frozen, the meat should be thawed in a refrigerator or a cooler, said Britta Thompson, Texas Agricultural Extension Service Associate at the Food and Nutrition Unit. Meat should never be thawed at room temperature because the outer layers may reach a temperature that promotes bacterial growth before the inner layers are thawed, she said. Until it’s ready for grilling, keep the meat in a refrigerated environment of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Use aluminum foil as a cooking surface if you not sure about the cleanliness of the grilling surface.
“One recommendation is that you cover the grill with aluminum foil,” said Thompson. “Then punch holes between the grids to let the juices drip out.”
Always wash your hands before and after working with raw meat and poultry. Also wash food preparation areas, dishes and utensils with soap and water before and after using them. This is especially important after placing raw meat on the grill.
“One thing people don’t think about is when they bring their meat to the grill and put it on a dish,” said Thompson. “Don’t use the same dish after the meat is cooked, or make sure that you clean the dish very well with soap and water.”
Thompson also recommended sanitizing cutting boards or dishes after working with raw meats or poultry. To sanitize, use one to two teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.
According to Thompson, a thermometer is the best way to determine if your meat is done.
To check the temperature, place the thermometer probe in the very center of the meat.
Internal cooking temperatures vary from meat to meat. Examples of some meats and temperatures include:
-fresh pork: 160-170 F
-poultry (dark meat and whole): 180 F
-poultry (breast): 170 F
-ground beef (hamburger): 160 F
-fresh beef (steak): 145-170 F
If a thermometer is not available, the meat should be ready when the juice runs clear.
Refrigerate leftovers right away. Meat should not be left unrefrigerated more than two hours when the temperature is below 90 F. When temperatures are above 90 F, meat should not be left out for longer than one hour.
By keeping these simple guidelines in mind, your family and friends can have a fun Independence Day, without worry of repercussions.