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    Commissaries urge food safety at the barbecue



    Story by Kevin Robinson 

    Defense Commissary Agency

    By Kevin L. Robinson,
    DeCA public affairs specialist

    FORT LEE, Va. – Nothing signals the start of summer quite like the backyard barbecue on Memorial Day. As commissary patrons worldwide prepare to dust off their “grill sergeant” skills for a day of good food and good company, the Defense Commissary Agency wants to ensure that they handle and prepare their food safely.

    “Many of our patrons understand the 30 percent savings their commissary benefit provides them for items such as the meat and other foods for the barbecue,” said Army Col. Michael A. Buley, DeCA’s director of public health and safety. “However, we also want to remind them to ‘Be Food Safe’ as they prepare, cook, eat and store their tasty fare from the cookout.”

    The Be Food Safe program is as important to the success of the barbecue as charcoal is to an old-school grill, said Chris Wicker, DeCA’s public health adviser. The program was created through the collaboration of several government agencies – U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention – to focus on preventing foodborne illnesses caused from improper food handling at home.

    Foodborne illnesses such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria are all potential party crashers if people don’t pay heed to proper food handling, Wicker said.

    “Through ‘Be Food Safe’ we are promoting the message that our patrons have a responsibility to safeguard themselves and their families by practicing proper food handling techniques at all times,” Wicker said. “We work in concert with our military health inspectors to help raise our customers’ awareness of safe food handling procedures year round.”

    Wicker said that anyone planning a barbecue should first consider the following basic food safety tips:

    • Be clean. Before cooking or eating – and definitely after using the bathroom – wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget the grill; it should also be cleaned before preparation begins.

    • Separate the food. Keep raw food apart from cooked food. The juices from raw meats can contain bacteria that could transfer to other foods. That means use separate plates or containers for raw meat, poultry or seafood when moving food to the grill and different containers entirely for the cooked products unless the carriers have been washed thoroughly in soap and water. Also, keep cooking utensils and cooking surfaces clean from potential cross contamination.

    • Marinate in refrigerator. Any food that is marinating should be covered and kept in a refrigerator until ready to cook. Also, don’t reuse marinade containing raw meat.

    • Cook it completely. This means you cannot take shortcuts on the amount of time it takes to thoroughly cook meat. Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is ready to eat. For example, ground beef and pork should be cooked at 160 F, chicken at 165 F and steaks and roast at 145 F. You can use your microwave, oven or stove to precook the food immediately before placing it on the grill.

    • Chill and freeze – immediately. Food should never be off the grill or out of the cooler for more than two hours. And, when the outside temperature is hotter than 90 F, food can only be left out for an hour.

    • Hot, hot, hot. Keep hot food wrapped, insulated in a container and at or above 140 F. Eat hot take-out food within two hours of purchase. When reheating food on the grill, make sure it reaches 165 F.

    • Keep it cold. If it’s meant to be cold, it needs to stay that way at or below 40 F. Chicken salad, potato salads, bagged and green salads, and certain desserts must be protected from warm temperatures by placing them on ice in coolers. Remember to drain the water from melted ice in those coolers and replace ice as necessary.

    “Time and temperature are key factors for grilling and protecting your loved ones from foodborne illness,” Wicker said. “Ensure proper temperatures are reached for all cooked meats and that no food is left out longer than two hours. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. When in doubt, throw it out.”

    For more information on eating food outside or handling food safely outdoors, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website

    For the latest food safety alerts and product recalls affecting military commissaries, visit and click on the “Food Recalls” box near the bottom of the front page. For general food safety information, visit the website, choose the “News & Info” tab near the top of the front page and select “Food Safety” from the drop-down box.

    The DeCA website’s food safety page is also a good source to access links to various consumer safety sites such as

    For more information on Be Food Safe, go to

    About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit and make no profit on the sale of merchandise. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.

    By shopping regularly in the commissary, patrons save an average of 30 percent or more on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings amounting to thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.



    Date Taken: 05.14.2015
    Date Posted: 05.14.2015 17:28
    Story ID: 163345
    Location: FORT LEE, VA, US 

    Web Views: 33
    Downloads: 0