QUINCY, Mass. — Stop & Shop here has teamed up with Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow, N.Y., to unveil a “Safe Grilling 2007” program in an effort to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses.
Dr. Ken Steier, dean of academic affairs and the public safety officer at Nassau University Medical Center, spoke to seventh-grade family and consumer science students from Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills, N.Y., about the importance of food safety during a class lab visit to a local Stop & Shop store.
“Bacteria love the hot, humid days of summer, and grow faster then than at any other time of the year,” said Steier.
“When the temperature is above 90 degrees F, the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer drops from two hours to one hour.”
The students learned about how to properly shop for, transport, refrigerate, defrost, marinate and serve barbecue and picnic foods.
Tips included advice such as putting packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags; marinating food in the refrigerator and not on the counter; precooking food partially in the microwave, oven or stove in order to reduce grilling time; and the proper handling of leftovers.
Steier said people need to be aware of safe grilling practices, especially now that summer is here. About 5,000 people in the United States die from foodborne illnesses each year — approximately 14 people each day — Steier said. More than 325,000 people are hospitalized each year for foodborne illness, and approximately 76 million cases occur annually.
“A safe food plan begins even before you make your purchase,” advised Chris Myers, store manager of the Dix Hills Stop & Shop, in a release announcing the event.
“One of the most common mistakes consumers make is that, because it is the focal point of their barbecue or picnic, they purchase their meat and poultry first. It should be the last thing they load into their cart before heading to the checkout.”
The event at the Dix Hills store was the pilot program, and further plans are being explored. Andrea Astrachan, the retailer's consumer advisor, is also available for safe grilling tips and expects to have a video coming out June 8 about kebob grilling, said Stop & Shop spokesman Peter Hamilton.
“This is a model that I hope other food retailers will follow. Many consumers do not know the basics of food safety, and if retailers like Stop & Shop teach them, it will mean that my colleagues and I will see fewer cases of food poisoning and other illnesses in our emergency rooms,” Steier added.