As a veteran journalist, I believe it's important to disseminate information so with the help of some experts at Kansas State University, here are some tips to make this Fourth of July safer for the whole family:
* Before putting that hamburger or steak on the grill, K-State's J. Scott Smith, professor of food chemistry, recommends rubbing a little rosemary extract on the meat. Research by Smith has shown that rosemary can help stop the carcinogenic compounds known as heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, from forming in meat cooked over high temperatures. Rosemary extract has a light aroma, so Smith said your burger won't end up with the minty taste of the herb when used in its whole form. Rosemary extract also works on poultry, pork and fish.
* If topping grilled burgers with fresh tomato and lettuce or serving a fruit or vegetable salad at your backyard barbecue, K-State's Douglas Powell recommends finding out all you can about how your fresh produce was grown before purchasing it. "Fresh fruits and vegetables are the most significant sources of foodborne illness today in the U.S.," said Powell, an associate professor and scientific director of the International Food Safety Network. "Because fresh produce is not cooked, anything that comes into contact with it is a possible source of contamination." Wash water, irrigation water, manure in soil, even contact with animals or humans, can introduce dangerous microorganisms onto fresh produce. Powell recommends asking produce suppliers -- whether you buy your fruits and veggies from the supermarket or the farmer's market -- about their food safety measures, including if they test wash water and irrigation water for bacteria, the type of soil amendments they use and if employees and staff have been trained about proper hand washing.
* Fireworks are a Fourth of July tradition, but if you plan on watching them up close or even shooting them off in your yard, use earplugs, recommends Robert Garcia, an audiologist at the K-State Speech and Hearing Center. Depending on how close you are to them, fireworks can be loud enough to damage your hearing, Garcia said. "An easy way to protect your hearing is to use disposable earplugs available at drug stores and retailers like Wal-Mart," he said. "They are specially designed to appropriately filter noise, while cotton balls or tissues or not. The earplugs are an effective way to protect hearing, especially for kids who will be shooting fireworks."
* If your dog is a scaredy-cat when it comes to the loud noises and bright colors produced by fireworks, the best place for your canine may be indoors and inside a kennel or dog crate, according to veterinarian Susan Nelson, assistant professor of clinical sciences at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Many dogs feel safer in the confines of their crate. Plus, being indoors helps decrease the chance of your pet being injured from fireworks or running away because of fear," Nelson said. If your canine companion needs additional relief, Nelson recommends checking with your veterinarian about medications or other options that help decrease your pet's anxiety level.