Grill safety, food temperature is the key to healthy barbecues | Hello

For Dr. Cade Hardy, the stories he hears from burn patients often include the same unmistakable sound.

They often say, “I heard the whistle,” said Hardy, a burn surgeon at the JMS Burn Center at Trident Medical Center in Charleston. “When you hear the playing, it’s not a good thing.”

The Fourth of July weekend and beyond is a time when many people bring out the barbecue for a family celebration, but it can also be dangerous if done incorrectly, Hardy said. And the food served at these outdoor gatherings must also be handled safely, including seemingly lower-risk items like hummus, salads, garlic butter dressings and even tofu, said Dr. Kimberly Baker, director of the Clemson Extension Service. Food Systems and Safety Program Team.

The burn center at Trident sees about 10 to 12 grill-related burn patients a month, Hardy said. The JMS Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, the nation’s largest burn center, sees much more than that. These burns are often the result of not taking precautions beforehand, especially with gas grills, Hardy said.

“Maybe they haven’t used the grill in a few months and the propane tank has come loose or there’s a leak at the connection,” he said. “Or the hose has rotted from being in the sun too long. It’s always a good idea to check your connections to save yourself the potential trauma that could follow.”

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It’s not just a human hazard—there were an average of 10,600 outdoor and home fires per year in the U.S. caused by grilling between 2014-2018, killing 10 people a year and causing $149 million in damage annually, according to National Fire Protection Association. July is the peak season for these fires. That’s why the right grilling area is important, Hardy said.

“It starts with setting up a safe, well-ventilated grilling area that includes a no-kids area, so make sure kids know they shouldn’t enter that area,” he said.

Grilles should be at least 10 feet away from the house and any other flammable material, Hardy said. Wearing short sleeves or tight-fitting clothing also helps avoid accidental self-immolation, he said.

The same level of care should be applied to the food served, Baker said. Much of this has to do with temperature control, keeping cold foods as cold as possible as well as foods that need to be hot at temperature. Placing those foods that need to be cold in a bowl placed in a larger bowl filled with ice, or alternatively in a cooler with ice or ice packs and limiting the number of openings will help. Rubbing cookware with a fuel source can help keep food hot.

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The foods that need to be carefully managed are those that represent the right conditions, with moisture and acidity and then time and temperature. Those conditions can allow pathogens to grow, Baker said.

While some of these foods will be obvious—dairy products like milk and mayonnaise, raw meats like poultry and seafood—others may not be. These include chopped tomatoes and leafy greens in salads and even garlic butter, which can be made by adding chopped raw garlic to butter, Baker said.

“That fresh garlic can contain Clostridium botulinum from the soil, which then goes into the oil and creates the perfect scenario for pathogen growth,” she said.

The bacteria create a toxin that can cause botulism, which can make people sick and can be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even vegan foods like tofu and tempeh should be handled with care, as should sliced ​​melons and salads, Baker said.

“It’s always the surprising ones,” she said. “They’re definitely not the run-of-the-mill you’d think until you know the science behind it.”

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Contact Tom Corwin at 843-214-6584. Follow him on Twitter at @AUG_SciMed.

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