Food Safety Tips for a Worry-Free Family Picnic

15 Jun Food Safety Tips for a Worry-Free Family Picnic

By: Dr. Soma Mukherjee

Summer is just around the corner and even though there will be some significant changes this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some things will remain the same.  Enjoying a picnic is a great way to spend some quality time with your family. Here are some ways to make sure you can cook out and enjoy some picnic fun safely!

Before The Picnic:Untitled design (5)

  • Try to plan the right amount of food for your group without having too much extra. 
  • Wash hands and work areas and use clean utensils to prepare food. 
  • Food that is cooked in advance or bought should either be eaten within 2 hours or be completely cooled in the refrigerator before transporting it. If the food will be transported, use appropriate cooling aids to keep it at 40 degrees F in the cooler, like lots of ice or reusable ice packs.  Pack the food directly from the refrigerator or freezer so it doesn’t have to time start warming up. 
  • Don’t partially cook food in advance with plans to finish cooking it at the picnic.   

Transporting Your Food:  

  • Organize and separate your coolers.  Transport beverages in one and perishable foods in another.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped.  
  • Clean your produce and label it clearly at home before packing it in the cooler. 
  • Transport the cooler inside the air-conditioned car and not in the trunk. 


  • We recommend using a meat thermometer when grilling out: Hamburgers and ribs should be cooked to 160 degrees F. The center should no longer be pink and the juices should run clear. Cook ground poultry to 165 degrees F and pieces to 180 degrees F.  
  • Make sure that you reheat all meat until it is steaming.  
  • Don’t put food that has been grilled on a plate that held raw meat.  
  • Check your grilled food for foreign objects before eating.  For example, if you clean your grill with a bristle brush, check to make sure that there are no loose bristles in the food. 

At the picnic:

  • At the picnic, keep coolers in the shade.  Avoid opening coolers repeatedly, keep the lids closed, and replenish ice often. 
  • Raw meat should be kept in the cooler or placed directly on the grill. Do not eat undercooked meat since bacteria could be living in it. 
  • Don’t let your food stay in the danger temperature zones of between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees F.  That is when bacteria can multiply quickly and cause food-borne illnesses. 

We hope these tips come in handy when you are planning and enjoying your summer picnic! 


Handling Food Safely While Eating Outdoors www.fda.gov, Picnic Safety www.extension.iastate.edu

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