You and Your Health
Food Safety During Picnic Season
Photo: Food Safety During Picnic Season
Memorial Day Weekend is fast approaching – and with it, the start of picnic season. As you plan your next outing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reminds you that foodborne bacteria multiply faster in warm weather, and this can lead to food poisoning (also known as foodborne illness).
Follow these tips to help ensure that your picnic basket is packed with food safety in mind!
Basic Warm-Weather Precautions To Prevent Food Poisoning
Prior to barbecue time - defrost meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator or by submerging sealed packages in cold water. You can also microwave-defrost, but only if the food will be grilled immediately afterward. If marinating, use the fridge not the countertop. Never reuse marinade that contacted raw foods unless you boil it first, or set some of the marinade aside before marinating food to use for sauce later.
Handling fruits and vegetables – thoroughly wash all produce before eating even if you plan to peel it. Fruits and vegetables that are pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated or kept on ice to maintain quality and safety.
When packing picnic gear - place food from the refrigerator directly into an insulated cooler immediately before leaving home, and use lots of ice or ice packs to keep it at 40 °F or below. Pack raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate cooler if possible, or wrap it securely and store at the bottom of the cooler where the juices can’t drip onto other foods. Place beverages in a separate cooler; this will offer easy drink access while keeping perishable food coolers closed. If your picnic site doesn’t offer clean water access, bring water or pack moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands. Don’t forget to pack a food thermometer!
Keep cold foods cold - load coolers into the passenger compartment of the car; it’s cooler than the trunk. Once at the picnic site, keep food in coolers until serving time, out of direct sun – and avoid opening the lids often.
When grilling - have clean utensils and platters available. Cook meat, poultry and seafood to the right temperatures; use a food thermometer to be sure (see Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart). Keep cooked meats hot until serving time, at 140 °F or warmer; set them to the side of the grill rack to keep them hot. When removing foods from the grill, place them on a clean platter – never use the same platter and utensils you used for raw meat, poultry or seafood.
Watch the time and outside temperature - don’t let hot or cold perishables sit out in the “Danger Zone”(between 40 °F and 140 °F) for more than two hours – or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F. If they do, discard them.
Learn more about food safety during picnic season at: