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Tips for safer, healthier holiday grilling

Low-carb alternatives let dieters enjoy holiday spreads

Diet and Fitness

(CNN) -- Backyard chefs may be slathering ribs with a little salmonella and sauce this Independence Day if they aren't careful, food groups have warned.

And surprisingly, it seems that the burger-makers know it.

In a new survey by the American Dietetic Association and the ConAgra Foods Foundation, 63 percent of grillers gave themselves B's or worse when grading how safely they handle food on the barbie.

The most common mistakes, according to the survey, are using the same utensils to handle both raw and cooked meats, leaving perishable foods out in the sun for hours and deciding meats' doneness without using a thermometer.

All of those errors can lead to food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli or salmonella.

But the ADA and ConAgra offered these tips to avoid introducing harmful bacteria into foods:

  • Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate
  • Boil leftover marinades for using on cooked meats
  • Let perishable food spend no more than one hour in temperatures 90 degrees and higher before refrigeration
  • Do not leave food out longer than two hours in cooler temperatures
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure doneness
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has another reminder: Color change does not indicate a food is cooked enough for safe consumption.

    USDA research revealed that more than 25 percent of hamburgers turn brown before they reach a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees. Recent studies have shown that some ground beef patties look well-done at internal temperatures as low as 131 degrees.

    On the flip side, ground beef may still appear pink after reaching a safe temperature. Meat pigment or fat content may cause that.

    Hotter, however, is not always better. According to the American Cancer Society, some research suggests that cooking meats at very high temperatures creates chemicals that might increase cancer risk if ingested.

    Additionally, fatty meat drippings may produce carcinogenic chemicals when they reach the coals below, and flames may sear those substances to food surfaces.

    There's another caution for barbeque-goers who want to avoid carbs. Skip the burger buns, pies, alcohol and baked beans. Go for the low-carb alternatives such as pulled barbecued pork, broccoli slaw and fruit parfait.

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