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Food Safety at Your Summer Picnic

When it comes to food disasters at a picnic, ants are the least of your worries. Leaving food in the hot sun can present a food safety hazard. But these simple tips can help you feast alfresco with no fear.

Cool it: When you’re packing perishable food, including potato and pasta salads, poached salmon or cheese, it’s important to keep it as cold as it is in the fridge. That means packing it all in a cooler well-stocked with ice packs. Use a separate cooler for food and drinks, since drinks coolers tend to get opened more frequently, warming it up.

Prevent cross-contamination: If you’re grilling food on-site, make sure to pack the raw meat in a separate container from other food, and bring a separate set of utensils for flipping meat as it’s cooking. Don’t partially cook meat ahead of time, which can cause bacteria to grow.

Watch the clock: How long can you keep perishable food out on the picnic table? The general rule is two hours, or just one hour if it’s hotter than 90 degrees outside. Keep food in the cooler until right before serving, then wrap it up and return it to the cooler after everyone’s taken some.

Consider leftovers: If food is still chilled (under 40 degrees) when you get home, you can keep it in your fridge. If it’s warmed up or if the ice in the cooler has melted, you’re safer to toss it.

Cut melons on site: Since melons, like cantaloupe and watermelon, are not acidic, bacteria can grow on them. Wash the whole melons and cut them at the picnic; if you cut it ahead of time make sure the fruit is thoroughly chilled.

Wash your hands: This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s so important that it’s worth spelling out. Make sure to wash hands thoroughly before preparing, packing and serving food.

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