Planning a safe and perfect summer picnic

Think about food safety when transporting and preparing your picnic food this summer.

Summer has begun! These months are perfect for outdoor events. Michigan State University Extension wants to help make sure your outing is fun and non-eventful. Foodborne illness due to unsafe foods can ruin any event but can be avoided if certain food safety guidelines are followed.

Before planning and preparing food for your outing, always wash your hands, work area and all utensils. Never thaw your foods at room temperature and keep all marinated foods refrigerated. Plan only for the amount of food you will use and eat. A cooler is essential when travelling with perishable food, (those foods that require refrigeration) meat, seafood, dairy, cut-up fruit and vegetables, etc. Pack cold foods directly from the refrigerator and keep hot foods hot with a thermos or insulated dish. Keeping your cooler at the safe temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, using ice, frozen gel packs or frozen foods. The temperature can be monitored using a refrigerator/freezer thermometer. Do not partially or precook food ahead of time, cook thoroughly at the picnic site, using an instant read bi-stem thermometer to bring food to safe temperatures.   

Keep the cooler out of direct sun and keep the temperature at 40 degrees F or below by replenishing ice or frozen gel packs.

If a cooler is not an option, the following menu items are recommended:

  • Whole fruit and vegetables (not cut up or peeled)
  • Hard cheese
  • Canned meat or fish (remember the can opener)
  • Dry cereal
  • Bread, Baked goods
  • Peanut Butter
  • Crackers

Keep all food cold until it is ready to cook. Cook meat and poultry to safe termperatures using an instant read, bi-stem thermometer. Discard any perishable foods that have been left out of cooler for more than two hours and if the air temperature is above 90 degrees F, discard after one hour.

If the cooler’s temperature is still 40 degrees F or below and the food did not sit out, leftovers are safe to bring home and store in the refrigerator. For more information on safe food handling, go to Foodsafety.gov.

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