Planning a picnic with family or friends? Here are 10 tips to ensuring that your family stays healthy and germ-free during the season’s many outdoor picnics.
Thaw meat in the refrigerator before leaving.
Do not leave your meat out on the counter to thaw—it simply isn’t safe, and as much confidence as you might have in your memory, chances are you would forget to transfer your meat to the refrigerator once thawed.
Cook your meat all at once.
Some try to cut down on cooking time outdoors by browning meat on the stove beforehand and finishing cooking later on the outdoor grill. It’s a safer bet, however, to cook your meat all at once to ensure that all of the bacteria is destroyed. Be sure to bring and use a meat thermometer as well so that you can know your meat has reached a safe cooking temperature—typically around 165 degrees F for beef and poultry, and around 145 degrees F for pork.
Using the same platters and utensils for cooked meat that you used for your raw meat can expose that cooked meat to all of the bacteria that you just worked so hard to destroy. Be careful to supply extra serving dishes and utensils necessary to handle your meat once it’s cooked.
Keep perishable foods in a cooler stocked with ice.
It’s important to keep perishable foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni salad, potato salad, and deviled eggs in a cooler filled with plenty of ice both during transportation and after eating is over. A good rule of thumb to go by is the two-hour rule—do not leave perishable foods out unrefrigerated for longer than two hours, even if you want to encourage guests to nibble on leftovers. On hotter days when the temperature is over 90 degrees F, you may only have about one hour to work with. Also be sure to keep a separate cooler for drinks so that the one containing food will not be so frequently opened and closed.
Clean produce properly.
Your produce must be cleaned thoroughly in order to remove any chemicals left on the surfaces by the cultivation process. This means rinsing firm fruits and vegetables—including those with skins that won’t be eaten—under running water and scrubbing them with a vegetable brush.
Bring disposable sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer.
You’ll need these both before food prep and before everyone stops eating. Being outdoors exposes you to a wide range of potentially contaminating materials, so it is important to maintain the proper precautions. Don’t forget to sanitize your work areas as well.
Bring safe drinking water.
In the likely event that your picnic site does not have a safe source of drinking water, you’ll need to have plenty of safe drinking water on hand for both food preparation and cleaning purposes.
Beware of the sun.
Aim to keep food and even your cooler out in the shade rather than under direct sunlight.
Don’t leave unattended food on the ground.
People commonly enjoy picnic while sitting on blanket spread across the grass, but if you are going to do this, keep in mind that you should not leave your food unattended on the ground. It will attract ants sooner than you think.
Watch your leftovers.
Be sure that the leftovers you keep are safe for consuming later. Did they sit out in the sun for more than an hour or two? Did you forget to put them back into a cooler filled with ice for transportation back home? In these cases, it’s best to err on the side of caution and to toss your leftovers.