Picnic Poison - Keeping Food Poison At Bay When Eating Outdoors This Summer
The sun is shining, there's a light breeze (well for Wyoming), the grass is green… perfect weather for dining out of doors right? Maybe, but only if you've got everything correct in the way of food prep. No one relishes the idea of food poisoning, and it's not a welcome going home present to give your guests from your backyard barbecue. So before you fire up the grill and put out the plastic cutlery let's review some tried and true tips for avoiding 'picnic poison' and work to keep everyone healthy and well!
1.) Keep That Kitchen Clean
Let's start where any truly great meal begins: The Kitchen. And this area is one that's a biggie: especially if you are preparing fresh vegetables, fruit and as well uncooked meat in the same general area.
- Wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds), then also any utensils and or cooking surfaces with soap and hot water before and after you handle food (especially raw meat or poultry). If you use sponges to clean your counters be sure to clean them thoroughly since they can harbor bacteria longer.
- Wash cutting boards with hot, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher. Wooden cutting boards are more likely to become contaminated as there are more grooves and are harder to clean, so it may be best to use wooden boards for vegetables and fruit and use plastic or glass for meat and poultry.
- Wash fresh vegetables and fruit with cool water to remove any dirt or residue. Consider scrubbing with a vegetable brush any fruits and vegetables that have firm surfaces or rinds such as carrots, oranges, melons, and potatoes.
- Watch For Cross-Contamination! It's a good idea to keep your prep areas for raw vegetables/fruits and meats and poultry totally separate. This includes cutting boards, knives, even dishes, and countertops. The less you have to worry about cross contaminating food the better!
2.) Cook and Keep It to Temp!
Each different meat or even cut of meat has a specific temperature. This isn't some recommended temperature that tastes the best, it's literally the point where it's safe to consume and bacteria has been cooked off. Eating undercooked meat, shellfish or poultry can mean food poisoning.
- Try to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold! To do this, prepare the foods you are serving quickly, cook them thoroughly and serve as soon as possible after cooking. If it needs to stay cool until it's consumed make ample room in your refrigerator or have a backup cooler handy. Bacteria can multiply if foods are left to linger.
- You may want to use a digital or instant meat thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Leave the thermometer in for at least 30 seconds, then take the temperature of the thickest part of the meat, away from any bones as this tends to give a false read.
- Safely thaw any frozen meat or poultry in the refrigerator or cold running water.
- Refrigerate or freeze any prepared food within 2 hours.
- In really hot temperatures (those above 85 degrees Fahrenheit) don't let food sit out longer than an hour.
3.) Picnic Safety
If you're not simply hosting a backyard barbecue but traveling to any number of shelters or parks around the SouthEastern Region of Wyoming a little planning goes a long way!
- Pack foods in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Pack foods first that you think you will use last. Another idea: If you can take two coolers - one for cold drinks and another for perishable foods so that warm air won't get into the perishables every time someone reaches for a drink.
- Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight or intense heat: transport it in the back seat, not in the trunk. Once you arrive place it in the shade of a tree, under a blanket or the picnic table so that it can stay as cool as possible.
- Bring hand soap and water or hand sanitizer to wash your hands before preparing foods and/or eating.
- Drink bottled water or tap water from a safe source. Try not to drink water from lakes or streams even if the water looks clean.