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With nice weather and summertime get-togethers, many people head outside for a picnic. We can deal with those mosquitoes and ants but what about those little organisms you can’t see? You know that bacteria thrive when food is not kept at a proper temperature . . . with a little prevention and care you can take some steps to make sure they don’t get you. Bacteria grows rapidly and multiples from 40 F to 140 F. This means food transported without ice, or food left out in the sun soon becomes dangerous for us to eat. Some tips to make your picnic safe for your family and friends are:

  • Use 2 coolers to pack food. One for drinks these tend to be opened more frequently and thus warm up quickly and another for foods. Replenish ice if it melts. Place coolers in the car, not the trunk to transport, car trunks can get too hot in the summer. Place coolers in the shade when you get to your location.
  • Do not put food on top of ice and expect that will do the job. Use jell packs and surround the food with them. Foods cooked ahead need to be cooked in plenty time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep food at 40 F. Pack food from the refrigerator right into the cooler. Over wrap raw meat, or place in plastic bags and pack in cooler separately from ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination.
  • If you are planning on take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecued beef, eat them within two hours of pick-up or buy ahead of time and chill before packing the foods into the cooler.
  • Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters for separately handling the raw foods and food after cooking. Any bacteria present in raw meat or juices can contaminate the safely cooked meat. This is a prime cause of summer food borne illness.
  • Find out if there is a source of safe drinking water. If not bring water for preparation and cleaning. Clean off hands and surfaces with disposable clothes or paper towels. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling and serving food is a prime cause of food borne illness.
  • Always wash your hands before and after handling food, and do not use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Include lots of clean utensils, not only for eating but also for serving the safely cooked food.
  • Put perishable foods back in the cooler or refrigerator as soon as you finish eating. Do not leave them out while you go for a swim, hike or socialize.
  • Follow the two-hour rule: do not leave perishable food unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

You can make cook-outs a more enjoyable experience
by reducing the chances of contracting food borne illness.

©2007 St. James Catholic Church, Hopewell, VA