Tips to Keep Your Food from Spoiling at Picnics


picnic_cThe Oklahoma State Department of Health is emphasizing the importance of preventing food-borne diseases while enjoying picnics or grilling food outdoors. Each year, an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne disease occur in the United States. Most of these cases are mild and cause symptoms for only a day or two; however, some are more serious, resulting in about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.


  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before touching food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or touching pets.
  • Wash cutting boards, counters, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water. Do this after working with each food item.
  • If you're eating away from home, find out if there's a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning. Or pack clean cloths and wet towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables. When transporting raw meat or poultry, double wrap or place the packages in plastic bags to prevent juices from the raw product from dripping on other foods.
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw meat products and ready-to-eat foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid using utensils that have touched raw meat to cut up raw vegetables or other uncooked foods. Raw meat juices can contain bacteria that could cross-contaminate safely cooked foods.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.

  • Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees F or colder. The freezer should be kept at 0 degrees F.
  • If cooking foods beforehand - such as turkey, ham, chicken and vegetable or pasta salads - for an outdoor gathering, prepare them in plenty of time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into small containers for fast chilling and easier use.
  • After estimating the amount of food that needs to be kept cold, pack an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or gel packs to keep the food at 40 degrees F. Pack food right from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler. Except when served, the food should be stored in a cooler.
  • Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and foods in another. That way, as the beverage cooler is opened and reopened, foods won't be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.
  • Chill any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than two hours - or one hour if temperatures are above 90 degrees F.

  • Use a food thermometer - you can't tell if food is cooked safely by how it looks!
  • Cook foods according to recommended temperatures. To be sure bacteria are destroyed, cook hamburgers to 160 degrees F. Cook poultry to 165 degrees F. Reheat all pre-cooked meats to 165 degrees F.

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