How to pack a safe summer picnic
Fried chicken? Yes!
Baked beans? Got ‘em.
Macaroni salad? Check.
Bacteria? Wait a minute!
A tasty picnic lunch on a sunny summer day is meant for fun, not food poisoning.
Before you pack your cooler, lemonade and beach blanket, check out these easy food safety tips from, Courtney Shea, MMHC, RD, LDN, Cape Cod Hospital’s clinical nutrition manager.
Keep foods out of the temperature danger zone, she said. Bacteria (not mayonnaise) cause food poisoning. Bacteria grow best on foods that are between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold,” said Shea. “Eat meat while it’s still hot—above 140 degrees. Use ice to keep cold foods below 40 degrees.”
You don’t need to carry a thermometer in your picnic basket, just use common sense, she said.
Here are a few more recommendations for keeping your food out of the temperature danger zone:
- Put food out when you are ready to eat, and pack it back up after you’ve eaten. Once food has been served, it should not sit out longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees.
- Re-heat it before you eat it. Hot foods need to be hot when you eat them. If you nibble between meals, for instance, don’t chose a cold hotdog. A handful of cherry tomatoes is a safer choice!
- Use separate containers. Don’t transport raw meats with ready-to-eat foods such as fruit, vegetables and salads. Juices from raw meats should not touch other food. This avoids cross-contamination, or spreading bacteria from raw meats to your other edibles.
- Pack hand towelettes. Finger-foods rule at our all-American picnics. Keep your hands clean. After all, your picnic blanket is probably all that’s between you and sand or dirt. If you don’t have running water, you’ll be glad you remembered the towelettes.
- Keep food covered. To keep flies and other uninvited guests away, Shea recommends using domed net covers made for outdoor entertaining. Alternatively, there’s aluminum foil, even paper towels if your containers don’t have lids.
The mother of two young boys, Shea and her husband like to have dinner on the beach in the cool of the evening. Her favorite picnic food? Tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil salad.
“We pack a cooler, beach chairs and a bag of toys,” she said.
Spread your own blanket on the warm sand and settle in. You can relax now, knowing that your food is safe.