picnic & bbq food handling tips

Practice these safe food handling tips and the only thing you'll need to worry about at the next barbecue or picnic will be the ants & mosquitoes


Tips for safely preparing, packing, and handling food for picnics, a day at the beach, or a simple backyard barbecue
Food poisoning is not only discomforting, but it can be life threatening if bacteria like e coli are involved. To help ensure your on-the-go meals are enjoyable and safe, we've compiled the following tips to help you keep your family's food safe, whether you're planning a backyard BBQ, spending a day at the beach, or going to a family event.

Wash & Sanitize Your Hands

The first rule of food handling is that any and everyone preparing food should always thoroughly wash or sanitize their hands before touching any food. When in a picnic or cookout setting, kids and adults should adequately sanitize their hands before eating anything.

Pack Perishables Properly

When traveling with food, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that you always pack all perishable food in an insulated cooler. Coolers should never be allowed to sit in direct sunlight.

Pack Meats Separately from Other Food Items

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises that raw meat and poultry be packed frozen and to avoid overpacking the cooler. Raw meat and poultry should be wrapped separately, and kept it in a cooler separate from other foods meant to be eaten raw (like fruits and veggies).

Keep the Cooler Cool

When transporting food, the USDA also advises keeping the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, not in a hot trunk. Once you reach your destination, keep coolers in shaded areas, or transfer chilled foods to the refrigerator.

Keep Food & Beverages Separated

Pack food and drinks in separate coolers so that the food cooler is not frequently opened and closed. Refrigerated foods need to be kept in your cooler at a constant temperature of 40°F or lower. Adding salt to cooler water helps to lower the water's freezing point and will keep the contents cooler longer.

Properly Cook All Meats

When grilling foods, the National Safety Council (NSC) advises that you "cook burgers until they're no longer pink in the center and poultry [should be cooked] until the juices run clear from the thickest part of the meat." The NSC also advises eating everything within two hours of preparing the meal. Leftovers should be wrapped and stored in a cooler or refrigerator.

Avoid Cross Contamination

Immediately wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat. On picnics or cookouts, bring your own clean water for washing utensils in case your cookout location doesn't have running water. When possible, use disposable paper plates and plastic cups and utensils.

Undercover In the Shade

At cookouts and picnics, don't leave food sitting in direct sunlight, and keep food covered so it won't attract bees and wasps.

More Safety Facts

The National Institutes of Health has a wealth of information on avoiding food-borne illnesses. Check out these Fact Sheets before your next picnic, cookout, or family dinner.

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