No ants, no bees, no food poisoning! What better way to celebrate a beautiful summer day than with a picnic outside at the park, at the beach, or even in your own backyard. Here are some tips to keep your picnic perfectly safe:
Plan ahead so you don’t forget essential items such as a food thermometer, cooler chest with ice, plenty of clean utensils, storage containers for leftovers, hand soap, paper towels, and trash bags. Find out ahead of time if you’ll have running water, grills, picnic tables, and trash receptacles at the site.
If clean water will not be available, be sure to bring plenty of water for drinking, handwashing, and dishwashing. Avoid drinking and using water from ponds, lakes, and streams.
Pack dish detergent to wash dishes or bring disposable utensils, plates, bowls, and cups.
In preparation for your picnic, don’t thaw meat on the counter overnight—that’s not safe. Thaw food in the refrigerator or cook from the frozen state. Cooking frozen meat or poultry will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry. Don’t partially cook meat and poultry ahead of time. That can be risky. It’s safest to cook meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature at the picnic.
For a worry-free picnic, place perishable foods, such as hot dogs, burgers, poultry, deviled eggs, and macaroni or potato salads in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs. They need to be kept cold at 41ºF or below. Also store raw meats separately to keep juices from dripping on other foods.
When you arrive at the picnic site, the first task is to wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. If running water is not available, use disposable wet wipes. Apply hand sanitizer to clean hands before touching food and after touching raw meat as well as after changing diapers, using the restroom, or handling pets.
Don’t leave foods out in the sun. Keep the cooler in the shade. Serve food quickly from the cooler and return it fast. In hot weather, above 90ºF, food shouldn’t sit out of the cooler over an hour. Since beverage coolers tend to be opened frequently, store them in a separate cooler.
Cook meat and poultry to a safe temperature as measured with a food thermometer. Just because a hamburger looks done on the outside doesn’t mean it is done on the inside. Use your food thermometer to be sure! Insert the thermometer in the thickest area of food. Fish, steaks, and pork should be cooked to 145ºF; ground meats (hamburgers) to 155ºF; and poultry and stuffed foods to 165ºF.
Insulated containers and foil should be used to transport hot foods from home. Check in advance if electrical outlets are available for keeping foods hot in roasters and crock pots.
Serve food items from the grill on a clean platter. Don’t use the same plate and utensils for cooked food that were used for the raw food. Use a clean plate and utensil set for cooked food.
Don’t forget to unpack that cooler as soon as you return home. Refrigerate leftover meats and salads which have stayed cold; discard if they can’t be refrigerated or stored in ice within an hour of serving .
For more information about food safety, contact the Medina County Health Department at 330-723-9688, option 3. www.medinahealth.org