As we move into summer many of us will be heading outdoors to make the most of the longer, sunnier days. However, we’re not the only ones who like warm weather, and for those who might be planning a picnic the higher temperatures can provide the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. To ensure your outdoor event is memorable for all the right reasons, here we’ve put together some tops tips for food safety when dining al fresco.
Marinate foods in the refrigerator before you leave for your picnic — never on the way or outdoors. In addition, if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood — do not reuse marinade.
Keep cold food cold
When transporting your food from home to your destination, keep cold food stored at 40 °F / 4.5 °C and below to prevent bacterial growth. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs, and remember that cold meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
Keep things clean
Wash all your produce before you leave, and once at the picnic site clean your table, any barbecue equipment, and utensils before and during food preparation. If you have access to running water, use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels, or use moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.
Cook food thoroughly
If barbecuing, cook food thoroughly to kill germs that cause food poisoning, and serve food while it is hot. Never let your picnic food remain in the “Danger Zone” — between 40 °F / 4.5 °C and 140 °F / 60 °C — for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90 °F / 32 °C. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to illness.
Don’t reuse plates or utensils when serving food, as serving cooked food on plates that have held raw meat, poultry, or seafood will allow bacteria to spread. Instead, make sure you have packed enough plates and utensils or wash what you need in hot, soapy water before using.
Take care with leftovers
If you have leftover cooked food refrigerate it within two hours. Once home reheat leftover food thoroughly to above 167 °F / 75 °C before eating.
For more information on how to stay safe and healthy this summer head to the websites of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and FDA.gov.