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Heading into summer grilling season, the USDA is reminding North Texans to brush up on their food safety skills. The USDA points to data showing food poisoning causes around 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths yearly.

The agency said rates of food poisoning tend to go up in the summer when more of us are preparing food outside in the heat.

Until it’s time to grill, keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood in the fridge or an insulated cooler at a temperature below 40 degrees.

Food between the temperatures of 40° F and 140° F has a limited time before it hit the “danger zone” and becomes a food safety risk.

Package and refrigerate leftovers quickly. If cooked food has been sitting out for two hours or more, toss it. If it’s 90 degrees or hotter outside, make it a one-hour limit.

Additionally, ensure you’re using different utensils, cutting boards, and platters for raw and cooked foods.

“Take as many utensils as you think you’re going to need while always maintaining that separation between the raw products to those that are ready to eat. For example, never place your fruits where there were raw meats on a cutting board,” explained Beverly Cazares, USA spokesperson.

Wash your hands well before and after handling raw meat.

If soap and water are not available, the USDA says you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

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If you have questions, there are online tools and food safety tips for parents and families at this link.

Or, for more information on food safety in English and Spanish, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854.

Consumers can also email MPHotline@usda.gov or chat live on https://ask.usda.gov/s/  from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

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