Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer season and many Californians will be firing up the grill to celebrate the upcoming warm weather, vacations and beach getaways.

While the holiday is a great time to hang out with friends and family while sharing a meal, it’s also a prime opportunity to get sick, especially from foodborne illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses while 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

To help curb the spread of germs this Memorial Day, experts have compiled a list of tips to help ensure Memorial Day meals are cooked correctly and won’t get anyone sick.

Thaw Safely

Meat and poultry food items should be thawed out thoroughly before being placed on the grill, according to experts with the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When food is completely thawed out, it can cook more evenly on the grill.

Those preparing the food can also speed up the defrosting process by putting the food in the microwave.

Cook Thoroughly

A food thermometer will help ensure that various food dishes reach the correct internal temperature to ensure it’s fully cooked.


For those who will be transporting food to a Memorial Day get-together, experts recommend that food should be kept cold to minimize bacterial growth. An insulated cooler, ice, or ice packs can keep food at the recommended temperature of 40 °F or below when transported.

Keep Everything Clean

People should also have plenty of clean utensils and platters when serving and preparing food. Platters and utensils used for raw meat or poultry should not be cross-contaminated with cooked food to prevent foodborne illness.

Cleaning products, such as alcohol-based moist towelettes, hand sanitizer and clean towels, can be used to keep food platters and utensils clean. People are also advised to wash their hands frequently.


Leftovers from a Memorial Day feast should be refrigerated immediately. Any food that has been leftover for more than two hours should be discarded, experts say.

More food safety tips can be found on the USDA website.