July is National Picnic Month and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts have some advice on how to make a picnic safer by protecting against foodborne bacteria.
Food safety begins with ensuring hands, surfaces and utensils are all clean, said Dr. Jenna Anding, AgriLife Extension associate head, nutrition and food science department, College Station.
Anding also noted the same plate and utensils used for preparing raw food should not be used for serving cooked food.
“Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood securely wrapped and stored separately in a cooler, away from other foods,” she said. “This keeps their juices from contaminating prepared or cooked foods as well as foods that are expected to be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables. Also, don’t partially cook meats with plans to finish cooking them at the picnic. Cook them fully and thoroughly either at home or at the picnic site.”
She also suggested putting beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another.
Rebecca Dittmar, AgriLife Extension program specialist in nutrition and food science, Kerrville, said keeping food at the proper temperature is vital to helping prevent the growth of foodborne bacteria.
She said cold foods in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice, or in a shallow container set in a pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
“With both cold and hot foods, the general rule for food safety is to not let them sit out for more than two hours – or one hour if the outside temperature is above 90 degrees,” Dittmar said. “If food is left out longer, the safest choice is just to throw it out.”
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