Summer Picnic Food Safety Tips

A screen dome like the one pictured is a great way to protect food from pests. (Photo: Nico Paix/Flickr)Your boyfriend didn’t appreciate getting food poisoning last summer, so make sure this year’s picnic menu meets the highest standards of food safety before heading out to the park. Think about some basic food safety rules before munching on that Tupperwared chicken salad that was sitting in a hot backpack while you romped around the grass playing Frisbee.These are also great guidelines for contractors who work in Charlotte, NC and other hot climates.

For starters, the typical picnic foods like potato salad and sandwiches are majorly handled in their preparation, so make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before chopping away. You don’t just save yourself from exposure to harmful bacteria, but it’s generally a nice thing to do when preparing food for other people. Don’t you dare lick that spoon! Wipe down countertops and kitchen tile with an antiseptic solution like bleach and water before and after food prep.

I know you are anxious to get out and sit on a blanket, but try not to prepare picnic food days in advance. Cooking food in advance allows more time for harmful bacteria to grow. Plus, old food doesn’t taste or look as good as newly prepared food — something to think about as you try to impress your friends with your culinary prowess.

Melons such as cantaloupe and watermelon are a favorite picnic fruit, but they are actually one of the most dangerous to bring into the steamy outdoors unless kept properly cold. Salmonella, as well as other bacteria, can live in the melon’s rind. Only take melons on your picnic if you wash the outside and refrigerate them once cut into pieces.

When transporting your picnic fare, make sure that you keep the cold food cold and the hot food hot. Keep cold food in insulated containers with ice, making sure that all of the food is touching some ice. Try not to put your cooler in the trunk, as that is the hottest part of the car. If you want to keep your hot food hot, try wrapping it in a towel or blanket to transport it.

Barbequing on a picnic is also always a risk. Make sure that your utensils are properly washed and that the food is fully cooked so no harmful bacteria remain. Eat the food right away and plan ahead for any possible leftovers — food left sitting out is a welcome invitation for bacteria to grow.

Finally, be careful of bugs and insects that notoriously interrupt the picnic party. They aren’t just gross and annoying — they also carry viruses and bacteria so keep your food properly covered!

Happy picnicking!

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