July 4: Fire up the Grill, Hold the Salmonella

Jun 29, 2012, 5:18 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reporting that cases of foodborne illnesses surge in the summer season, likely because bacteria multiply faster when it’s warm. Key stats from the USDA:

  • Americans spend $400 million on beef alone for July 4th barbecues.
  • USDA research shows that 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown before it has reached a safe internal temperature.
  • New FDA research done in collaboration with USDA shows that only 23 percent of Americans who own a food thermometer actually use it when grilling hamburgers
  • 48 million Americans (at least 1 in 6) will get sick from foodborne illness this year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths



USDA also offers more resources on summer grilling and on the critical steps for food safety, as well as this handy infographic as a reminder to take steps like using separate plates for raw and cooked food when grilling:

Food safety isn't the only concern this holiday. This year, the National Safety Council estimates 17,300 serious injuries and 173 traffic deaths will occur between 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, and 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 4. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is also posing some compelling July food for thought: "Would you let your kids handle a blowtorch?" According to the CPSC, sparklers burn at the same temperature as blowtorches: 2,000 degrees. In the month surrounding July 4th, 2010, the CPSC reports that 6,300 injuries were reported involving fireworks, including burns to the hands, face and head. Additional safety tips include:

  • Steer clear of fireworks packaged in brown paper, as they may be professional-grade and not safe for home use.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket.

The National Safety Council has additional July 4 tips on safe driving over the holiday, preventing drowning and safety hazards from hot weather.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.