For many people, the 4th of July is the official kickoff for summer picnics. Whether you are planning a backyard picnic or packing for a day at the park or beach, there are important steps to take to ensure the safety of the food you are bringing.
As temperatures outside heat up, you should remember that bacteria loves the heat and multiplies quickly. The “Danger Zone” for food is between 40⁰ and 140⁰. To prevent food-borne illness, it is very important to follow the four basic rules of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, & Chill.
• Pack foods that should be kept cold in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or freezer packs. Cold foods should be kept below 40⁰ to keep them food safe.
• Consider packing two coolers – one for foods that will be cooked such as hamburgers or chicken and the other for foods that will not be cooked – salads, drinks, etc. This will eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination from the meat’s juices.
• Before packing fruits and vegetables, clean by running under cool water. For hard skinned produce such as melons, use a vegetable brush to clean the outer surface while rinsing them.
• Bring a meat thermometer with you so that you can be sure that the food you are cooking has been cooked to a safe temperature. You can’t always tell that meat is “done” just by its appearance. Here is a link to a chart of safe temperatures for cooked meats. http://www.befoodsafe.org/temperature
• Don’t reuse a plate that has held raw meats for the cooked product. Always use a clean plate so that you don’t transfer bacteria.
• Once you have served foods that should be kept cold, do not allow them to sit out for over 2 hours, 1 hour if the temperature outside is in the 90’s.
• The same rule applies for hot foods. Wrap them securely and place in an insulated container until it is time to serve.
• Often leftovers have been sitting out over the safe time - it may be best to throw them away.
If they have been left out for 2+ hours (or one hour if it is hot and over 90 degrees), throw them out.
One very important item to remember is to wash your hands when you arrive at your picnic site before you begin preparing food. If running water is not available, you can use disposable wipes or hand sanitizer. If you handle raw meat be sure and wash again before doing any other food preparation.
Another suggestion is to clean the tables or picnic area before serving food. Use disposable wipes and consider covering the table surface with a tablecloth.
What will you do to make your picnic food safe?
Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, email@example.com