Food Safety for Memorial Day Picnics

written by Grace Dickinson- Temple University

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and undoubtedly the number one way to spend this day of observance is by chowing down on some food with family and/or friends. Outdoor picnics have always been the tradition in my family filled with food, friends, and fun. Memorial Day has is always our excuse to dust off the grill and get it going for the warm weathered seasons.

While these kinds of picnic events are certainly fun, they also leave room for food safety issues to arise. It appears I’m not the only one who loves the warm weather. Foodborne bacteria love it too, which can lead to dreaded foodborne illnesses that no one would want to endure.

To protect your friends, family, and your own self, follow these tips outlined by the U.S. FDA for safely handling food and keeping unwanted bacteria away.

* Keep cold food cold. This means use a cooler and fill it with ice/ice packs. Cold food should be stored at no more than 40°F to prevent bacterial growth. Consider packing foods while still frozen, particularly meat/seafood items that are especially prone to bacteria growth.
* Keep coolers closed. While this can be tricky, try to limit the number of times the cooler is opened. This helps to keep the contents cold longer, so when you go to grab a snack, grab a drink too.
* Marinate safely. When grilling, make sure to keep foods that are being marinated in the refrigerator during the actual marinating time. If you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Never reuse marinade!
– Cook food thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to ensure food is cooked thoroughly. Once cooked, keep the hot food hot until served. Simply move it away from the coals but keep it on the grill rack to prevent bacteria from building.
* Maintain proper temperature of food. This means, make sure hot food stays hot and cold food stays cold. Never let food fall into the “Danger Zone,” which lies between 40° F to 140° F, for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if it’s a scorcher and temps. are above 90° F.
-Sitting out longer than two hours? Toss it. If temps. are above 90° F, toss food sitting out longer than an hour. This applies to both hot items and perishable cold foods.
-To help avoid this, keep hot foods in insulated containers and rest cold foods atop of ice.
* As always, remember the basics. Don’t cross-contaminate foods, paying particular attention to keeping raw meats separate from other food items. Wash your hands. Wash your fruits and veggies. Wash your utensils and don’t reuse ones that have been handling raw meat. And don’t forget to keep that smiling face smiling!