Picnicking Safety

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A quick guide on food safety at picnics. 

During the warmer months it can be great to head outside with some fresh made lunches and snacks and enjoy a day at a park or at the beach. No matter the weather, food safety is always important, but in the warmer summer months a fun picnic can be overshadowed later by illness and food sickness due to hot weather mixed with unrefrigerated food. Fortunately you can greatly reduce your risk of food sickness with a few simple tips.

Pack the minimal amount of perishable food you’ll need. This way you don’t have many leftovers; making the pack up after easier and more importantly reducing the chance you’ll bring home food and later eat possibly tainted food.

Limit or eliminate bringing foods that contain things like mayonnaise, dairy products, dressings, and soft cheeses. Keep all items in your fridge just before you are ready to leave.

Bring a cooler or insulated lunch bag. Put ice or an ice pack in it to keep it cold. Put any perishable foods that need to stay cool inside the cooler just before you are ready to head out. Keep the cooler in the air conditioned portion of your vehicle when transporting it. When you get to your picnic site keep the cooler closed and close it quickly after retrieving things out of it. Try to keep the cooler out of direct sunlight as this can increase the heat inside the cooler.

Try to eat soon after arriving. Some foods can only last a short period of time outside of refrigeration. Therefore eating first then having your outdoor fun is a good idea to ensure food is fresh and safe while eating. Put any leftovers promptly in the cooler but do not consume them if the cooler has become warm.

Keep all food covered regardless of whether or not the food is temperature sensitive. Debris can get into the food from wind and insects such as flies can land on exposed food exposing you to potentially harmful bacteria. Cover food before going to the picnic and recover it when not eating. Bring extra aluminum foil or plastic wrap to ensure all food can be wrapped up or covered.

Keep all beverages in resealable containers to reduce chance of debris getting into your drinks and to keep bugs and other insects from falling into the drinks. Keep drinks out of direct sunlight as warm beverages aren’t going to be too enjoyable and carbonated drinks may explode under enough heat. 

Overall just keeping perishable food cool, consuming it soon after preparation, keeping other foods covered, and keeping items out of direct sunlight are good ways to greatly reduce your risk of food sickness or illness due to bacteria growth on food items. 

Reference:

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/help/faqs_hotline_preparation/index.asp

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