Don’t Invite Bacteria to Your Picnic this Summer: Tips for Safe Summer Dining

By on July 9, 2013
Now that summer is here, and the warm temperatures have arrived, folks all over the country are enjoying dining outdoors. While it may not seem like a huge deal, how you prepare, serve and store food for your outdoor meal is highly important to your health.

To avoid food-borne illness, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) just released a media tip sheet that will help you stay safe during all of your outdoor meal engagements this summer.


One of the best ways to ensure that your food is safe is to know exactly where it comes from. If you shop at your local farmers market, be sure to ask about the vendors farming practices.

Don’t be shy,  ask how they control bacteria and other contaminants. Ask the local farmers for tips on preparing and storing the food that they are selling. Although produce does not need to be perfect, be careful not to select fruits and vegetables with broken skin or visible mold.


When handling food, wash your hands with warm water and soap for as long as it takes you to run through Happy Birthday twice. Check your cutting boards, dishes, knives and countertops for cleanliness before you begin to prepare food. Wash all produce in cold, filtered water and be sure to toss spinach or salad greens in a bowl of cold water to remove any dirt and contaminants.

Fruits that have stems such as apples, pears and peaches require special attention. Don forgo washing fruit that has a rind that you will not be eating. It is still important to wash oranges, melons, cantaloupes and avocados. Pathogens can easily stay on unwashed surfaces and migrate to your hands or knife. For this reason, you should also always wash items that you peel such as cucumbers and carrots.


If you are preparing for a BBQ, be sure that you marinate any meat in the refrigerator. Never take meat outdoors or even inside on your counter to marinate. Grill food thoroughly. A meat thermometer is a handy tool and can help you be sure that your meat is safe to eat. The temperature should be 145 degrees for steaks and fish, 160 degrees for pork and hamburgers and 165 degrees for poultry. Keep meat hot until it is time to serve and use separate plates and utensils for different types of meat and vegetables.

If you are grilling at a park, a campsite or a tailgate party, purchase pre made patties for burgers . This will minimize the amount of handling that is necessary.


If you are packing food for a picnic or other event away from home be sure to keep meats, cheeses, condiments cold. Store food at 40 degrees of colder to keep the risk of pathogens down and be sure to keep the lid to the cooler closed as much as possible.

Keep raw meat, seafood and poultry well wrapped and away from other foods. Always put beverages and perishable foods in separate coolers

If you have ever been to an outdoor gathering and seen or smelt food that has been left out in warm temperatures for a while, you know that heat can be a problem. Food should not sit out for any more than one hour in temperatures that are above 90 degrees. Don’t eat food that has a strong foul odor or is covered in flies, either

When it is time to pack up, never reuse packaging that has been in contact with raw meat or meat juices. Be sure that all leftovers are kept cool and don’t bring home any leftovers that are uncooked

About The Author: Susan Patterson

Susan Patterson is a natural health writer with passion for living well. Her writing includes regular contributions to some of the most visited health and wellness sites on the Internet, e-books, and expert advice. As a Certified Health Coach, Master Gardener and Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor, Susan has helped many people move towards a better understanding of alternative health options. Susan practices what she writes and is an avid fitness enthusiast, whole foods advocate and pursuer of sustainable living.

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