4 Rules for Food Safety and Summer DiningFood and Health ·
For those of you who aren’t in the food service business, food safety isn't usually your top concern when you are out having a picnic, but the reality is not only is basic food safety really quite easy, it won’t ruin the fun or romance of the day. Trust me when I tell you, if you get salmonella or E coli, it not only ruins that day, it ruins the next few that follow too…
Summer food safety, whether it’s a small picnic for the two of you in the park or your portion of a large potluck for 30, really only has 4 basic rules…
RULE #1 - Keep what's supposed to be cold, cold.
As close to fridge temperature as you can is best. You do this with ice or cold packs, but really the best way to do it is to pack only the last minute, leaving your cooked meats, salads, dressings, etc. that came from the fridge in the fridge as long as you can so that their own cold mass acts as a great ice pack.
RULE #2 - If it was hot, keep it hot.
This is the same idea as the first rule. Food should never be kept lukewarm for extended periods, say more than an hour. It should be above 130F or below 50F for transport (ideally above 140F and below 40F for longer term transport). You can do this in a crockpot, “hot boxes” or more commonly hot oven dishes packed in coolers lined with hot towels. Regardless of your choice, never pack hot and cold in the same cooler.
RULE #3 - Keep raw items from cooked ones, especially when meats are involved.
This is especially true if you are doing things like burgers, sausages or other ground meats. Ideally, they should be transported in a separate container but that’s not always practical. A few layers of zip top bags should do the trick, just be sure to have them right next to the freezer packs so they stay as cold as possible until they hit the grill.
RULE #4 - Clean up!
I know this idea will annoy the environmentally responsible amongst you but in reality, compostable and recyclable paper plates/cutlery are the best, at least from a food safety perspective. Plastic plates and zip top bags are not the most environmentally responsible choice as they are not reusable, but if you clean up after yourselves and discard them properly any dangers from food contamination end there.
If you are more environmentally responsible and only use Tupperware or other locktop style containers, be sure to rinse then out before transporting them home. This is especially important if there are any surfaces that touched any meat products. Be sure to wash them immediately when you’re home, preferably in the dishwasher as the dishwasher will give a cleaner result than you’ll get by hand. If you are using a cooler or other carrying bag, be sure to rinse it out thoroughly after use as well, and give it a good wipe down with anti-bacterial wipes, just to be sure you’re good to go for next time.
Food safety is no accident but it’s also not rocket science either, I think the vast majority of it is really just common sense. Sure there are times when folks go a bit overboard but having suffered from a few bouts of food poisoning over the years, I will always error on the side of safety first.