PICNIC FOOD SAFETY: It’s important to keep picnic food safe outdoors.
A picnic outing full of fresh or cooked food is an easy place for nutritious substances to spoil or go off fast.
This guide is for anyone who is planning on having a picnic or an outdoor barbecue. Following these essential food safety tips for picnics can help prevent food poisoning.
Handling food safely is the most important recommendation. It is the best way of preparing for spoil-free picnics and eating alfresco. Remember also that keeping food products cool is important too.
As a rule, germs and bacteria multiply slower in cooler temperatures. Having picnics and eating packaged foods are typical warm weather events. That presents many opportunities for foodborne bacteria to grow and thrive.
Warm summer temperatures mean the food heats up and germs start to multiply ‘rapidly‘. Bacteriologists claim the temperature that bacteria grow quickest is 4.4 to 60°C. Bacteria double in numbers every 20 minutes at this temperature range – called the ‘danger zone‘.
It is important to protect yourself and family from serious foodborne illnesses. The simple food safety guidelines listed below explain the safety rules for picnics. They cover transporting food to the picnic site and serving it on a picnic table once you get there.
Picnic Food Safety Tips
Fact: Severe cases of food poisoning increase during the summer months. They include cases of salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and campylobacter. The risks also increase when picnickers:
- Leave perishable foods open to the air for longer than recommended – that being 2 hours.
- Carry picnic foodstuffs in plastic bags or a wicker picnic basket. The experts in picnic food safety recommend using the proper cool box containers.
- Get home and put any picnic leftovers back inside the refrigerator. The same applies to scraps used for a meal the following day.
9 Tips for Preparing Food for a Picnic
Most outdoor people like to enjoy summer picnics. But, picnicking without worry needs a little preparation and forethought to stay safe:
- Always rinse fresh fruits and vegetables before packing. That includes any with an outer skin or rind. Rinsing them under fresh running tap water is best. Dry them well before packing them in the picnic cooler bag or box.
- Try to place any cold food in a cool box. Packing the box with ice or commercial frozen gel packs works well. You should always store cold food at 5°C or colder to reduce bacterial growth.
- One very important picnic food safety tip is to pack drinks separate to perishable foods. Frozen drinks work well if you are using freezer packs. Remember to distribute the drinks or perishables throughout the whole box. Placing them only at the bottom does keep them all ice cold.
- Those who drive to the picnic site should place any coolers in the coldest part of the car. It may not be the trunk if your car has air conditioning. Store the boxes in a shady place when you get there if possible.
- Wash your hands as best you can and clean the prep surfaces as often as possible. If you do not have access to soap and water then moist towelettes should suffice.
- Assign some plates for handling any raw foods and others for cooked foods. Always keep uncooked meats, fish, fish, and poultry separate from other foods.
- Do not encourage cross-contamination between different food products. Thus, remember to pack plenty of plates and utensils for the occasion.
- Transport the foods in tightly sealed bags or containers. Packing them at the bottom of the cooler means any juices from these foods does not drip onto others.
- It may sound obvious but always keep the cool box closed when not in use. The same advice applies once you get to the picnic site. Limiting how often you open the lid of the cooler box helps to keep the contents colder – and for longer.
Having served the food, and eaten, there are still a few more food safety tips for picnics. Avoid leaving any dishes or snacks sitting out for longer than two hours. In very hot weather the recommendation is no longer than one hour.
The risk of bacteria growth increases after this period. If that happens the picnic food becomes unsafe to eat. Throwing uneaten food away may be the best advice to avoid a poisoned picnic.