Picnic Safety Tips

IMG_3010Common Picnic Problems

Besides the obvious ants, the biggest concern at a picnic should be food safety. While most of us know to keep cold foods cold and warm food warm (well, hot actually), there are some basic things we should all do to insure a safe, happy day.

Bring plenty of ice and coolers for all perishable food. Keep stuff cold until you are ready to cook or eat it. Get stuff back into coolers as soon as everyone has finished eating.

Package raw meats extra carefully, meat juices spilling on salads will make them inedible. Pack raw meats separately if you can, or on the bottom of the cooler in a leak-proof container. You might also consider bringing meats like burgers frozen to thaw on the grill or in the cooler. Smoked meats are safer than their non-smoked counterparts but both types can spoil.

Don’t make burgers on site. Outdoor prep is always tricky. Better to form burgers at home and wash all surfaces, as well as your hands thoroughly.

Never use ice for drinks that have been in contact with raw food or even if any foods have been stored in it. Keep beverage ice in its own cooler or keep it bagged to insure it is safe.

Solid blocks of ice melt more slowly than cubes and make good cooler inserts for long, hot summer days. Also keep coolers in the shade to offset the power of the sun.

Meat should be cooked thoroughly and ground meat is always more at risk for contamination. Make sure your fire is hot enough and allow for chilly, windy days and pack extra coals or other fuel to keep the fire hot throughout the cooking process.

You can also precook meats (like chicken pieces or ribs), cool and chill until ready for dinner. Then just heat them up over the coals. This way you don’t have the worry of bringing along raw meats and you’ll spend less time cooking and more time having fun.

Mayo is not automatically the evil purveyor of bacteria. Then again it can be. Mayo from a fresh jar can actually retard the growth of bacteria. Still, if you are using the dregs from the bottom of the jar and your kids tend to lick knives and re-dip you may be bringing bacteria along. Use common sense.

While 2 hours is the maximum for food to be left out before being refrigerated again, use common sense. Obviously, on a 95 degree day that time is much shorter. Rather than one big bowl of pasta salad bring several smaller ones that you can switch out. That way you always have cold salad that is safe. Try to stay in the shade, too. Bringing some sort of canopy can keep food cooler than sitting in direct sunlight.



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