Food poisoning is no picnic! Keep food safe this summer

Providence Health Team

Keep picnic foods safe

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and kicks off the season of picnics and barbecues. But warmer temperatures also bring an increased risk for foodborne bacteria. That’s why it’s important to keep food at the proper temperature, whether hot or cold, and to use safe food handling techniques. Here are some easy tips to keep in mind next time you dine al fresco.

Transporting food

  • Store cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs at 40°F or less.
  • Store drinks in a separate cooler from food. Drink coolers are frequently opened, causing the temperature to rise, which can be unsafe for food.
  • Tightly wrap uncooked meats so juices don’t contaminate other food in the cooler. Better yet, store uncooked meats in a separate cooler.

Maintain proper food temperatures

  • Don’t let cold foods sit out longer than two hours (or one hour if the outdoor temperature is warmer than 90°F).
  • Place items like chicken salad in a serving dish over ice and change the ice often to maintain proper food temperature.
  • Keep warm dishes warm until they’re served. Then, they should be kept at 140°F. Like cold foods, hot foods should not sit out more than two hours (or one hour if the outdoor temperature is warmer than 90°F).
  • Keep grilled foods hot until it’s time to eat. Place grilled food on the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals, so food will stay hot without getting overcooked.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. See infographic for guidelines.

Keep it clean

  • Before handling food, remember to wash your hands. If running water isn’t available, use bottled water and soap or hand sanitizer.
  • Use one set of serving dishes and utensils for grilled foods and another for uncooked foods.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables under running water. 

Warmer temperatures increase the risk for foodborne bacteria. Keep your food safe at the next family picnic with these simple rules.


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