Picnic food safety

Keeping your family safe at a BBQ.

The school year has ended and summer weather has moved in. This means it’s time for picnics and backyard BBQs! Before you get to grillin’ and serving food in hot weather, follow these food safety tips to ensure that you and your family remain free from foodborne illness.

Preparing food – Before handling food always remember to wash your hands. Wash for a minimum of 20 seconds using warm water and soap. When preparing foods, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This ensures that the temperature is not in the danger zone. The danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When foods are in the danger zone they are more susceptible to bacteria growth which can result in foodborne illnesses. Prepare foods that are to be served cold the night before, to ensure they have time to cool completely in the refrigerator. Prepare hot foods immediately before leaving for the picnic.

Transporting food – When traveling with food, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Pack cold foods with ice. If meat will not be grilled for several hours, consider bringing meat partially frozen to ensure it will stay cold. Also, make sure to transport raw meat separate from other foods. Instead of placing the cooler in the trunk, place it in the air-conditioned car so it stays cold. To transport hot foods, wrap any food dishes with towels or newspaper and place in a heavy bag or box

Grilling food When you arrive at the picnic or BBQ site, make sure to properly wash your hands before handling food. Meat, poultry, fish or eggs must be cooked to a minimal internal temperature to prevent bacteria from growing and multiplying. Michigan State University Extension recommends using a food thermometer to ensure the following internal temperatures are reached:

  • Chicken: 165 F
  • Ground beef: 160 F
  • Eggs: 160 F  
  • Steak: 145 F
  • Fish: 145 F
  • Pork: 145 F           

Serving food If grilling at the picnic site, separate cooked meat from raw meat. Place the cooked meat on a clean plate, separate from the raw meat. If the temperature outside is 90 F or above, perishable food should not sit out for longer than one hour. If the temperature is below 90 F, food can sit out up to two hours before it must be discarded. If grilling, an easy way to stay within this time limit is to cook only what will be immediately consumed. If it is an all day picnic, keep cold perishable foods such as potato salad, deviled eggs and watermelon over ice or in a cooler.

Leftovers -After the picnic, discard any leftovers that have been sitting out for more than 90 minutes. Foods that have been over ice or in a cooler are okay to store as leftovers. When reheating leftovers, heat thoroughly to 165 F. Some foods can be kept safely in the refrigerator longer than others.

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