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Enjoy a Safe and Tasty Picnic!

Going out to eat is fun, but it can be expensive. However, going outside to eat is fun, too, and it’s easy on your budget.

Enjoying a picnic is a way to make summer memories with your family. All you need is a cooler to carry your food and a picnic table at a local park or a blanket to spread on the ground in a grassy area.

Taking your meals outdoors requires a little planning and care. Bacteria and other “germs” grow quickly in food during warm, humid weather, and foodborne illness cases tend to increase during the summer months. Children or grandchildren may enjoy helping you pack your outdoor meal. If you don’t have a cooler, enjoy a simple, nonperishable picnic lunch, such as peanut butter sandwiches with whole apples, oranges and bananas.

Picnic Safety Checklist

AlwaysSometimesNeverDoesn’t apply
I always wash my hands before I handle food or eat.
If the picnic area has no running water, I bring hand sanitizer or wet wipes to clean my hands.
I use separate cutting boards when cutting up meat and cutting up vegetables for a salad (or I thoroughly wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water between uses).
I rinse the outside of whole fruit (including melons) with cold running water, using a produce brush if necessary.
I use insulated coolers filled with ice or frozen gel packs to pack perishable foods such as salads and cut-up fruits and vegetables.
I keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods (in a tight container or separate cooler).
When I serve perishable food outdoors, it does not sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 F.
I transport perishable foods in the passenger compartment of my vehicle (not a hot trunk).
If I’m cooking at the site, I use a food thermometer to check doneness of meat.
I cover food with plastic wrap or foil to protect it from insects (which carry bacteria on their bodies).

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

Featured in Food Wise August 2012 newsletter (PDF).

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