Keep summer picnic food fresh and healthy

Picnic and barbecue season offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. But these warm-weather events also open the door for food safety issues that might just spoil the party! As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly – so knowing how to keep picnic food fresh and safe is a must.

Packing and carrying food to your picnic site

  • Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or cooler. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
  • Organize cooler contents. Consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.
  • Keep coolers closed. Once at the picnic site, limit the number of times the cooler is opened as much as you can. This helps to keep the contents cold longer.
  • Wrap meats and seafood separately. Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped. This keeps their juices from getting into prepared/cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean your produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing. Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth towel or paper towel. Packaged fruits and veggies that are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple washed” need not be washed again.

Setting up food outdoors:

Food safety starts with clean hands, even when you’re “roughing it” outdoors! Before you set out your feast, make sure your hands and all surfaces are clean. If you don’t have access to running water, use a water jug, soap and paper towels or bring moist disposable wipes.

Keep utensils and serving dishes clean as you prepare your food. Keep foods out of the sunlight whenever possible and cover with foil, plastic wrap or seal in containers.

Fresh and fabulous, delivered right to you!

These helpful picnic tips come to you from Jerry’s Kitchen, your local catering experts in Doylestown and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. If you’re planning a special summer picnic, whether for a few or a few hundred, we’re happy to bring the party to you! Our catering team goes everywhere in the Greater Philadelphia area, so please call us for menus and ideas for your next outdoor event.


US Food & Drug Administration

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