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Picnic safety
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Picnic season is upon us. The end of the school year and the Memorial Day holiday are celebrated with outdoor gatherings. As temperatures soar, so do the risks of bacteria on food increasing and causing a food borne illness. Family gatherings are the time to be diligent about serving safe food. Some great reminders at this time of year may help keep your picnic safe.
Food handling safety risks at home are more common than most people think. The four easy lessons of clean, separate, cook and chill can help prevent harmful bacteria from making your family sick. Make sure your hands and surfaces are washed often before and during food preparation. Separate refers to cross-contamination which results when cutting surfaces are used for meat and then vegetables without proper disinfecting. One idea to prevent cross contamination is to use different colored cutting boards for veggies and meat. Cross contamination while grilling can occur when the same plate is used to hold raw and then cooked meat.  
When it comes to cooking, you must use a food thermometer to cook food to the proper temperature. You cannot determine if food is fully cooked just by looking at it. Safe internal temps are: 160 degrees F for ground meat; 165 degrees F for poultry; and 145 degrees F for beef, steaks and roasts. And finally, “chill” refers to refrigerating leftovers promptly. Take a few minutes immediately after the meal is served to put leftovers into shallow containers and into the refrigerator or back into an ice chest. While it may be tempting to leave trays of food out to munch on during the day, this is not a good idea. When left unrefrigerated, many foods can become contaminated with bacteria that produce the dangerous toxins that cause food poisoning. These bacteria are undetectable by sight, smell or taste and thrive on foods that are left out for very long, especially at warmer, summer temperatures. The danger zone temperatures to keep in mind are 40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer outings can be ruined if safe food handling and preparation techniques are not observed. Foodborne illness symptoms are much like those of the flu, which include headache, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever. These signs may not appear until several hours to several days after eating a contaminated food. Food poisoning can be especially harmful for children, older adults, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses.
Keep your summer picnics safe and if you have any food safety question feel free to call or e-mail me.
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County.  She may be reached at (620)793-1910 or