With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner I thought we should talk about outdoor food safety. Picnic and barbecue season offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. But these warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly.
To protect yourself, your family, and friends from foodborne illness during warm-weather months, safe food handling when eating outdoors is critical. Let’s talk about some simple food safety guidelines for transporting, preparing and serving your food safely for outdoor outings.
Planning ahead is always the first step to insuring food safety while enjoying the outdoors. To avoid having to store leftovers, bring only the amount of food that can be eaten. When planning meals, think about using shelf-stable food to ensure food safety. Wash fruits and vegetables before bringing them with you. Bring biodegradable soap so hands and surfaces can be washed often. If you are going somewhere where running water is not available, bring water with you if possible or use hand sanitizer. If running water will not be available, bring bottled or tap water or always treat water collected from lakes and streams before drinking.
Packing food safely is always a must when traveling with perishable food. Use a cooler with ice or freezer packs. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods or foods meant to be eaten raw. Pack foods in tight, waterproof containers to prevent juices from the raw product from dripping on other foods. Packing frozen meat and poultry will help them stay colder longer. A full cooler maintains its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. Keep the temperature inside the cooler at 40 degrees or cooler.
Following good personal hygiene guidelines while preparing food outdoors. Wash your hands before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets. Keep all food prep surfaces clean and sanitized. Don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful germs present in raw meat and poultry can be easily spread to other foods by juices dripping from packages, hands, or utensils.
Remember to keep hot food hot and cold foods cold. Fresh and frozen raw meat, poultry, and fish should be cooked hot enough to kill any harmful germs that may be in the product. Use an accurate food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to and held at safe temperatures. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Only cook food that will be eaten right way to avoid leftovers. Discard any food that has been left out for more than 2 hours. Keep the cooler in a shady spot or covered with a light-colored blanket. Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that food stays colder longer. Use a separate cooler for drinks.
This is Alice Burchak for the Extension Minute reminding you to keep food safety in mind as you prepare for the summer outdoor season.