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Keep hot dogs safe when enjoying fall activities
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Weekends during fall can include outings to view foliage, go tailgating or enjoy harvest festivals. Many of these activities include a traditional favorite, hot dogs with all the trimmings.

Whether it’s a camping trip, wiener roast or grilling out at a sporting event, remember the same rules of food safety apply for hot dogs as with all perishable food items.

Be sure to plan ahead to keep hot food hot and cold food cold when making preparations for purchasing, storing, preparing and serving hot dogs.

Follow the food safety rules when you serve hot dogs this fall. Don’t let food-borne illness spoil your fun.

Pay attention to dates on packages when purchasing hot dogs, store hot dogs at refrigerator or freezer temperatures, and serve hot dogs steaming hot with clean hands and utensils.

At the store

When purchasing hot dogs, there may be several types of dates on the package label. Product dating is voluntary; however, if a date is used it must state what the date means. The "sell by" date tells the store how long the hot dogs can be displayed for sale. Be sure to buy hot dogs before the date expires. The "use by" date is the last date recommended for use while the hot dogs are at peak quality, determined by the manufacturer. The "best if used by (or before) date" helps consumers know a precise date for peak quality or flavor of the hot dogs. The "expiration date" is to inform both stores and shoppers of the shelf life or the last day the hot dogs should be used.

Bringing them home

Once the hot dogs have been purchased, make sure they are immediately placed in a cooler or refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler, or frozen. If there is no product date, the hot dogs can be safely stored in the unopened package for two weeks at 40 degrees or cooler (refrigerator temperature), and one week at the same temperature once the package has been opened. For best quality, store hot dogs in the freezer no longer than one to two months.

A word on Listeriosis

Listerosis, a food-borne illness caused by eating food contaminated with the harmful bacteria listeria monocytogenes, has recently been identified as an important public health problem in the United States and may occur in certain ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking, but the bacteria can contaminate foods after processing and before packaging. Listeria can still grow at refrigerated temperatures and has the ability to multiply in refrigerated foods such as hot dogs, causing the food-borne illness listeriosis. Listeriosis can be very harmful to high-risk individuals such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Cooking hot dogs

Although all hot dogs are fully cooked, they should always be reheated as a precautionary measure to prevent listeriosis. People at risk may choose to avoid eating hot dogs unless they are reheated. Use a food thermometer to make sure hot dogs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or cook until steaming hot throughout. Then, don’t cross contaminate! Wash hands, surfaces and utensils after handling packaged hot dogs. Keep the packaged hot dogs and juices separate from other foods, utensils, and food preparation and serving surfaces. And, as with all perishable foods, never leave hot dogs at room temperature for more than two hours, one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher. Refrigerate or place leftover hot dogs in a cooler at 40 degrees or cooler, and when in doubt, throw them out!

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