Friday, May 21, 2010

Picnics, Part I: Safety

By Colleen O'Connor

Picnics are definitely in season! To make sure everyone has a healthy and fun summer, review the tips below on food safety at picnics. Check back next week for picnic recipes and fun ideas!

  • Keep cold foods cold (around 40 degrees) and hot foods hot (around 140 degrees) at all times.
  • Pack food and beverages in separate coolers as the beverage cooler will be opened frequently.
  • Fill the food cooler full, layering ice packs in between items. Full coolers stay colder than half-empty ones.
  • Don't leave coolers in the trunk of your car; keep them in the passenger area. Once you arrive, place coolers in the shade.
  • If you purchase takeout food, it should be eaten within an hour of purchase.
  • Don't cook food partway, let it sit, and then finish cooking; this allows bacterial growth.
  • Pack a meat thermometer to use while grilling.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using clean platters and utensils for cooked meat. Keep all used dishes and utensils sealed up and set aside, especially anything that came in contact with raw meat or has been left sitting for a while.
  • Leftovers have probably been sitting out too long to be eaten later; err on the safe side and throw them away.
  • Wash the outside of a melon before cutting into it; the knife will transfer anything on the outside into the middle. Once cut, melons need to be kept cool.
  • Keep food covered to prevent bugs from sneaking in.
  • Practice good sanitation: wash hands, use clean utensils to serve each item, and clean grills and tables. Bringing a tablecloth is a great way to make your picnic area more sanitary.
  • Don't leave any perishable foods sitting out while you play or swim.
  • If you're unsure about being able to practice food safety on a particular outing, stick with foods that are unlikely to spoil: PB & J, trail mixes, unpeeled fresh fruit, unopened canned food, crackers, and breads.

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