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Keeping picnic foods safe this summer
Donna Krug

Summer celebrations oftentimes include a picnic or barbecue. With warmer weather here, it is important that you consider food safety tips so none of your guests take home an unwanted foodborne illness. 

You have probably noticed that food spoils faster in the summer. Why is this? Bacteria grow fastest in the heat and humidity. Also, more people cook outside at picnics, barbecues and on camping trips, where refrigeration and washing facilities can be hard to find. Fortunately, you can take steps to make sure your food is safe to eat even during the heat of summer.

Here is the “Top 10” list of summer food safety tips shared in a recent newsletter.

• When planning a picnic, barbeque or camping trip, find out if there will be a source of safe drinking water. If not, take water for preparation and cleaning.

• Pack disposable washcloths and use them to clean your hands.

• Keep beverages in a separate cooler, since it will probably be opened frequently.

• Pack perishable foods (such as luncheon meats, cooked meat and chicken, and potato or pasta salads) in sealed plastic bags under several inches of ice, ice packs or containers of frozen water in an insulated cooler. If packing raw meats, do not allow raw meat juices to touch ready-to-eat food. Pack just the amount of perishable food that you can use.

• Keep the perishable food cooler in the coolest part of the car. Place it in the shade or shelter it from the sun at the picnic site. Preserve the cold temperature of the cooler by replenishing the ice as needed.

• If an insulated cooler is not available, do not take perishable foods. Instead, pack foods such as hard cheese, canned meats, chicken and tuna; nuts, peanut butter, dry cereals, bread, crackers, fruits and vegetables.

• Do not partially cook food ahead of time. Pack either raw or fully-cooked meat and poultry. Bacteria can survive and multiply in partially cooked foods.

• Pack a food thermometer. Meat cooked on a grill often browns fast on the outside. Check meats with a food thermometer to be sure they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. for beef, 160 degrees F. for pork and 165 degrees F. for poultry.

• Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that held raw meat or poultry with hot soapy water before using them again for cooked food.

• Perishable food that is not kept cold for more than two hours is not considered safe to eat. When summer heat gets above 90 degrees, foods left out of the cooler for as little as one hour should be thrown away.

Let me end my column with the phrase you may have heard related to food safety decisions. “When in doubt, throw it out,” really is good advice. 

Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or