Summer is picnic and barbeque season, offering plenty of opportunities to snack on summer foods such as burgers, grilled chicken, and potato salad. As we pack foods to take to these gatherings, it’s important to protect yourself and others from foodborne illnesses during warm-weather months. Foodborne bacteria can thrive and multiply rapidly as food heats up in summer temperatures, but the Food and Drug Administration offers several measures you can take to keep your food safe:
- Keep cold food cold: Cold food should be transported and stored in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. To prevent bacterial growth, cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
- Separate contents and keep coolers closed: Try to keep beverages in their own cooler. When people open and reopen a cooler, the contents are exposed to the outdoor air temperature, so it’s best to keep perishable foods in a separate cooler that won’t be opened very often.
- Don’t cross-contaminate: Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped so their juices won’t contaminate foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Clean your produce: Wash all fruits and vegetables before packing them in the cooler, including those with skins/rinds that are not eaten, such as watermelon.
- Finally, make sure to wash your hands before preparing food, or use hand sanitizer if there is no running water available.
Take these precautions to make sure your food is safe, and happy picnicking!