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Proper food handling important at cookouts, barbecues

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Schriever Clinic recently treated a few patients for food poisoning stemming from a recent off-base barbecue and seeks to help Team Schriever members avoid foodborne illnesses this summer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly one in six Americans, or 48 million people are sickened from foodborne diseases each year. Of these, 128,000 are hospitalized and more than 3,000 die.

A foodborne illness, also known as food poisoning, occurs when food or water containing bacteria, like salmonella or E. coli, parasites, viruses or toxins is ingested.

"Some common symptoms are vomiting, nausea and diarrhea," said Senior Airman Crystal Herrera, 21st Medical Squadron public health technician. "Unfortunately, foodborne illnesses occur more frequently in the summer months, when people attend more cookouts and barbecues."

What's odd is that the symptoms typically don't show up for 24 hours, according to Herrera.

"That's a common misconception," said Tech. Sgt. Tia Mullins, 21st Aerospace Dental Squadron flight chief. "A lot of people tend to associate foodborne illness with something they ate more recently. It can take up to 48 hours for symptoms to show up in what's known as the incubation period."

Eight of the 15 people who attended the same barbecue wound up getting sick, according to Herrera. Three were treated at the Schriever Clinic while five others were treated elsewhere.

Treatment for a foodborne illness typically includes prescribed antibiotics and liquids. Recovery can take several days.

Herrera and Mullins said people can avoid foodborne illnesses altogether by practicing sound food handling, including the following tips:

 Wash hands thoroughly before handling food. It's important to wash hands again when going from handling raw food to handling cooked foods.

 Before cooking, be sure to keep all food at proper temperature. Cold food should be held at 41 degrees or below. Once cooked, hot food should be held above 135 degrees or higher.

 Do not eat, smoke or drink in the food-prep area.

 Food-prep area should be clean, to include all food contact surfaces.

 Use only one utensil for one food.

 The most common mistake made during barbecues is that food is often left out during the event. This is when food is most susceptible to bacteria. Be sure to keep food within proper temperature range. Chicken and turkey should be held at 165 degrees, beef at 160 degrees, and pork 155 degrees.

Team Schriever members can find more information on foodborne illnesses and preventing them at

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