Summer time means picnic time. We all love picnics. They’re a great opportunity to spend time outside with your family.
We expect to see flies, mosquitoes, or ants at a picnic. But it’s the bugs we can’t see, the harmful bacteria, that make more people sick. Bacteria grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40° F and 140°, and they particularly love the warm, humid days of summer. You cannot taste or smell these bad bacteria. However, if food is mishandled, these bacteria can multiply on your food and cause a foodborne illness.
Food transported without ice or left out in the sun at a picnic won’t stay safe for long, so take steps to keep food safe as you prepare it, transport it, and serve it. Prepare and store food safely, then pack it safely for traveling to the picnic site. Carry the cooler inside the air-conditioned car, not in the trunk. At the picnic, keep the cooler in the shade. Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings. If possible, replenish the ice as it melts.
1. Keep it Clean!
- Find out if your picnic destination has a source of safe drinking water. If not, bring your own soap and water for washing your hands and cleaning surfaces. Hand sanitizer or moist towelettes can be used in a pinch.
- Before you pack them in the cooler, rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water. Even rinse those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
- Coolers are opened a lot, mainly to grab a cold beverage, so pack beverages in a separate cooler. This will keep perishable food cold until it is served and prevent cross contamination.
- Pack enough utensils and plates for both eating and serving food. Don’t use the same utensil or platter for raw and cooked meat or poultry.
- Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, or seafood should not be used on cooked food unless it is boiled first.
3. Keep Cold Foods Cold!
- If you are grilling, pack raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods or foods meant to be eaten raw.
- Pack the cooler just before leaving home. Pack only the quantity of food you think you will use.
- Fill your cooler to capacity with plenty of ice or ice packs to maintain a cool temperature for longer.
- Place leftover foods in the cooler soon after grilling or serving. Any food left outside for more than an hour should be discarded. If there is still ice in the cooler when you get home, the leftovers are okay to eat.
4. Keep Hot Foods Hot!
- Bring a food thermometer. You need it to check that meat and poultry have reached a safe internal temperature to destroy the bad bacteria. Cook beef to 160°F, poultry to 165°F, and fish to 145°F.
- Do not partially grill extra hamburgers to use later. Once you begin cooking hamburgers, cook them until completely done so that bacteria are destroyed.