Five things to know about keeping food safe while enjoying the outdoors

Coolers are essentail during hot summers to keep cold food cold where refrigeration is not available such as on picnics or on camping trips.

Coolers are essential during hot summers to keep cold food cold where refrigeration is not available such as on picnics or on camping trips.

There are many types of coolers available. Whether you choose a plastic, metal or foam cooler, keep plenty of ice in the cooler. A block of ice will last longer than cubed ice. To save money, fill clean empty milk cartons with water and freeze ahead of time. Frozen gel packs can also be used but must be large enough to keep the food cold.

Keep your cooler clean. Wash it out before and using with hot soapy water, rinse and let it dry. Do not eat ice from the cooler which has been used to keep foods cold. It’s a good plan to have a separate cooler for beverages; the beverage cooler is opened more frequently allowing hot air to enter the cooler and melt the ice rapidly.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that the cooler be kept in the shade and out of hot direct sunlight. Do not leave the cooler in a hot trunk. Keep the cooler in the air conditioned part of the car while driving. If there is not shade available at your picnic site, cover the cooler with a blanket or something similar.

To avoid the spread of harmful bacteria, it is important not to mix raw meats and ready-to-eat foods in the same cooler. If necessary to use the same cooler, make sure any raw meat, poultry, or fish are sealed tightly in containers or plastic bags. Place raw meats, poultry or fish first in the cooler to avoid meat juices from dripping into ready to eat foods. Keep ready to eat foods in sealed containers also.

When you get home, dispose of perishable foods from the cooler if the ice has melted.

Some foods do not need to be stored in the cooler such as whole fresh fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, trail mix, chips, and other non-perishable foods. Once fresh fruits and vegetables are cut, they should be stored in a cooler.

Keep your picnic free from foodborne illness by keeping perishable foods cold. For more information on keeping food safe, contact Michigan State University Extension.

Related Events

Related Articles