Enjoy a safe picnic season
We are already one month into spring, and the weather has been predictably unpredictable, but it is still the traditional time of year to get outside and enjoy the sun, the singing birds and the fresh air.
It's picnic time, and since there is nothing worse than being sick and stuck indoors on a beautiful spring day, avoid getting a foodborne illness by heeding the following advice at your next picnic or outing:
When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20-30 minutes or until the coals are lightly coated with ash.
Bring along a food thermometer and check the internal temperatures of grilled foods to make sure they have reached temperatures high enough to kill any bacteria that may be present. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, steaks may be cooked to 145 degrees for medium rare, and poultry and hot dogs must reach a temperature of 165 degrees to be considered safe to eat.
Hot foods prepared at home and taken along should be kept in a closed, insulated container to keep them hot.
Bring along disposable disinfecting wipes or hand cleanser and clean hands before and after handling food.
Also clean food-contact surfaces with disinfecting wipes.
Pack plenty of ice or freezer packs into your cooler to insure a constant cold temperature.
Pack the things you will use last into the cooler first and vice versa, so that you don't have to release all of the cold air inside to get to the items you will need first.
Fill your cooler to capacity to help maintain cold temperatures longer.
Keep drinks in a separate cooler, which will be opened more frequently than your food cooler.
Transport coolers in the passenger compartment of your car rather than the trunk, which will be hotter.
Don't let foods sit out for longer than two hours (or one hour when outside temperature is 90 degrees or higher). If you cannot get foods back into the refrigerator or freezer within this time frame, throw them away. Many people cannot afford to waste food right now, but it is better to lose a few dollars worth of food than to lose your health (and possibly your life) to a foodborne illness.
Keep raw meats wrapped separately from cooked foods and foods meant to be eaten raw (like fruits) in order to avoid cross contamination.
When grilling foods, do not put the cooked food items back on the same plate that the raw food was on. The safest approach in this situation is to use separate, disposable plates for different raw items and then new disposable plates for items coming off of the grill.
Have a happy and safe picnicking season.
source: Partnership for Food Safety Education at fightbac.org
Brenda Phipps is a Victoria County extension assistant.