We all love a picnic especially on a holiday or during the summer months — some of us enjoy them year round.
The special conditions, including eating outdoors and traveling with the food, often for hours, before it’s consumed can create and environment in which otherwise healthy food can sicken picnicers.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though, as proper actions during preparation, storage and transportation can keep the food from ruining everyone’s good time.
Picnic Food Safety
Keep your family, friends and guests not only happy but eating healthy by following our tips!
- Limit the amount of handling of foods-that is time preparing, holding, refrigerating, transporting and serving. The more times the food comes to room temperature and back to proper cold temperature, the more opportunity for bacteria to grow.
- Keep your food cold throughout the picnic. Don’t let potentially dangerous foods such as macaroni and potato salad sit out in the warm temperatures waiting to be eaten. The longer it sits out in the heat, the more likely dangerous bacteria will multiply.
- Wash your hands often and bring with you ways to keep your hands clean at the picnic. Use clean utensils and containers too especially when storing leftovers. Don’t reuse utensils or plates if raw food has been on them.
- Don’t make your foods too far ahead of the event. One day ahead is more than enough unless some of the items will be frozen.
- Potentially dangerous foods include melons which we don’t usually consider to be dangerous. Wash the outside of the melons before you cut them to prevent contamination of dirt or bacteria from outside to inside. Keep all cut melons refrigerated.
- When packing your food in ice, be sure the food is surrounded by ice, frozen gel packs or containers of ice. Sitting foods on top of ice will not prevent growth of harmful bacteria especially in dangerous foods such as those containing protein or those that have been handled a lot.
- Keep your hot foods hot either directly on the grill or by being wrapped in towels or newspaper.
- If you have no way to keep your picnic foods at the proper temperature, change your menu and select foods that don’t need refrigeration.
- Thoroughly cook your picnic foods and use a meat thermometer to accurately judge doneness. Color of burgers is not an indication of “doneness” and reducing bacteria growth. Once your food is cooked, keep it free from insects with covers since insects carry bacteria.
- Promptly clean up leftovers and reheat them thoroughly when you serve them again. When in doubt, throw it out!
With some advance planning, you can enjoy your picnic – both during and afterward – and keep your loved ones safe!