Summertime brings picnics, road trips, outdoor hikes, plenty of fun in the sun, and long car rides. When packing a cooler and food on your excursions, it is important to remember some key food safety tips. Food-borne illnesses run a high risk of occurrences throughout the summer months, as outdoor picnics, buffets, and barbeques can pose many hazards. Germs do multiply faster in the summer, as heat and humidity are the perfect conditions for increases.
Although it may be tempting to forego food preparation concerns when you’re on the road, it’s still wise to take care of the following food safety issues before they lead to a potential health danger:
1. When grocery shopping on warm days, try and go to the store and back in as little time as possible. This will prevent potential wilting of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs turning bad, or other dairy or refrigerator items from turning rancid from the heat.
2. Take a well-stocked cooler for trips lasting longer than 1 hour, as you will need cold sports drinks, water, or other beverages to stay hydrated.
3. Choose plastic bottles over canned beverages while on the road, as these are less likely to explode from the heat!
4. Don’t eat any leftovers that have been sitting in a car or outside for longer than 45 minutes.
5. Place all food or leftovers in a cooler or mini fridge as soon as possible
6. Mayonnaise is not a good pot-luck choice for outdoor picnics, as it can get bad very quickly. Dairy products also fall into this category, so pick your menu selections wisely.
7. Keep all food preparation surfaces clean, germ-free, and wash your hands frequently
8. To prevent bacteria from taking over your favorite dish, make sure that hot food is kept hot, and cold foods kept cold. Hot food should be served at 140 degrees F. or above, and cold foods at 40 degrees F. or below.
9. It’s essential that meat is thawed appropriately and does not drip on other foods! This is an easy road to food contamination.
10. Always serve food on clean plates, and use paper plates if needed for convenience and cleanliness.
11. At a buffet or picnic, discard food that may have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.
12. Secure clean drinking water at your picnic or barbeque site, and bring your own bottled water if necessary.
13. Use frozen gel packs and lots of ice to pack your cooler.
14. Separate raw meats and foods from fresh vegetables, fruits and other ready-to-eat items and prevent cross-contamination.
15. Cover trash containers and garbage areas well to avoid flies and other insects from approaching food areas.
With these food safety tips in mind, you are sure to enjoy a safe and healthy summer. Check the weather for heat advisories, and as always, don’t forget the sunscreen!