Food Safety is a Picnic!

Food Safety is a Picnic! 

One of the greatest pleasures of summer…you spread out your cute picnic blanket, grab some refreshing drinks, lay out your festive paper plates, and start to dish out Grandma’s family macaroni salad that you made just that morning. But wait. Does it have a funny smell? Can you be sure? Is it…the dreaded spoiled mayonnaise???? Oh NO! Read on for summer picnic safety!

Don’t let bacteria crash your picnic. Keeping your food cold is the key. Pack your coolers with plenty of ice and/or ice packs. Chill your food before placing in coolers; if you make the salads at room temperature just before you put them in coolers, they will have a harder time staying cold. One tip is to put your salad ingredients into the refrigerator the night before, such as cans of tuna or olives, jars of condiments, or any other ingredients you can chill before you mix your salad, such as pasta, beans or meat.

If you are bringing cups for your drinks (instead of bottled drinks), remember to bring a separate bag of ice for them. Never use the ice that your cans or bottles are packed in for drinking. The outsides of those cans are pretty contaminated – yuck.

Here’s a trick question: if Aunt Mabel’s bean, chicken, or pasta salad made everyone sick at the family reunion, what ingredient in the salad made them sick? Answer: it was NOT the mayonnaise! It was the tuna, potato, chicken, or pasta. (most likely). Commercial mayonnaise, the kind you buy at the grocery, is shelf stable and can be left at room temperature. Did I surprise you? That idea is left over from about the 1950’s when people made homemade mayo with raw eggs. But it still survives! The ingredients that support bacteria are those that are high in protein, or carbohydrates – meat, beans, pasta, rice.

Try to keep flies from being unwanted visitors. Flies carry many bacteria that cause illness. Bring covers for your food if you can.

If you haven’t consumed food after two hours, it should be tossed. If it’s really hot – over 90 degrees, stick to one hour for safety. This is the rule if your food is out of refrigeration.

Last – try to wash your hands before you eat, especially if you’ve been doing something especially germy. If there won’t be handwashing facilities nearby, you can bring along wet, soapy paper towels in a plastic bag and plain wet ones for rinsing. Or in a pinch, even wet wipes are better than nothing.

Now get out there and enjoy some nature! Summer is going fast. Let’s all pack a picnic basket, some sunscreen, and have a blast before we miss it!

    The world’s largest basket near Dresden, Ohio. Yes, I’ve been here!

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