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Outdoor food safety

10 tips for outdoor food safety this Summer

Lake and beach outings, BBQs, and picnics are popular summertime activities. But packaging food for these trips requires preparation and forethought to prevent food poisoning, contamination and spoiling. Chef Nancy Waldeck of Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness at Piedmont shares tips to keep food safe so you can enjoy summertime fun.

“First and foremost, it’s important to wash your hands before prepping and eating food. This can be hard if you are out in nature, but wet wipes and hand sanitizers are a good backup,” says Waldeck. “Things will also go a lot smoother if you spend some time planning your meal in advance. This means thinking of all the steps you will be taking, especially if you are handling raw food.”

10 tips for food safety  

  1. Take food that is ready to eat. To avoid the hassle and health risks associated with preparing food outdoors, pack prepared foods, like pre-sliced fruit, hummus, carrots, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, mini-muffins, trail mix, cheese wedges and chicken salad.

  2. Package food separately. Keep all food individually wrapped so there is no cross-contamination. This is especially important for raw meat and vegetables. Ideally, all raw meat should be kept in one cooler and all other foods and drinks in another.

  3. Use quality freezer packs. All cold food should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice, ice packs and a well-insulated cooler are musts.

  4. Do not take hot foods on the go. Hot foods, like casseroles, should remain above 160 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent bacteria growth. It is difficult to store and transport food at this high temperature.

  5. Defrost and marinate meat a day in advance. Marinating meat helps preserve it longer, which is a plus when taking it outdoors. However, marinating should only be done in the refrigerator to prevent bacterial growth.

  6. Take plenty of serving ware. Pack twice as many serving utensils and platters as you think you will need, especially if you are doing prep work onsite. You do not want to reuse platters, especially with raw food.

  7. Prepackage food in small serving sizes. “People like personal servings. This helps with portion control, prevents cross-contamination, and prevents having extras that will sit out and spoil,” says Waldeck.

  8. Pack away all food within two hours. Food should not remain between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours. Any longer and bacteria begin to multiply.

  9. Dispose of food properly. Pack trash bags to dispose of food and garbage properly. Food should be put away in separate containers and baggies, just like it was packed.

  10. Unpack perishable food promptly. Any leftovers should be removed from the car and the cooler as soon as you return home and placed in the refrigerator immediately.

“Your risk of food poisoning is enhanced when you take food out in the summer heat for extended periods of time,” says Waldeck. “So many people focus on the fun and neglect the health risk involved with outdoor social gatherings. With a little preplanning, you can keep everyone healthy and happy this summer.”

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