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Avoiding Foodborne Illness at Summer Picnics

When the weather warms up, heading outside for a picnic can be a great way to take in the sun and enjoy good times with family and friends. However, it's important to be careful to avoid the dangers of foodborne illness.

Fortunately, there are a number of strategies individuals can employ to lessen the risks while enjoying an outdoor excursion. If you are hosting an outdoor party for friends and neighbors, follow these tips to reduce your risk and ensure the safety of your guests.

Keep clean 

Dirty hands and surfaces are prime breeding grounds for foodborne illness. Anyone preparing food or helping themselves to dishes shared by others should make sure their hands are washed thoroughly with soap and warm water. This is especially important after using the restroom or handling animals.

Any surfaces where food products are handled should also be cleaned thoroughly. This includes the dishes used to hold food as well as the table on which they're sitting.

Wash and cook 

Food items such as fruits and vegetables should be washed properly, especially those that will be consumed with skin. When it comes to meat and poultry, proper cooking procedures are essential. High temperatures kill harmful bacteria, so it's important to make sure that foods such as beef, chicken and pork are cooked through completely. Using a food thermometer can help with this process.

Separate food 

Storing different foods in the same container can lead to cross-contamination. For instance, raw meat can leak juice onto fruits or vegetables and cause illness. In addition, plates, utensils and cutting boards should never be reused for different foods without being thoroughly washed first.


While high temperatures kill dangerous organisms, cool temperatures will keep organisms from returning. Perishable food items should be chilled if they won't be eaten immediately. If food is being stored in an ice chest, it's important to make sure melting ice is regularly replenished.

Picnics in the sun are a time for fun. Using common sense and clean preparation practices will greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness and liability, thereby increasing safety for everyone involved.