How to Protect Your Picnic From A Foodborne Illness

Posted on July 16, 2013

One place where food preparation safety standards tend to slip is during the preparation of a picnic.  This is problematic.  When you set out to put together a summer picnic, whether you’re going to one of California’s many beaches or a local park, you absolutely need to take the same precautions you would at any other time.  Otherwise, you leave yourself open to the threat of a foodborne illness.

A new report details how to protect yourself, and safety begins before you even leave your home.  If you’re preparing anything that has been frozen, make sure that it thaws completely before you set out to cook it.  But don’t just leave the food out and let it thaw on the counter.  Juices will drip out and potentially contaminate surfaces.  If you decide to thaw in the fridge, you have to be wary of the same risks.

Once thawing is complete and you’re ready to cook, make sure that you have a thermometer ready.  Too many people will simply use their sight, which can spell trouble if only the surface of the meat is taken into account.  A meat thermometer allows for penetration into the center of the dish.

When everything is ready to go for your picnic or beach excursion, you’ll want to get things ready for transport.  If you’re going to be setting the food in your car for any extended period of time, ice is essential to keeping ready-made foods as cold as they need to be.  Consider wrapping meat in tinfoil or otherwise doing what you can to keep things hot.

Some people might forego cooking prior to the event so that they can use some kind of grill to cook their food.  If that’s the case with your picnic, make sure you’re doing what you can to eliminate the risk of cross contamination.  Any plates that carry raw meat or cutlery used during the preparation of such need to be used exclusively with that raw food.  And once a piece of meat has been grilled, it needs to be placed on a completely new plate.

Cleanliness should extend to both your utensils and yourself.  Bring along soap and water or, if that’s simply not possible based off of your location, some kind of hand sanitizer.  If a fork or knife or similar item falls on the ground, use a new product.  The same goes for if the cutlery makes contact with any raw food or plate that has carried such.

Finally, be willing to toss out food that has been out for too long.  Don’t risk foodborne illness just because you want to save a small amount of food.  Dispose of any perishable items that have been out for an extended period of time.  And if you’re going to be outside for awhile after you’ve eaten, toss out anything that requires temperature control rather than throw it into the back of a car.

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