Independence Day food and fireworks safety tips

Glorious summer weather, mayonnaise heating slowly in the sunshine, children holding sparklers after dark and ice-cold adult beverages for the grownups -- what could possibly go wrong? Plenty! Fireworks safety tips usually feature front and center when talking about the Fourth of July. Food safety plays second fiddle; safety tips for kids frequently only mention the backyard pool. Do not be caught unawares! When planning your Independence Day backyard barbecue party, know the safety tips that will keep you and the guests healthy, alive and free from injury.

Ease up on Adult Beverages

Plenty of hosts bring out the booze before lunchtime. If your party is a whole-day affair -- and which Fourth of July food extravaganza stops after the lunchtime barbecue feast? -- serve plenty of water and sports drinks during the heat of the day. Only bring out a small cooler with a limited quantity of alcoholic beverages, which automatically limits the quantities some guests will be tempted to consume. Covertly restock the alcohol cooler every so often.

The danger: Heat, sunlight and alcohol consumption is a mix that can result in dehydration, dizziness, nausea and heatstroke.

Keep Food out of the Danger Zone

E. coli, campylobacter and salmonella -- oh my! Fourth of July food safety is necessary and one of the most commonly overlooked subjects. Plan ahead and buy or borrow coolers for the chilled items and condiments, chafing dishes for the hot foods and wet wipes for the hands.

The danger: Bacteria thrive in temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit -- a temperature that your egg salad, cold cuts and mayonnaise reach far too quickly on the serving table in the high-noon sun.

Safety Tips for Kids

Designate a responsible party to be the kid activity monitor. I have found that hiring a couple of college students -- from within my circle of friends -- is the most effective way to ensure that the kids are kept safe. Clearly communicate the duties of these monitors and occasionally check up on them.

The danger: Dangers for children abound, especially at parties where large numbers of adults are present. While everyone thinks someone else is watching the kids, nobody really keep an eye on them. Kids may get a hold of knives, alcohol, fireworks, the less-than-friendly family dog or venture into the pool.

Fireworks Safety Tips

Know your local fireworks ordinances and follow them. Do not buy illegal fireworks or the homemade concoctions a neighbor is peddling. While it may be cute to see kids holding lit sparklers, resist the temptation to hand them some. Keep kids away from the fireworks -- consider topping off the firing zone and keep youngsters out -- and do not allow inebriated adults to fire off a few rockets.

The danger: Sparklers burn at temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission warns, and are a cause of serious burns. Illegal and homemade fireworks pose unknown risks.

Follow these 4th of July safety tips, and celebrate the country's birthday at home -- not in the emergency room of the local hospital.


US Consumer Product Safety Commission; "Fireworks Safety"