How to Enjoy Summer Picnics and Stay Safe

During the summer months, many people enjoy the outdoors by picnicking or grilling out. 

It’s important to reduce your risk of a food-borne illness from eating contaminated foods. Food-borne illness is caused by ingesting pathogenic bacteria. Bacteria can grow quickly when kept in the “temperature danger zone” between 41° and 135° F.  

Since food-borne illness can be serious — or even fatal — it’s important for you to know and practice safe food handling behaviors. These practices will help reduce your risk of accidentally becoming sick from contaminated food.  

Here are some tips to lessen your risk for getting sick:

Wash your hands before and after handling raw meats.
Store raw meats in a cool place and separate from cooked or ready to eat foods. Keep foods wrapped or in covered containers.
When grilling in batches, keep the food that's not being grilled in the cooler.
Use separate platters and utensils for raw and cooked meats to avoid cross contamination.
Keep cold foods cold in a cooler with plenty of ice on top. Store the cooler out of the sun.  Cold foods should be kept at or below 40° F.
Don't eat anything that has been sitting out in the hot sun for more than 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90° F)

You cannot simply look at food and tell if harmful levels of microorganisms have been destroyed by grilling. Use a thermometer to check the temperature:

Poultry should be cooked to 165° F 
Ground beef should be cooked to 160° F 
Pork, beefsteaks and fish should be cooked to 145° F

Some potentially hazardous picnic foods are:

Meat, poultry and fish
Potato and pasta salads
Dips and sauces
Cheese and sausage platters
Produce that has been cut, sliced or peeled
Milk and other dairy products

If you have specific questions about food safety for a picnic or in the kitchen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers “” It presents answers to common questions and a live food safety chat option. 

Get more health and safety information by visiting the Aurora Health Care Facebook page!

Meet the Author

Theresa Glasgow, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition Services at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Milwaukee, WI

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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