Warmer weather means more picnics! Enjoying snacks and meals outside with friends and family is exciting and something to look forward to during the summer months. However, with this in mind, we also need to be conscious that we responsibly prevent foodborne illnesses.

We usually think about cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses at home and in a restaurant; however, the warmer weather and little refrigeration can make it challenging to keep food safe. Check out these tips to keep your next picnic safe!

  1. Sanitation starts at home. Wash your hands, produce, and wipe down all countertops and tables, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, and other items that may cause cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses. It is also a great practice to sanitize your cooler before and after use.
  2. Bring hand sanitizer and napkins with you! Usually, it is tough to find a place to wash your hands outside, so the next best thing is to use hand sanitizer. Remember to sanitize before handling any foods and before/after eating.
  3. Keep all raw foods separated from cooked foods. Separate your foods as much as possible. If you plan to use a grill, pack raw meats in a separate cooler and bring enough utensils and plates to use different ones for raw and cooked items. Don’t re-use marinades unless you cook them to a temperature of at least 165°F.
  4. Keep your cooler cool! Pack a thermometer and extra ice packs and ice to ensure that your cooler is below 40°F.
  5. Keep ice for drinks separated from the ice used to keep foods cool. Ice that is intended to keep containers cool comes in contact with the outside of various packaging and containers, which are usually not appropriately sanitized. A best practice is to keep it separated altogether.
  6. Pack a food thermometer. You can ensure that all foods reach the proper temperature by using a food thermometer. Ground beef, like burgers, should be at 155°F, and poultry should achieve a temperature of 165°F.

Don’t leave food out too long. Be mindful of how long foods are exposed to the sun and heat without refrigeration. Higher-risk foods include anything perishable, especially dairy-based, and items containing eggs and mayonnaise. If you question if an item is “safe,” the best practice is to stay cautious and dispose of it. Click here to read more about picnic food safety.

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