Are you making mistakes at your summer cookout that could put your family at risk?
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WWMT) - Memorial Day is right around the corner. The weather is warming up. Summer is on the way.
It's the time of year we begin to grill out. But does your focus on that spectacular steak, beautiful burger or scintillating sausage have you forgetting about safety?
The sizzle of food is one of the sounds of summer and a burger on the grill is one of the sights of the season, but what about the things that can't be seen?
"The E. Coli, Salmonella; those types of things that are going to be most serious to us," said Michael Pinto, an environmental engineer and chief executive officer of Wonder Makers Environmental in Kalamazoo.
WWMT asked Pinto to run some tests on a cookout. We used a grill to make hamburgers and chicken. Pinto runs something called an ATP test, which is common in the food services industry and is a way to detect actively growing microorganisms. The test involves a swab of a surface; that swab is placed in an activation solution. Then, a meter supplies a number, which can be seen as a test score for cleanliness.
"Food grade clean is going to be anything that is 50 or less, very clean would actually be 15 or less," Pinto said.
First up is our very dirty grill, not cleaned for months. Even though the grill looks bad, the test scores zero, very clean. Why? The heat from the grill sterilizes the cooking rack.
Next up, we test the plates that held the raw meat. We wanted to know if it would be really bad to place cooked meat back on the same plates. The burger plate tested at 221, well above the safe number of 50. The chicken plate, while it looked much cleaner, did much worse, 481.
Finally, we tested the spatulas. The burger spatula tested at a very unsafe 8,617. The chicken spatula did even worse, pegging the meter at 9,999. Pinton said he could not know just how the number really was.
The bottom line is do not use the spatula or tongs you cooked with to serve food. And, do not use the same plate holding the raw meat for the finished product.
The key to all of this: use a little bit of common sense.
"Don't let the science scare you away from summer," Pinto said.
It is important to take these issues seriously. Pinto told WWMT that even a healthy person can potentially put their life in danger with E. Coli or Listeria that can come from the meats we were cooking if the proper safety precautions are not taken.