July is National Picnic Month and summer picnics are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company. Keep your picnics with family and friends healthy and safe this summer by remembering the following tips.
- Temperature and time. Keep your picnics safe this summer by remembering that the time perishable food can be left outside the refrigerator or freezer drops from two hours to one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (F). Keep hot food hot and cold food cold on the way to, and during your picnics and outdoor gatherings.
- Use a food thermometer. According to USDA research, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F. The only way to be sure food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature before removing food from the heat source.
- Bring non-perishable foods. Reduce the worry of keeping foods at certain temperatures by limiting the number of perishable foods. Try bringing baked potato chips or pretzels instead of potato salad; washed whole fruit, dried fruit, or fruit cups instead of a fruit salad; and other snacks such as trail mix, nuts, or sunflower seeds.
- Two coolers are better than one. Bring two coolers to the gathering, one for perishable food and one for beverages. Keep perishable foods cool by transporting them in an insulated cooler kept cold with ice or frozen gel packs. Open as infrequently as possible. Store drinks in another cooler.
- Dangers of cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, and utensils when they are not handled properly. It can happen during preparation, grilling, and serving food and is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Remember to wash your hands before and after handling food, and don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Include lots of clean utensils, not only for eating but also for serving the safely cooked food.
Adapted from Lisa Franzen-Castle, Ph.D., RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Nutrition Specialist. Healthy Bites Newsletter, July 2015