Food safety for picnics

by Dennis Kim

Spring and summer are prime picnic and barbecue seasons. It’s a great opportunity to meet with friends and family and enjoy delicious food outdoors. However, there are a few food safety precautions to take note of before preparing and eating your food outside.

To prevent yourself and others from any foodborne illnesses during the summer months, food safety is essential. In this blog, we outline basic food safety precautions you can use for your next outdoor picnic.

To start, we recommend:

Store and transport your food safely

If you’re bringing food that needs to stay cool while you’re outdoors, here are a few things you can do:

• Bring a cooler and pack your meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and produce so they can stay cool. Cold food should be stored at 40 F or below to prevent the spread of bacteria.

• Organize your cooler contents. If you’re bringing meat products, make sure they’re sealed and bring ice packs so they can stay colder longer. You can also bring cold beverages and pack your produce and dairy products around them to keep all your contents cold.

• Clean your produce. Make sure to rinse your fruits and veggies under running water before packing them in your cooler. If your produce is pre-packaged and says “pre-washed”, an extra rinse isn’t necessary.

Follow barbecue grilling safety tips

A lot of times, people will bring their mini grills to picnics. When it comes to cooking outdoors, there are a few guidelines you should follow to make sure your food is prepared safely.

• Make sure to marinate your food safely. If you’re planning on bringing meat products, marinate them before getting to the park. If you plan to use extra marinade after the food has been prepared, set some aside and don’t use the same marinade that came in contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood.

• Don’t use the same utensils you cooked raw meat with as eating utensils.

• Make sure your meat and grilled items are cooked all the way through.

• Keep your kids away from the portable grill and make this a rule for a safety plan for children.

• Take a travel first aid kit with you to your picnic.

Use soap and hand sanitizer

• Before preparing your food, make sure you wash your hands, utensils and all surfaces (including cutting boards, counters and table tops).

• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for about 20-30 seconds before and after handling food.

• Bring napkins, hand sanitizer and clean water to the picnic for sanitary purposes.

• Bring a mini first aid kit with sanitizer and wet wipes.

Bring garbage bags

Another thing to keep in mind when doing a picnic is making sure to clean up your mess. Oftentimes people will neglect to pick up their garbage and leave it for the next person to deal with. When you leave perishable food out for more than a few hours, bacteria will start to multiply, so when in doubt, throw it out.

Leaving trash and food at your picnic spot will also attract animals and potentially make them sick if they eat leftovers. Do your due diligence and throw out your garbage.

Closing thoughts

At Pacific First Aid, we have a First Aid Food Safety Course that teaches food safety basics. We also offer an Advanced Food Safety course, which is geared towards restaurants and workers.

If you’re enjoying the weather this summer and going to lots of picnics, make sure your food is safe, wash your hands and prepare your food and keep perishable food separate.