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Published on July 09, 2013

Picnic Safety

Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Dietitians

Did you know that each year roughly one out of six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 Americans are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases? As picnic season is underway, don’t let the uninvited guest of a foodborne illness ruin your outing! Enjoying a picnic during a beautiful summer day is a great way to socialize with friends and family, but don’t forget to remember these tips to make your day fun and safe.

  1. Wash your hands! Half of all food-borne illness can be eliminated by proper hand-washing. It’s never too early to start teaching children how to wash their hands correctly. Hands should be washed in warm water with soap before cooking foods and after handling raw meat, seafood and poultry. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds, or the same time it takes you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Don’t forget to wash your cooking surfaces and replace your dishcloths and sponges on a regular basis.
  2. Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate. Be sure to place your raw meat on the bottom shelf in your refrigerator and below any ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables. Also, remember to use a clean serving dish and utensil for any cooked meats that you are serving to your family and friends. When dining outside, be sure to bring two coolers with you. Put raw meats in one cooler and ready-to-eat foods in the other.
  3. Cook to proper food temperatures. The only way to make sure you are cooking foods to their proper temperatures is by using a meat thermometer. They are a very inexpensive way of making sure you save a trip to the emergency room! Cook ground meats to 160 degrees; poultry to 165 degrees; steak/roasts to 145 degrees; pork to 145 degrees with fresh, raw ham to 160 degrees; and egg casseroles to 160 degrees.  Also, don’t forget to reheat any leftovers to 165 degrees before being served.
  4. Stay out of the “danger zone”! Food should not be left out longer than two hours at one time. Your food should be kept below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees to prevent it from being in the “danger zone.” This is especially critical at picnics and pot-luck dinners when the time passes by fast and food is nibbled on throughout the day. Be sure to have coolers and ice on hand or a refrigerator nearby to store food.

By remembering these four tips, your picnic outing will be a safe and memorable one!