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The Dos and Don’ts of Picnic Food Safety

July 11, 2017

picnic-food-safetyWhether you’re packing a lunch to enjoy poolside, attending a neighborhood cookout or simply having a picnic for the sake of it, eating outside is one of summertime’s greatest pleasures. However nice it can be to spread a blanket and enjoy your sandwich in the sun, the warmer weather can spell danger for perishable foods.

The last thing you want is for your fun outdoor outing to turn into a foodborne-illness nightmare. Make sure infections like salmonella and listeria stay off the guest list with this list of dos and don’ts for picnic food safety.


  • Wash your hands before eating. If there isn’t a restroom nearby, make sure you pack hand wipes or sanitizer.
  • Keep perishable items in an insulated cooler with ice or ice packs. If you’ll be cooking outdoors, make sure your meat stays cold until you’re ready to begin cooking.
  • Think ahead for how you’ll handle raw meats and make a plan to avoid cross-contamination. Bring extra plates and extra cooking utensils just in case.
  • Pack a food thermometer to check that your meats are properly cooked through before eating.
  • Put leftovers away in the coolers as soon as you’re done eating.


  • Pack too many perishable food items. Aim for foods that are less likely to put you at risk.
  • Leave food sitting in the sun for longer than necessary. If it’s a hot day (90 degrees F or higher), food shouldn’t be left unrefrigerated or out of an insulated cooler for more than an hour.
  • Take any unnecessary risks. If food has a funny smell or doesn’t feel cold to the touch, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Place your cooler in direct sunlight. Instead, find some shade so your ice or ice packs can stay cold for as long as possible.
  • Forget to check the weather. You’ll want to know what to expect for rising temperatures so you can plan ahead accordingly.

Luckily, by taking these few precautions, you can enjoy a safe and delicious picnic. And, just for reference, here’s a quick list of go-to picnic foods that are less likely to put you at risk for foodborne illnesses:

  • Sliced fruit
  • Raw vegetables
  • Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Crackers or pretzels
  • Trail mix and raisins

Of course, with the proper precautions, you can also feel free to pack traditional picnic favorites, like:

  • Potato salad
  • Pasta salad
  • Deviled eggs
  • Hot dogs and hamburgers to cook
  • Cheese and crackers

Just don’t forget to follow the dos and don’ts from above to ensure your picnic remains a happy memory for all of your guests.