5 Tips to Avoid "Picnic Poisoning"

Nothing ruins a block party, backyard BBQ, or Fourth of July cookout like accidental food poisoning. When the weather is warmer, it’s natural to want to get out and enjoy it as often as possible, but this can often mean dangerous consequences when it comes to food. Read these tips and have a happier, healthier summer!

1. Limit Sun Exposure: Too much sun is not good for you, and it’s not good for your food, either. Two hours is the maximum amount of time food should be sitting out—half that time if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria thrive when food sits out in the warm summer sun. Don’t let your potato salad become a petri dish. Keep time limits on sun exposure.

2. Keep Chilled: Separate coolers, lots of ice. Your car can quickly become way too hot for foods that are stored there without protection. Keep your food in coolers with plenty of ice. Even better if you can use a number of smaller coolers to prevent cross-contamination.

3. Never Mix, Never Worry: Raw meat stays solitary! Don’t let raw foods like chicken or ground beef anywhere near their cooked counterparts. It takes just a minuscule amount of exposure to contaminate your food and ruin your day—or longer—with food poisoning.

4. Grill Like a Pro: There’s nothing better than burgers on the grill—unless you count safely prepared burgers on the grill. Undercooked meat can be as dangerous as raw meat. Cook burgers, chicken, and shrimp thoroughly. You don’t have to burn foods to a crisp, but do make sure that they are done well, if not “well done.”

5. Wash your hands. Always. This is perhaps the single most important tip for your best health. Wash your hands. Before handling food, after handling food, and before eating food. Always wash your hands, even if it's not handy. In a pinch, try hand sanitizer or wipes, but nothing beats good old soap and hot water.

Foodborne illnesses that were once deadly have been given the slip in recent history, thanks to modern refrigeration and a better understanding of bacteria. But when you bring food outside or don’t prepare it properly, food poisoning can occur even today. Stay alert and follow these tips to have fun in the sun without having to worry about picnic poisoning.