PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With many of us spending more time outdoors to maintain social distancing during the pandemic, health experts are reminding everyone about the importance of food safety if you’re picnicking or barbecuing.

The CDC estimates 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne illnesses every year and 3,000 people die.

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Health officials caution foodborne illnesses spike this time of year, in part because of the hotter temperatures.

Dr. Mindy Brashears oversees food safety at the US Department of Agriculture.

“There’s bacteria in the food. And even if you cook it, we have what we call spore forming bacteria, and so it survives the heat and these can start growing,” she says.

“And so at a higher temperature, the bacteria grow much faster, so your risk increases.”

Dr. Mindy Brashears says keep foods cold until you are ready to cook them and use a food thermometer to make sure meats are cooked to the right internal temperature.

According to the USDA, safe minimum internal temperatures are:

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  • Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb (steaks, chops, roasts) – 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
  • Ground Meats – 160 °F
  • All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing) – 165 °F
  • Fish & Shellfish – 145 °F

Dr. Brashears says, “Don’t rely on color. Color is a poor indicator.

So use that thermometer, make sure it’s cooked, and then put it on a clean surface, a clean plate or other cutting board or something before you bring it in to serve.”

And once you are done eating, get everything back into the fridge quickly.

According to Dr. Brashears, “If you’re outside and it’s like 90 degrees, the bacteria grow even faster. So we say get it back inside within an hour.”

You can find Shari Kenny grilling with the help of her husband on most days during the spring and summer.

“I grill. He gets the gas for me,” she says. “But I’m the one who loves to be out here.”

Shari does all the food prep inside the house and pays attention to cross contamination.

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“The cutting boards have to be very, very clean. You don’t put meat where you put vegetables, that is a big no,” she says.