Health Watch -- Cooking Out

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

If you're going to fire up the grill, make sure you have a meat thermometer handy.

This is a great time of year for grilling outdoors. Just make sure you cook your meat to a safe internal temperature. Nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that's one of the best ways to prevent food-borne illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 76 million people in the United States suffer from food-borne illnesses every year. More than 5,000 people annually die of these illnesses.

If pork is your grilling choice, you should be especially careful. Dr. Vickie Vaclavik, a UT Southwestern nutrition expert, says pork needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit in order to destroy the parasite that may cause trichinosis. This disease causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle soreness, fever and swelling around the eyes. If you're grilling pork ribs, you don't want the meat to be red near the bone.

Hamburgers are another potential problem because they may harbor E. coli bacteria. Hamburgers should be cooked until they're no longer pink in the middle, or until juices run clear, with no blood.

Invest in a good meat thermometer to use when grilling so you can tell when meat is at the proper internal temperature. The charring and searing effect of the grill on the meat's surface may fool you into thinking it's more done than it really is.


May 2004