Having a picnic or cookout at a park or beach may be a summer tradition, but the warm weather can turn tasty treats into nasty bacteria in a short amount of time. Consumer Reports’ food safety experts have tips for making sure you keep food poisoning off the menu.
Bacteria love hot and humid weather, making summer the perfect time of year for harmful bacteria to quickly multiply on food. And when this happens, someone eating the food can get sick.
In fact, more people get food poisoning in the summer than any other time of the year, but Consumer Reports has a few tips so you can have a safer summer picnic.
Prep your food and coolers the night before. Fill the coolers with ice to drop the temperature and keep all your food refrigerated until it’s time to leave. Then pack the cooler full and try not to leave any open space, and put new ice or frozen ice packs on top.
If you’ll be driving far, try to keep food in the air-conditioned part of your car, not the trunk, where temperatures tend to be higher. And when you get to the party, stash your cooler in a shady spot.
And because no one can ever decide what they want to drink, a good idea is to have a separate cooler just for drinks, so the lid on the food cooler stays closed and the food stays colder longer.
And maybe you’re already wary of dishes containing mayo or dairy on a hot day, but CR says it is important that all food not be left out of the cooler for longer than 2 hours, 1 hour if the temperature is over 90° F.
If you’ll be setting food out for guests to serve themselves, think about putting cold salads and side dishes inside a larger bowl filled with ice.
While prepping food at home is a great idea, don’t be tempted to partly cook meat at home and finish grilling later. Consumer Reports says half-cooked meat can be warm enough to encourage bacteria to grow, not kill it. And your best bet is to use a meat thermometer.
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