New York State Department of Health Reminds New Yorkers to Follow Safety Precautions for Memorial Day Gatherings

Food Safety, Precautions Against Ticks and Mosquitos, and Using Sunscreen Can Help Ensure a Safe Holiday

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 25, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health reminds New Yorkers that as they gather on Memorial Day to honor the women and men who made the ultimate sacrifice, to follow practical safety precautions to ensure the day is a safe and pleasant one. Those precautions should include food preparation, taking steps to avoid tick and mosquito bites, and preventing sunburn.

"As we reflect on the tremendous sacrifices our military families have made, including those who gave their life in service to our country, we want to make sure the holiday is a safe one that doesn't end with preventable illnesses," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Many of us will also get together with family and friends to welcome summer over the holiday weekend. To ensure the day is an enjoyable and safe one, I encourage New Yorkers to follow some simple precautions, such as hand washing before meal prep, making sure hot food is cooked to the proper temperature and cold foods stay cool, taking steps to keep pests away, and protecting against sunburn, all of which can go a long way toward ensuring the holiday is trouble-free."

Food safety starts with making sure hands are clean, especially after handling raw meat and before preparing or serving food. Other food preparation tips include:

  • Wrap raw meat in plastic bags at the market to prevent blood and juices from dropping onto other foods.
  • Refrigerate meat and other perishable food promptly and avoid keeping them at room temperature.
  • Marinate food in a refrigerator and avoid tasting or re-using the marinade after adding meat.
  • Never put ready-to-eat food on an unwashed surface that held raw meat or seafood.
  • Immediately wash cutting boards and counters after using them to prepare raw meat or seafood.
  • Use clean utensils when handling cooked meat.
  • Avoid tasting or eating raw or undercooked meat.

Additional precautions for handling meat include cooking it to the proper temperature to avoid illness and even death from germs such as E-coli and salmonella, which can be present in undercooked meats such as chicken and hamburger. Ideally, a meat thermometer should be used to check the inner temperature of these foods, by inserting it into the thickest part of the meat:

  • Chicken - 165oF
  • Hamburger - 160oF
  • Pork - 150oF
  • Hot dogs - 140oF
  • Leftovers - 165oF
  • Eggs - 145oF
  • Other foods - 140oF

While the juices may run clear in cooked meat, that is not a reliable test to assure meat is properly cooked and safe to eat. The internal temperature should always be checked before serving cooked meat.

More food safety tips are available here and tips for those planning a barbecue are available here.

Another measure to protect against serious illness over the holiday and during the summer, is to take precautions to avoid being bitten by ticks and mosquitos. Blacklegged (deer) ticks can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the most commonly-reported tick-borne disease in New York, as well as other diseases. Mosquito bites in New York can result in infection with diseases like West Nile virus.

The optimal way to prevent tick and mosquito bites and possible infection is to take precautions, especially when hiking, working, or spending time outdoors or in wooded or grassy areas:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Consider using insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535, and follow label instructions.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Check for ticks often while outdoors and brush them away before they attach.
  • Perform a full body check multiple times during the day, as well as at the end of the day, to ensure that no ticks are attached.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
  • Shower soon after coming indoors. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
  • Take steps to control mosquitoes. Use screens on windows and doors and turn over, empty, and scrub outdoor items that may hold water such as buckets, planters, pools, and birdbaths at least once a week.

The Department has a Guide for Preventing Lyme Disease available here. Information about insect repellants and videos about tick removal, are available here.

As warmer, sunnier weather moves in for the summer, the Department also recommends that people of all skin tones follow sun safety guidance. It is known that the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, doubles for individuals with a history of five or more sunburns over their lifetime. And while melanoma occurs less frequently among people of color, when it does occur, it is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

A new report also highlights that excessive drinking is associated with higher rates of sunburn among American adults because they are less likely to use sunscreen.

Information about local efforts underway to increase the adoption of sun safety policies and practices in community settings can be found here.