As the temperatures heat up, our outside activities increase. Awareness to food safety can provide peace of mind for everyone involved. When you are outside during the summer, be mindful of these tips:

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. When serving food at a summer picnic, do not leave it at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the temperatures of 40 to 140 degrees is considered the Bacteria Danger Zone, where bacteria multiply rapidly. Consider setting cold foods’ serving dishes on ice while serving, and rapidly chill hot and cold food when you are done eating to keep food safely out of the Danger Zone.

“When in doubt, throw it out.” If you suspect that a food may have been in the Bacteria Danger Zone for more than two hours, throw it out. Although it is certainly difficult to feel like you are wasting food, it is most certainly more difficult to become violently ill.

When planning a barbecue, keep raw meats separated from other foods like fruits, vegetables and grains that have already been cooked or will be eaten raw. This separation prevents cross contamination between uncooked meats and fully prepared foods.

Pack coolers full since full coolers stay cold longer than partially filled coolers. Pack any remaining space in the cooler with ice. Freeze water bottles to fill up the cooler and have cold drinks later. You can also pack separate coolers for drinks and food, so if the drinks cooler is opened frequently, the food in the food cooler still stays chilled. Keep a refrigerator thermometer in the cooler at 40 degrees or cooler.

To thaw frozen meat and poultry, place them in the refrigerator the night before, or in a sealed plastic bag in cold water. If you are going to cook them immediately, use your microwave.

Going camping? Try some of these shelf-stable foods when on a multi-day hike where keeping food safe becomes more challenging.

— Peanut butter

— Mylar shelf-stable packages of tuna, ham, chicken, and beef

— Dried noodles and soups

— Beef jerky and dried meats

— Dehydrated foods

— Dried fruits and nuts

— Powdered milk and 100 percent fruit juice mix

— Water purification system

Fun times abound during the summer months, so pay attention to food safety and enjoy every minute!


Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at 208-785-8060 or