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Let's Eat Outside (Safely)!

As the weather warms, many people enjoy cooking outside on a grill or packing a picnic to eat on a nature hike. Problem is, if we don't pay attention to safe food handling, we could put our family and friends at risk of foodborne illness or "food poisoning." Foodborne illness increases during the summer because the temperatures are warmer, and the bacteria present around us can "hop on" food and grow quickly in the warm temperatures. Summer also tends to be humid, and moist environments increase the chances for bacteria to grow.
Let's Eat Outside (Safely)!

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Test You Food Safety Savvy:

  1. To what temperature should you cook chicken?  ____ F
  2. To what temperature should you cook burgers?   ____ F
  3. How long should you wash your hands with soap and water?   _____ seconds
  4. On a hot day (above 90 F), how long can you leave food on the picnic table?   _____ hour(s)

Answers: 1. 165 F; 2. 160 F; 3. 20; 4. 1


Remember These Four Tips to Food Safety

1. Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

  • When eating away from home, check if the site has a source of "potable" (safe) drinking water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleanup. For picnics away from water sources, pack wet wipes and paper towels to clean hands and surfaces.

2. Separate, Don't Cross-contaminate

  • When you pack a cooler for an outing, be sure raw meats and their juices do not come into contact with ready-to-eat foods or beverage cans. Place meats in tightly sealed storage containers. Even better: Have a separate cooler for raw meats.

3.Cook to the Proper Temperature

  • Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, so be sure the meat is cooked thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. If you pick up cooked, hot food (such as chicken) at a restaurant, remember that it should be eaten within two hours of purchase.

4. Chill Promptly

  • Keep cold perishable food such as luncheon meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salad in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Keep the cooler in the passenger area of your vehicle (not the trunk) and place in the shade or shelter at the picnic site.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Featured in the Food Wise June 2014 newsletter (PDF)

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