The start of summer - hanging out with friends and family, firing up the grill. Can't you can just smell those burgers and dogs and taste that corn-on-the-cob and macaroni salad?  But nothing end the party quicker than food poisoning. Yet, there are some simple ways to prevent it.

Food poisoning, sends 300,000 people to the hospital each year and hits its peak during the summer months.  Generally symptoms may include cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea but you can develop symptoms that are more severe.

Eating outdoors means taking extra precaution when preparing and cooking our foods. Here are 4 tips we can follow to keep our families happy and safe, while keeping their bellies full this holiday weekend.

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    Clean Everything

    From your hands to the foods your cooking, make sure everything is clean. Wash your hands before and after you start cooking. If you are handling meats, wash your hands before touching something else to avoid cross contamination. The surfaces you are cooking on, and any utensils you plan on cooking with, should be cleaned too. And give any fresh fruits or vegetables a good wash to remove any harmful particles that may be on them.

  • Jacek Chabraszewski/ThinkStock
    Jacek Chabraszewski/ThinkStock

    Keep Things Separate

    It wouldn't be an outdoor picnic without burgers, steaks, fish, or grilled chicken. When packing or preparing your picnic food, keep the meats separate from all other foods and drinks. Wrap them securely and maybe even place them in a grocery bag or two for added protection. When you're grilling, make sure whatever plates or utensils touch the raw meat are washed before using them for anything else.

  • Creatas Images/ThinkStock
    Creatas Images/ThinkStock

    Cook to the Right Temperature

    When grilling meats, they tend to brown faster on the outside. Just because it's cooked on the outside, doesn't mean it's cooked on the inside. Use a meat thermometer to make sure all meats are cooked to their minimum internal temperature. Steaks should be cooked to 145 degrees, ground beef and pork to 160 degrees, and chicken to 165 degrees.

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    Colds Stay Cold. Hots Stay Hot

    Storing food properly before and after we eat it is important. Foods that are meant to be cold need to be kept in your fridge or in a cooler that is 40 degrees or lower until it's time to serve. Hot foods need to be wrapped and kept at 140 degrees in a insulated container. Both hot and cold foods should not sit out more than an hour or two. If food is left out longer than that, it should be thrown away to be on the safe side.

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