Summers are usually full of fun outdoor activities, like picnics, barbecues or dinners made on the grill. However, transporting food combined with the increase in temperatures creates a prime environment for food-borne bacteria to grow and multiply.
There are several things you can to do keep food safe when eating outdoors. One of the most important things is to make sure that cold food stays cold. Food should be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees or below to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause illness. Make sure to have plenty of ice or gel packs. Beef or poultry can be transported while still frozen, which will keep them colder for longer. Another way to make sure cold food stays cold is to pack it in a separate cooler away from non-perishable foods or beverages, and keep the cooler closed until you are ready to prepare the food. Separating these foods from drinks or snack foods prevents the cooler from being continually opened. Make sure coolers with perishable foods are kept out of direct sunlight as well.
If you are transporting raw meats, it is very important to pack them separately from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. You’ll want to also make sure they are tightly wrapped to prevent leaking. Be sure to pack extra plates and utensils – one set for raw foods, one set for cooked foods. Any marinades or sauces that were used with raw meats should be discarded immediately. A food thermometer is also a good item to pack to be sure your food reaches a safe internal temperature. A food thermometer is a good idea for cold foods as well, such as potato salad or deviled eggs, to be sure they stay at a safe cold temperature.
It’s important that all produce be washed, even items where the skin or peel is not eaten. Packing fruits and vegetables together can cause cross-contamination, so be sure to pre-wash all your produce prior to packing it. If you are picnicking at a place that has access to running water, wash all produce before consuming it.
Once the food has been prepared and served, any remaining food should be put away quickly. Both hot and cold foods should not sit out for more than two hours, and if the temperature is above 90 degrees, no longer than one hour.
As always, it is important to keep your hands and eating surfaces clean, especially if you are preparing raw meat. If you have access to running water, wash your hands before and after cooking any food. If you do not, a jug of water, soap and a paper towel will do the trick, or keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. A pack of sanitizing wipes is an easy way to clean any tables or eating surfaces quickly.
Eating outdoors is part of the fun of summer. Taking the time to be sure food is handled safely will keep the fun going all season long.
Be Well Tips
– Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.
– Pack raw meats separately from other foods.
– Use separate utensils for raw and cooked foods.
– Wash all produce before eating.
– Wash or sanitize hands and surfaces frequently.
– Put food away once everyone is done eating.