Waushara County Health News

Picnic Food Safety Tips

Beautiful weather is finally here and the picnic season has begun!  It’s also the season when more people get sick from food. Why? Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly in the danger zone between 40° F and 140° F (out of refrigeration, before food begins to cook, or during cooling).  Here are some tips for a safe picnic:

Preparing food

Wash hands and work surfaces. Dirty hands and equipment can contaminate food with harmful bacteria and viruses.  Bring moist wipes or other means to wash hands at the picnic.  It is always best to wash hands with warm water and soap.

Properly cool foods prepared ahead of time.  Cooked foods need to be rapidly cooled.  Spread the food out in shallow pans so the food is no more than 2 inches deep and cool in the refrigerator or freezer. Do not fully cover the food until it is completely cooled.

Properly thaw frozen foods.  Plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator, not on the counter.  Foods may be cooked from the frozen state, but typically require about 50 percent more time to cook.

Cut melons need to be kept cold. Melons, unlike most other fruits, are not acidic and can support the growth of harmful bacteria. Therefore, wash melons before cutting and promptly refrigerate cut pieces.

Keep cold food cold. Keep cold food at 40oF or colder. Pack your cooler with plenty of ice and surround the food with ice.  Transport coolers in the car, not in the hot trunk.  Store coolers in the shade.  Replenish the ice if it melts.  Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing perishable food won’t be frequently opened and closed.

Keep hot food hot.  Keep hot foods at 140oF or hotter. Keep hot foods hot on a lit grill or camp stove or use within two hours. Bring a stem thermometer to check food temperatures that are being held hot for longer.  If you’re planning on hot take-out foods, eat them within two hours of pick-up or buy ahead of time and chill to thoroughly cool before packing the foods into the cooler.

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