Monday, July 4, 2011

Picnic Food Safety Tips

By Denise Derrer

The Indiana StateBoard of Animal Health (BOAH) is the home agency to Indiana’s meat and poultry and dairy inspection programs. In addition to serving as the staff “germ-o-phobe,” Denise Derrer is the Public Information Director for BOAH.

I don’t know what it is about warm weather, but as soon as the temperatures start to rise, my kids are begging to go on a picnic. And not just on weekends. What is it about eating outside at the park—bugs and all—that makes dinner so much more fun?

So, now that picnic season is here, today, I thought I’d share some food safety tips for your next outing. Later this week, I’ll share one of my favorite go-to recipes an easy picnic meal that my kids love.

Be cool.
When the thermometer rises, so does the likelihood of food spoiling quickly. So make sure you keep your perishable foods in the cooler as long as possible when you are eating outside in the heat. Normally, the food safety guidelines recommend not allowing foods to sit out more than two hours. However, if the temperature is hovering around or above 90 degrees, that time limit drops to just one hour!

So scoop that potato salad or cole slaw onto plates and get it back in the cooler!

Go As Ready As Possible.
When my family does a picnic, I prefer to put the focus on the eating, instead of the cooking and on-site preparation. That’s why we rarely ever cook foods at the picnic destination. I, personally, prefer to bring foods that are basically ready to serve.

Benefits being:  1.  Less to worry about when it comes to raw meats cross-contaminating other foods; and 2. Everyone (including Mom!) can spend more time playing in the creek or riding bikes than tending to the charcoal. (We leave the cook-outs and weenie roasts for the backyard or camping trips.)

Those few times I do take raw meats, I make sure the burgers are already formed into patties and ready to go straight on the grill ahead of time. That means less handling in a less-than-sterile environment. I also make sure to double-bag any raw meats, so ensure the juices don’t leak onto the drinks, ice or other foods.

I also prefer to pack items that will end up on the grill apart from ready-to-eat food, to reduce the chances of contamination. That means packing two coolers, sometimes.

I also pre-peel and cut all the fruits and veggies I bring along.

Keeping It Clean.
Now, some might suggest that I have a bit of a “thing” about germs… And maybe I do, but there’s nothing wrong with a little cleanliness at a picnic. In addition to paper plates and napkins and a vinyl tablecloth, I always pack a cleaning kit:
·         disinfecting wipes (great for cleaning up grill tools),
·         hand sanitizer (aka, cootie killer),
·         baby wipes (nothing better for cleaning up toasted marshmallow sticky),
·         Paper towels,
·         A pre-wetted washcloth in a plastic baggie

If you want more information on food safety in all seasons, check out this tip list Or visit our BOAH website at: .

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