picnic basket and blanket

As summer weather makes us eager to venture out of the house, picnics, barbecues and cookouts are replacing the dinner table at mealtime. While dining outdoors sounds like a walk in the park, warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. Thankfully, when it comes to food safety, following a few simple steps is, well…a picnic!

Turkey sandwiches, wraps and salads all make for great picnic fare, but you’ll want to make sure it gets to the picnic safely. Protect your picnic from uninvited guests by understanding the best food safety practices when preparing food on the go.

  • Before you ice down the cooler and pack up your basket, organize your food items to ensure they remain at a safe temperature in transit. Cold perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40°F or below until serving time. Foods in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Conversely, hot food should be kept hot (at or above 140°F). Wrap any hot dishes well and place them in an insulated container until serving.
    • Tip: Pack beverages and perishable foods in separate coolers. As guests open and close the beverage cooler to replenish drinks, perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.
  • Proper handwashing is key to stopping the spread of harmful bacteria. However, eating outdoors can have its limitations, such as access to running water. Before diving into your meal, use a water jug, soap and paper towels (or moist disposable towelettes in a pinch). It is also important to keep all utensils and platters clean when preparing food.
  • After enjoying your outdoor feast, toss any uneaten items or ice down leftovers. Discard any food that has sat out for more than 2 hours – 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F.

Food safety is key to protect against the spread of bacteria and ensure your food is safe to eat. For additional tips on how to make the most of your mealtime outdoors, check out these helpful resources from our partners: