Spring is in the air and with it comes the desire to get out and grill out. Picnics are popular around this time of year but with all of the excitement it can be easy to forget about food safety basics. Here are some healthy tips to keep you and your food safe this picnic season.
- Wash your hands frequently when preparing meals. Before you go out in the country, prepare food at home where running water and soap is readily available. If you are going out in the wild and unable to prepare food ahead of time, use disposable wipes or hand sanitizer before eating and preparing food outside. Good hand hygiene is key to preventing food-borne illness.
- Keep meat and eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods such as salads, fruits or other pre-prepared dishes. If all food items, including raw meat and ready-to-eat foods, need to go in the same cooler, be sure to pack it properly. Store all items in leak-proof containers; stack raw meats the bottom, followed by your ready-to-eat foods. When you get home, wash the cooler and throw away any used bags or wrappers. If the ice melted, you will need to throw away your leftovers as well as this poses an increased risk for contamination. Dry the cooler thoroughly and store it with the drain plug open until your next outing.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Use a well-insulated cooler with ice or ice packs to keep cold foods at the correct temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. When not in use, keep the cooler in the shade and out from direct sunlight. If removing food from the cooler, don’t keep it outside in the warm air for more than an hour. Throw away any food that has been left out of the cooler and in the hot sun for more than an hour.
- Be sure to marinate meat in a refrigerator or cooler. When cooking or grilling the meat, make sure to cook it thoroughly. For example, burgers and hot dogs should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit whereas chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to alleviate any questions on whether or not your meat is done. Use a clean plate to place your cooked meat on after removing it from the grill. Using the same plate you used for your raw meat can lead to cross-contamination and illness.
With these simple tips in mind you can now enjoy a fun and illness free picnic with your favorite foods.