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How Can I Prevent Food Poisoning at Summer Picnics?

Q: Our family is planning a picnic for our family reunion. Given, the summer heat, how can we avoid food poisoning?

A: The goal is to keep your food safe all the way from the fridge to your picnic table:

  • Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Meat, poultry and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
  • Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another. That way, as picnickers open and re-open the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor-air temperatures. Once at the picnic site, try to limit the number of times the food cooler is opened.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood securely wrapped. This keeps their juices from contaminating prepared/cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain cleanliness. Food safety begins with proper hand cleaning, including in outdoor settings. Before you begin setting out your picnic feast, make sure hands and surfaces are clean. If you don’t have access to running water, simply use a water jug, some soap and paper towels. Or consider using moist, disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands. Take care to keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration


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