Whether you want to enjoy a simple family outing or are celebrating a special occasion, a picnic is the perfect way to combine great food with company. But when it comes to keeping your picnic safe, you need to keep the organisms you can’t see from spoiling your fun along with your potato salad. Follow these simple guidelines for planning a safe outdoor picnic:
Check it – Make sure you have everything you need by using a checklist.
Keep it clean – Wash your hands before and after handling food, particularly raw meats. In case soap and water are not available at the picnic site, pack water, soap, paper towels and anti-bacterial wipes. Pack separate plates and utensils for handling uncooked meat and a clean set for serving grilled food.
Packing and storing – Opt for two coolers. Pack drinks in one cooler so each time someone reaches for a cold beverage, warm air won’t put foods at risk. The other cooler should be packed with the perishable foods within an hour before leaving the house. Beef, poultry and fish should be placed at the bottom of the cooler to prevent cross-contamination. Pack ice or gel packs around and between layers of food and pack as full as possible. A full cooler will stay colder than one that is only partially filled.
Transporting – Preferably, keep the cooler in the front of your air-conditioned car. Upon arrival at the picnic site, place the cooler in a shaded area.
Two-hour rule – Bacteria and dangerous organisms thrive and multiply between the temperatures of 41° and 140°. Prepared food should never be kept out of the cooler for more than two hours (one hour if the outside temperature is above 90°). Any leftovers should be discarded.
Meat safety – Ideally, meat should be cooked within one hour of leaving home. Pack an instant-read thermometer for checking temperatures of cooked meats: pork, steak and fish should reach 145°; ground beef and pork 155°; and chicken or turkey 165°.
Alternative food choices – When refrigeration options are limited, pack foods that do not require cooler storage. Opt for items like fresh or dried fruit, nuts, muffins, crackers, or energy bars.
If you’re bothered by pesky insects at your picnic, try sprinkling cinnamon or bay leaves on your surroundings, both are natural remedies for ridding the area of bugs.