Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Avoid Picnic Sickness

Picnic time! It’s not usually hungry bears we have to worry about when we dine outside. It’s our food.

Foods can be the route for illness. Common bugs norovirus, Salmonella and E. coli can get around during preparation, grilling or serving. These tips will help make sure your family and friends keep coming back for more when you take it outdoors:

Keep it clean

  • Always wash hands before and after handling food.
  • Replace empty plates instead of adding fresh food to one that had food in it. When taking food off the grill, don't put the cooked items on the same plate that held raw meat.
  • Try to find out if there will be drinking water at the picnic location. If not, bring water for cleaning or pack disposable towelettes or paper towels.

Temperature matters

  • Fresh and frozen raw meat, chicken and fish should be cooked thoroughly.  Always use a meat thermometer to check proper temperatures. Grill raw chicken until the juices run clear and there is no pink. Hamburger should not be pink in the center.
  • Don’t partially grill extra meat to use later. Once you begin, cook until completely done to assure bacteria are destroyed.
  • Cook other foods ahead, so there will be lots of time to thoroughly chill them in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
  • Have coolers with ice or freeze packs to store meat, fish, eggs and salads. 40 degrees F is the goal. Pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
  • Pack raw meats, chicken, or seafood at the bottom of the cooler so they don’t drip on other foods. Pack cooler until it is full, since a full cooler will stay cold longer than one that’s partly full.
  • At your picnic, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed as much as possible. Refill the ice if it melts.
  • Keep foods cold outside the cooler by putting the dishes in bowls of ice.
  • If you plan on getting take-out like fried chicken, eat it within an hour of pick up.
  • Keep in mind that foods shouldn’t sit at room temperature for over two hours.

Transportation and Storage

  • Put the cooler inside your car and not in the hot trunk.
  • Use a different cooler for drinks so you won't keep opening the one with food.
  • Leftover cold foods kept in a cooler with has ice may be safe to save, unless the ice inside has melted. 
  • So keep it clean, cold and fully cooked - and have fun out there!