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Be Safe Around Food, Fireworks This 4th Of July

photo via Flickr// Letizia Barbi

  Americans will celebrate the nation’s 240th birthday with two holiday staples: cookouts and fireworks. Caution is urged around both.

Dorothy Lee with the Escambia County Extension Service says keeping a safe holiday begins with some basics at the cookout.

“Make sure that your hands are clean; all utensils are clean, cooking surfaces are clean,” says Lee. “Bacteria multiplies rapidly at room temperature.”

When preparing raw food, thaw out meats in the refrigerator. If possible, keep a separate cutting board just for the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and fish. Afterward, wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot soapy water, and then sanitize with a solution of household bleach and water.

When cooking meats on the grill, Lee says to remember the safe minimum internal temperatures for each.

“The ground beef needs to be cooked to at least 160 degrees,” Lee says. “Steaks or chops of any type – pork, beef, veal or lamb – around 165 degrees [also] for poultry.”

When the meal is over, Dorothy Lee at the Extension Service says don’t get careless with the leftovers. Eat or store them within two hours of serving.

Following the big meal, many will celebrate with fireworks. Pensacola Fire Chief David Allen says those who plan to set off a few need to use extreme caution.

“They’re just inherently dangerous anytime you deal with fire, and especially when it’s a product that is not regulated,” Allen says.

While sparklers and so-called “screamers” are legal in Florida, anything that explodes or flies – bottle rockets, Roman candles and the like -- are not. Their use is a first degree misdemeanor. Allen adds that there’s no such thing as a “safe” firework.

Other advice: use fireworks outdoors only and obey local laws. Wear safety glasses if you’re the shooter, and don’t drink. If you get a dud – do not try to re-light it. Leave a dud alone for about 20 minutes to make sure it doesn’t explode, and then pour water on it.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy fireworks, says Fire Chief David Allen, is to leave it to the pros. For the 27th year, local Sertoma clubs are hosting the largest fireworks display on the Gulf Coast over Pensacola Bay, around nine o’clock Monday night at Seville Square. 

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.