When eating outside, while traveling or picnicking away from home, it is important to take along the basic food safety necessities and follow these tips to reduce risk of foodborne illness:
— Soap and water are essential to cleanliness. Bring your own soap and water to your picnic or campsite. If water for hand washing is not available, disposable wipes or hand sanitizer will do. Wash your hands before and after handling food.
— Take foods in the smallest quantity needed — pack only the amount of food you think you will use. Consider taking along non-perishable foods and snacks that do not need to be refrigerated, such as nuts, seeds, meat sticks and dried fruits.
— Pack foods in your cooler in reverse-use order — pack foods first that you are likely to use last. Pack plenty of ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature.
— Choose prepackaged chips or individual serving sizes of desserts. Then only your hands touch your food.
— If meat and poultry need to stay cool for a long period of time, they may be packed while still frozen. Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be eaten raw such as fruits.
— Fill cooler to capacity because a full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled.
— Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold. On our camping trips, we put beverages in the “squeaky” lid cooler, so we know when it is being opened.
— When traveling, transport the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. Keep the cooler out of direct sun. At the picnic or campsite keep your cooler covered with a blanket or tarp.
— Do not let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90 degrees or higher), reduce this time to one hour.
— Bring a food thermometer in your grilling supplies. Use it to make sure meat and poultry have reached a safe internal temperature of poultry at 165 degrees, ground meat 160 degrees, fish, steaks and chops to 145 degrees.
— When the picnic is over, discard all perishable foods if there is no longer sufficient ice in the cooler or if gel packs are no longer frozen. This may be hard but is a better way to prevent food poisoning.
By making a few extra items part of your event, you can enjoy summer traveling with food without the risk of foodborne illness. For more information contact your local Extension office.
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 email@example.com.