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Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safely

Picnic and barbecue season offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. But these warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly.

To protect yourself, your family, and friends from foodborne illness during warm-weather months, safe food handling when eating outdoors is critical. Read on for simple food safety guidelines for transporting your food to the picnic site, and preparing and serving it safely once you've arrived.

Pack and Transport Food Safely

Keep your food safe: from the refrigerator/freezer . . .all the way to the picnic table.

Quick Tips for Picnic Site Prep

Food safety begins with proper hand cleaning — including outdoor settings. Before you begin setting out your picnic feast, make sure hands and surfaces are clean.

Follow Safe Grilling Tips

Grilling and picnicking often go hand-in-hand. And just as with cooking indoors, there are important guidelines that should be followed to ensure that your grilled food reaches the table safely.

Safe Food Temperature Chart
Steaks and Roasts145 °F
Fish145 °F
Pork160 °F
Ground Beef160 °F
Egg Dishes160 °F
Chicken Breasts165 °F
Whole Poultry165 °F
Shrimp, lobster, and crabscook until pearly and opaque
Clams, oysters, and musselscook until the shells are open

Serving Picnic Food: Keep it COLD / HOT

Keeping food at proper temperatures - indoor and out - is critical in preventing the growth of foodborne bacteria. The key is to never let your picnic food remain in the "Danger Zone" - between 40° F and 140° F - for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to foodborne illness.

Follow these simple rules for keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

Platter Warning: Prevent "Cross-Contamination" When Serving

Never reuse a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for serving — unless they’ve been washed first in hot, soapy water. Otherwise, you can spread bacteria from the raw juices to your cooked or ready-to-eat food.
This is particularly important to remember when serving cooked foods from the grill.

Cold Food

Cold perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40° F or below until serving time.

Hot Food

Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140° F.