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UT Southwestern toxicologist offers tips to keep food safe during summer grilling season


DALLAS – June 29, 2023 – The arrival of summer marks the return of a cherished activity: backyard grilling. A UT Southwestern Medical Center toxicologist offers some cautionary guidelines to help you and your guests avoid food poisoning.

“Make sure your guests carry home fond memories instead of stomachaches – or worse – by following sound food handling and preparation practices,” says Kurt Kleinschmidt, M.D., Professor of Emergency Medicine in the Division of Medical Toxicology at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Kleinschmidt recommends these food safety tips for summer and beyond:


  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • If you’re not going to use meats within a couple of days, freeze them. Once thawed, cook them. Don’t refreeze thawed meat.
  • Pack plenty of ice in coolers to store raw or leftover foods at tailgate parties.
  • Keep meats for grilling cold until you put them on the grill.


  • Before handling and eating food, always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds in warm, soapy water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t leave food out for long periods. A general rule of thumb is no more than one hour.
  • Eat hot foods as soon as they’re cooked or while they’re still hot.
  • Remove cold foods from the refrigerator just before serving and put them away quickly.
  • Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils that come in contact with raw meats.
  • Use different dishes and utensils for cooked meats and raw meats as well as for nonmeat foods.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.


  • Cook foods at recommended temperatures to kill bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to ensure food is cooked thoroughly. That’s especially important for ground beef. When grilling, cook hamburgers until they’re no longer pink inside, or until juices run clear. This is recommended because bacteria may contaminate meat during processing. If meat is ground, as in hamburger, bacteria on the outside may be spread throughout. With steak, any bacteria are only on the outside and will be eliminated during cooking.
  • Generally, grilled meats should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and poultry to at least 160 degrees. Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees to destroy the parasite that causes trichinosis. This disease causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle soreness, fever, and swelling around the eyes. Also, if you’re grilling pork ribs, you don’t want the meat to be red near the bone.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center  
UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 19 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,900 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits a year. 


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