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Food Safety
Tips on keeping food safe to eat

Food provides the nutrients our bodies need and also provides the nutrients for bacteria to grow. You may become ill if disease-producing bacteria are present and allowed to grow. Each year thousands of people get sick from food. Consider the following recommendations as we track food from the time we shop for it until it is eaten.

Picnic Food Safety

Picnic photo.Picnic and barbecue season offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. But these warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly.

To protect yourself, your family, and friends from foodborne illness during warm-weather months, safe food handling when eating outdoors is critical. Read on for simple food safety guidelines for transporting your food to the picnic site, and preparing and serving it safely once you've arrived.

Pack and Transport Food Safely
Keep your food safe: from the refrigerator/freezer . . .
all the way to the picnic table.

Quick Tips for Picnic Site Prep
Food safety begins with proper hand cleaning — including outdoor settings. Before you begin setting out your picnic feast, make sure hands and surfaces are clean.

Safe Food Temperature Chart



Steaks and roasts






Ground beef


Egg dishes


Chicken breasts


Whole poultry


Shrimp, lobster, and crabs

cook until pearly and opaque

Clams, oysters, and mussels

cook until the shells are open

Follow Safe Grilling Tips
Grilling and picnicking often go hand-in-hand. And just as with cooking indoors, there are important guidelines that should be followed to ensure that your grilled food reaches the table safely.

Serving Picnic Food: Keep it COLD / HOT
Keeping food at proper temperatures - indoor and out - is critical in preventing the growth of foodborne bacteria. The key is to never let your picnic food remain in the "Danger Zone" - between 40° F and 140° F - for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to foodborne illness.
Instead, follow these simple rules for keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

Platter Warning:
Prevent "Cross-Contamination" When Serving

Never reuse a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for serving — unless they’ve been washed first in hot, soapy water. Otherwise, you can spread bacteria from the raw juices to your cooked or ready-to-eat food.
This is particularly important to remember when serving cooked foods from the grill.

Cold perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40° F or below until serving time.

Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140° F.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration


Look for State/Federal inspection labels on meat/poultry products.
Read safe handling labels on packaged foods.
Shop for refrigerated and frozen foods last.
Don't buy leaky, swollen or torn packages.
Bag household cleaners separately.
Bag raw meats, poultry and seafoods separately.
Go directly home and place perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer.

Frozen Foods May Be Defrosted:

Don't defrost potentially hazardous foods at room temperature. The surface temperature of the food can be well above 40º for a prolonged period before the center is thawed, enabling disease producing bacteria time to grow.


It is important to cook foods thoroughly to kill disease producing bacteria. Meats should be cooked until the juices are clear. If you use a meat thermometer, beef should be cooked to a minimum of 150ºF, pork 160ºF, and poultry 165ºF.

Ground Meats - Cook until there is no pink left and all the juices run clear. Most bacterial contamination will be on the surface of meat items. Steaks and roast beef can be eaten with a pink center because the surface is thoroughly cooked. Ground meats should not be eaten with a pink center because the surface of the pieces of meat was mixed with the center in the grinding process.

Eat only cooked or pasteurized egg products and avoid foods containing raw eggs. Examples of foods containing raw eggs include homemade cookie dough and homemade egg nog.

Avoid Contaminating Ready-To-Eat Food


Use sanitized plates, bowls, glasses and utensils.

Serve the food when it will be consumed - Don't prepare a plate and let it set in the microwave or on the table for a few hours waiting for a member of the family who worked late or stayed after school for an athletic event.


Refrigerate immediately.

Don't allow potentially hazardous foods to sit at room temperature. It is risky to watch a TV program before cleaning up in the kitchen and storing any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Large quantities of leftovers, such as a large pot of chili should be divided into several small, shallow containers. The time it takes for the food in the large container to cool can be long enough for bacterial growth. Never allow leftovers to cool to room temperature before refrigerating them. It is not advisable to freeze leftovers.

Reheating Leftovers

Thoroughly reheat left over potentially hazardous food before eating. The reheating kills bacteria that may have multiplied during the time the food cooled from 140ºF to below 40ºF. Reheating should result in the product reaching 165ºF at its coldest point.

More Information

Bacterial Growth Requirements -- Bacteria grow well in nutrient-rich foods. When these foods contain an adequate amount of moisture and are at a desirable pH and temperature, bacteria will grow rapidly. Potentially hazardous foods are those that meet the nutrient, moisture, and pH requirements. Disease producing bacteria grow in the temperature range between 40F and 140F. Minimizing the time foods are held in the hazardous temperature zone will minimize the chance of a food-borne illness. Potentially hazardous foods must be handled properly to prevent food-borne illness.

Potentially Hazardous Food -- Includes an animal food (a food of animal origin) that is raw or heat-treated; a food of plant origin that is heat treated or consists of raw seed sprouts; cut melons; and garlic and oil mixtures.

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