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Unlike last summer, this year there are many families and friends out and about for family fun.  And that means food and picnics.  But the excitement of the return of much of the fun does not mean we should turn our backs on safety when it comes to food preparation.  Planning ahead and common sense is still needed, and in this case should perhaps be reviewed.

As always, especially when having picnics on the road or in your backyard where food will be outside the house, the “temperature danger zone” must be avoided.  That means food should not be sitting at a temperature of between 41 and 135 Degrees Fahrenheit, which is where bacteria is most likely to grow.

Keeping hot food hot and cold food cold is the number one thing to remember.  For cold food, not only should the cold food be packed separately, but in addition, raw meat should be kept in a separate cooler from fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and salads and desserts.  This will avoid raw meat juices going where they should not.  Also, keep the cold food coolers in the shade whenever possible.

For hot foods, whatever you are cooking or grilling needs to reach proper temperature.  This would include 155 Degrees Fahrenheit for whole cuts of beef; and 165 for pork.  Hamburgers and other ground beef should be cooked to a temperature of 155 Degrees, while all poultry and pre-cooked meats, such as hot dogs, should be cooked to 165 degrees.  A meat thermometer is recommended.

Another danger often overlooked is the importance of NOT reusing marinade that was used during grilling while at the table.  This would cause raw meat juices to be mixed in with cooked meat, which is very dangerous.  Therefore, having separate marinade for serving at the table is of utmost importance.  Any kind of cross-contamination, such as with utensils and cutting surfaces, must be avoided.  Keep preparation and eating utensils separate at all times.

And finally, WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN WITH SOAP AND WATER.  This means prior to preparing food, prior to setting the table, prior to eating, and in between if ANYTHING happens that could cause contamination.  If you are at picnic grounds, and you take a break from cooking to play catch or help your child tie their shoes, for example, ALWAYS wash your hands again; and have plenty of hand sanitizer available if there is no running water and soap nearby.

And as always, wear insect repellent with DEET and beware of ticks.  If you are feeling ill, please stay home, as to not spread any infection to others.

For more on food safety as picnic time, please go to these CDC websites: