Safe Summer Picnic Preparation

Food poi­son­ing can be a seri­ous threat when it comes to pic­nics and out­door cel­e­bra­tions. With the right prepa­ra­tion, you and your loved ones can ensure you stay safe, enjoy your time togeth­er and avoid food­borne illnesses. 


Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 sec­onds. If there isn’t clean water avail­able, use hand san­i­tiz­er as a sub­sti­tute. You should wash the sur­faces on which you’ll pre­pare foods with soap and water as well. 

  • Pack moist tow­elettes or soap and water to clean both your hands and surfaces.
  • Make sure your cool­er has been cleaned out pri­or to pack­ing to ensure any bac­te­ria from your pre­vi­ous out­door events are washed away.
  • Don’t for­get to wash fruits and veg­eta­bles! This impor­tant step will rinse away bac­te­ria, such as E. coli and dirt that can make you sick. 


Wrap raw meats, poul­try, seafood and eggs secure­ly and keep them stored away from oth­er ready-to-eat items. Bring extra plates, cut­ting boards and tongs ded­i­cat­ed to either raw or cooked food items to pre­vent cross-contamination. 

Recent USDA research has found that rins­ing meat or poul­try increas­es the risk for cross-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion which can cause food­borne ill­ness­es. Don’t wash your meat or poul­try before cook­ing as the bac­te­ria in raw meat or the poul­try juices can spread to oth­er foods, uten­sils and sur­faces. Bac­te­ria will be killed as long as the meat is cooked to the appro­pri­ate tem­per­a­ture.1


Don’t for­get a meat ther­mome­ter. Grilled meat browns faster on the out­side than it cooks on the inside. Always check that the meat is cooked to a safe tem­per­a­ture by insert­ing the ther­mome­ter into its thick­est part while avoid­ing touch­ing the bone. The rec­om­mend­ed min­i­mum inter­nal tem­per­a­tures are: 

  • Steak: 145°F
  • Ground beef and pork: 160°F
  • Poul­try: 165°F


  • When food is at room tem­per­a­ture, bac­te­ria can dou­ble every 20 min­utes, which is why keep­ing food refrig­er­at­ed as long as pos­si­ble is important. 
  • Store per­ish­able food items in an insu­lat­ed cool­er packed with ice to keep the tem­per­a­ture below 40°F.
  • Nev­er leave food out­side in hot weath­er (90°F and above) for more than one hour. 
  • Don’t use ice from the cool­er in your drink­ing cup. Bac­te­ria may be lurk­ing on the ice cubes from oth­er cool­er items. 

Cool­er tips

  • Trans­port your cool­er in the back­seat of your air-con­di­tioned car instead of the trunk. 
  • Keep your cool­er in the shade or out of direct sunlight. 
  • Fol­low the Last in, first out” rule: what­ev­er you’re going to eat first should go at the top of the cooler. 
  • Con­sid­er hav­ing one cool­er for food and a sep­a­rate cool­er for bev­er­ages and ice. 
  • Only open your food cool­er when nec­es­sary to keep the oth­er foods at a safe tem­per­a­ture. Each time you reopen the same cool­er, cold air will escape and will cause the cooler’s inter­nal tem­per­a­ture to rise. 

Most at risk

Between two to three per­cent of all food poi­son­ing cas­es lead to sec­ondary long-term ill­ness­es such as arthri­tis, kid­ney fail­ure, menin­gi­tis and Guil­lain-Barre syn­drome. Peo­ple who are at an increased risk of food poi­son­ing include preg­nant women, new­borns, old­er adults, peo­ple with a weak­ened immune sys­tem and chron­ic ill­ness­es such as dia­betes, kid­ney dis­ease and some can­cer patients. 


Food poi­son­ing can occur any­where from one hour to sev­en days after con­sum­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed food. Symp­toms can include diar­rhea, abdom­i­nal pain/​cramps, nau­sea and vom­it­ing, fever, headaches (may not be present) and bloody stool (may not be present). 


If you have food poi­son­ing, con­tact your or your child’s pri­ma­ry care physi­cian imme­di­ate­ly for advice. Most food poi­son­ing is not dan­ger­ous and can be cared for at home. How­ev­er, some­times you may need to be seen by a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al. Noti­fy your physi­cian imme­di­ate­ly if your con­di­tion wors­ens or lasts longer than a few days (for adults) or more than 24 hours (for children). 

Eat­ing bind­ing foods such as bananas, rice, apple­sauce and toast will help set­tle your stom­ach. Drink plen­ty of clear liq­uids to stay hydrated. 

Find out more ways you can stay safe while enjoy­ing the weath­er by sched­ul­ing an appoint­ment with your pri­ma­ry care provider online or by call­ing your pre­ferred location.

1Wash­ing Food: Does it Pro­mote Food Safe­ty? (2020, June 1). In USDA: U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture. Retrieved from https://​www​.fsis​.usda​.gov/​f​o​o​d​-​s​a​f​e​t​y​/​s​a​f​e​-​f​o​o​d​-​h​a​n​d​l​i​n​g​-​a​n​d​-​p​r​e​p​a​r​a​t​i​o​n​/​f​o​o​d​-​s​a​f​e​t​y​-​b​a​s​i​c​s​/​w​a​s​h​i​n​g​-​f​o​o​d​-​d​o​e​s​-​i​t​-​p​r​o​m​o​t​e​-food