There’s no better way to experience the flavors of summer than by dining al fresco, and there’s no better way to risk getting food poisoning than by ignoring safe food handling when packing up the picnic. Whether you’re making a list of foodstuffs for a day at the park with your friends for a dodgeball tournament or you’re planning your menu for a festive and flavorful 4th of July barbecue, eating outdoors requires safe food handling in order to prevent foodborne bacteria from flourishing, and foodborne bacteria increases during the summer heat, especially at temperatures from 90 degrees to 110 degrees F.
Here are some tips for keeping foods safe when eating outdoors:
- Use two coolers, one for food and one for drinks.
- Pack the cooler strategically. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood tightly wrapped or packaged in order to keep their juices from contaminating other foods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Prep produce before packing the cooler; rinse and scrub (if necessary).
- While outdoors, keep the food cooler closed as much as possible.
- If the location where you’ll be dining outdoors does not have running water, remember to take extra water for washing your hands, utensils, etc.
- If you’ll be grilling meat, poultry, or fish and plan on using marinade, do not use the same marinade you use for raw foods for a sauce for cooked foods.
- Remember to use designated plates for raw meat, poultry, or fish when grilling so raw food juices do not get on cooked foods.
- Foods that need to be kept cold should be kept in the cooler at 40 degrees F or below. Prepared side dishes that need to stay cool can be kept in containers and set directly on ice. Once you have served cold foods, you should not let foods sit out for longer than 2 hours.
Foods that need to be kept hot should be kept at 140 degrees F or above. If you have cooked foods that you’re not ready to serve, wrap them well and keep in an insulated container until ready to serve. Once you have served hot foods, you should not let foods sit out for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F.