Don’t let your picnic make you sick

Everyone loves a picnic or barbecue in the summertime and in Pocahontas County, opportunities to enjoy an outside meal are plentiful. But when you are relaxing in the backyard with your family and friends or enjoying a lazy afternoon on the river, it’s easy to forget that your potato salad has been sitting in the sun for two hours or let all your ice melt in the cooler. With one little slip-up, you can make your entire family sick. Here’s what you can do to keep your picnic both delicious and safe:

1. Plan ahead and bring plenty of ice and icepacks for the cooler. Even an insulated cooler will lose its cool eventually. A good rule is to pack your cooler only ¾ full with food and fill the remaining space with ice packs. If possible, chill or freeze your foods before you put them in the cooler. Consider bringing along a thermometer. Food needs to stay below 40 degrees to stay safe.

2. Wash your hands. Wash before you start handling food, after handling raw meat, and again before eating. If running water isn’t available, use hand sanitizer or a disposable wet wipe.

3. Wash your cooler. Your hands aren’t the only things you need to keep clean. How many times have you had juice from raw hamburger or chicken drip into the cooler and you’ve just wiped it out with a paper towel and gone on? That’s a definite “no-no.” Before packing for a picnic, sanitize your cooler. The juices from a little raw meat can create a breeding ground for bacteria and contamination.

4. Keep foods out of the danger zone. Never let your food remain in the danger zone for longer than two hours. This zone is a temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees. When food is in the danger zone, bacteria can double in number every 20 minutes. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, food may only sit out for one hour. This rule doesn’t just apply to meat – it is anything perishable, like your deviled eggs, potato salad and mayonnaise. Cold foods need to stay below 40 degrees and hot foods above 140.

5. Don’t reuse platters or utensils. Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood allows bacteria from the raw foods’ juices to spread to the cooked food. Always serve cooked foods on a clean plate.

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