Food expert reveals dangers for Memorial Day cookouts

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Memorial Day weekend means a lot of cookouts and picnics will be happening.

That food can pose a danger to your family, if left out too long or if served improperly.

The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

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A food expert revealed the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to bacteria that can send your family or guests to the hospital.

When Gina Kramer prepares food for her cookout, she's extra cautious.

That's because Gina is a food safety expert. With more than 20 years of experience, she knows the dangers all too well. She's the food safety expert and executive director of Savour Food Safety International, Inc.

"Technology has changed these days, we are able to identify that the stomach flu they got was really food poisoning," she explains, while adding that foodborne illnesses can lead to long term health effects and even death.

With the recent e-Coli outbreak, Gina says cooking meat properly is a must.

"When we grind the meat we grind the surface bacteria into the center of the meat. We want to use a thermometer for ground beef, pork and lamb, that should read 160 degrees Fahrenheit," she says.

Cut veggies can make people sick too.

"Once we take the produce and break into mother nature's skin, that produce is a great place to grow and multiply," she explains.

Bacteria slows down its growth in cold temperatures, so if you put out a veggie tray or a fruit tray put it on ice. Cut fruit and cut veggies should be stored below 40ºF.

Also, make sure everything is properly washed.

"Foods like melons, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, naturally their skin is a good environment for salmonella to grow," she says.

So when you cut into those fruits, the bacteria touch the part you eat. Potato salad made with mayo should also be refrigerated if the mayo is homemade.

"Homemade mayonnaise does not have enough acid in it to protect it from bacteria, that always should be refrigerated," she says.

Gina says you should follow this simple rule to stop bacteria from growing and to keep everyone safe.

"If it's out for more than 2 hours, throw it out, if it's a hot summer day, your two hour day turns into 1 hour," she says.