Now that summer is here, more of us will be dining outside and preparing picnic food.
With restrictions easing slightly and social distancing still in place, an outdoor picnic is a great way to meet up and share food. However, this is a time when food poisoning can increase due to leaving hazardous foods out on the picnic table in the hot sun therefore allowing bacteria to grow.
Here are 6 Tips for a safe summer picnic:
1. Remember the mantra Keep cold foods cold. Foods such as potato salad and caesars salad need to be kept cold at 4 C or 40 F. Do not leave these salads sitting out in the hot sunshine for hours as they will be in the Danger Zone where organisms can grow.
2. If you are purchasing foods ahead of time at the grocery store or supermarket, place the frozen or cold foods inside a cooler containing ice packs or ice gels in your car. This will help maintain a constant cold temperature for your products until you are home or at your picnic site.
3. Raw foods such as hamburger meat should be double wrapped and placed in the cooler as well so as not to leak on other foods. Raw meat juices or blood can easily cross-contaminate. If you have cooked products such as hamburgers or hot dogs, keep them in separate closed containers so as not to become cross-contaminated with raw juices if stored together in the cooler.
4. Remember to keep Hot foods hot. When barbequing, use separate utensils for raw and cooked foods. Do not place cooked hot foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs back on the tray used for raw meats. Cook meats thoroughly so no blood or pink juices run out at 60 C or 140 F.
5. It used to be that using paper plates and plastic knives, forks and spoons could be recycled after use. However, as we are still in the pandemic, these items should be bagged and thrown out. Though covid is not spread through food, the utensils have been used by people who may be asymptomatic carriers. Otherwise, bring your re-usable dishes and then take home to wash.
6. Most importantly, don't forget to wash your hands and/or use the hand sanitizer before, during and after preparing and serving food. It is extremely important to be vigilant on this practice as it will reduce the spread of covid as well as prevent food poisoning organisms from making you ill. If you are ill or experiencing symptoms, do not prepare the picnic foods.
As we face a summer with many events cancelled, picnics will provide us with outdoor dining and safe distancing with our friends and family. Keep your picnic foods stored safely at the correct temperature and the risk of foodborne illness will be reduced.