Memorial Day is a seasonal marker….time for moving our eating to the great outdoors. But picnics and barbecues are conducted in warm weather, and that means bacteria get happy and multiply. And that means the possibility for food borne illnesses. And the most important thing to remember is keeping foods at their safe temps – in other words, hot foods kept hot, and cold foods kept cold.
Temperature Safety: Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or less and hot foods at 140 degrees or more. If they are sitting in the outdoor temperature, be sure they stay out for only one hour at most. Especially when the outdoor temps are over 90 degrees.
Safe grilling: 1) Marinate foods in the fridge. 2) If you partially cook them in your kitchen, grill them immediately afterwards – no sitting out at room temp for a while. 3) Don’t reuse platters or utensils that contained raw uncooked foods or their juices. Yuck.
Cooler Safety: 1) Roomy coolers so there is room for lots of ice between containers. 2) Use small containers for foods. 3) Food should already be chilled when it goes into the cooler – no warm foods. 4) Pack up beverages in their own cooler. The drink cooler tends to be opened more often, and that will cool down the interior.
Other picnic safety reminders: 1) Rinse your produce before putting it in the cooler. 2) Make sure the ice or frozen gel packs are really frozen solid. 3) Store coolers in the shade or under the picnic table. 4) Take food out in small batches, and replenish with chilled food.
More picnic and cookout safety information at www.fda.gov.