Food Safety Tips for Picnic Month

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July is Picnic Month, which means it’s a great opportunity to teach your audience about food safety. Use these tips and facts at your next presentation, cooking demonstration, or client meeting.

According to the CDC, every year, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick after consuming a contaminated food or beverage. These illnesses are largely preventable with proper food safety, yet picnics are where food safety strategies often break down. Foods sit out for far too long at the wrong temperature, and people can easily contaminate a dish by grabbing a serving with their hands or double-dipping.

Tell your audience to remember the “two hour rule.” Any potentially-hazardous foods (dairy, meat, fish, cooked vegetables, rice, or chopped/sliced fruits and vegetables) that have sat out at room temperature for more than two hours should not be eaten.

If the outside temperature is more than 90 degrees, make it a “one hour rule.” Hot temperatures are just right for allowing the bacteria in food to multiply to numbers that could make people sick.

For cold foods, highlight the joys of ice. Make a point to remind people to use enough ice when they pack their picnics. If they’re using coolers to keep food cold, they need to have enough ice to keep the foods below 40 degrees.

At a group picnic, encourage people to label and describe their food items. This will help keep everyone from smelling or touching the foods with their hands, or even taking just a little taste to see what it is. Plus, labeling foods clearly is a great way to stave off any complications from food allergies.

It’s also a good idea to have tongs or other serving utensils available. This will help people avoid using their fingers or “double dipping” at the picnic.

Finally, don’t take leftovers home. This could be risky. Not only has the food sat out at room temperature or higher for a long time, but if you have shared dishes with other picnickers, there is potential contamination from the many people you’ve picnicked with.

Living can be easy in the summertime, but food safety takes a little more effort and planning. Have a wonderful and food-safe summer!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

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