How Safe is Your Picnic?

Practicing proper food handling techniques will protect yourself, your family and friends from food-borne illness.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing, storing and cooking food as you enjoy your summertime get-togethers.


Wash Hands, Utensils, and Food Preparation Surfaces

  • Food safety begins with hand-washing even in outdoor settings. And it can be as simple as using a water jug, some soap, and paper towels.
  • Consider using moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands. 
  • Keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food. Make use of relatively inexpensive disposable cutting boards for raw meat if camping.

Preparing Fruits and Vegetables

  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten, under running tap water before packing them. Packaged fruits and vegetables labeled "ready-to-eat," "washed," or "triple washed" need not be washed.
  • Rub firm-skin fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water. 
  • Surprisingly, many foodborne illnesses are from fruits and vegetables, not just meat.

Safe Grilling Tips

  • Marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter or outdoors. If some of the marinade is to be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Don't reuse marinade.
  • Don't use the same platter and utensils that previously held raw meat or seafood to serve cooked meats and seafood. 
  • If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven, or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill. 
  • When it's time to cook the food, cook it thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached an adequate internal temperature before serving. 
    • Beef, veal, and lamb steaks and roasts--145°F for medium rare, 160°F for medium, and 170°F for well done. 
    • Ground pork and ground beef--160°F. 
    • Ground poultry--165°F. 
    • Poultry breasts--170°F. 
    • Whole poultry (take measurement in the thigh)--180°F. 
    • Fin fish--145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. 
    • Shrimp, lobster, and crabs--the meat should be pearly and opaque. 
    • Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals where it can overcook.

Serving Food Safely

  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.
  • Do not use a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless the plate has first been washed in hot, soapy water. 
  • Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140 °F. Wrap well and place in an insulated container. 
  • Foods like chicken salad and desserts in individual serving dishes can also be placed directly on ice, or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently. 
  • Don't let perishable food sit out longer than 2 hours. 
  • Food should not sit out for more than 1 hour in temperatures above 90°F

A Note About Transporting Food

  • Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be held at or below 40°F.
  • Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another. 
  • Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while it is still frozen so that it stays colder longer. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped so their juices don't contaminate cooked foods or foods eaten raw such as fruits and vegetables. 
  • After washing fruits and vegetables dry them with a clean cloth towel or paper towel before packing them. 
  • Keep the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. Limit the times the cooler is opened.

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