July 10, 2008

Tips on Food Safety for Outdoor Events

By Lydia Gehring

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! I can't believe July is here, but it brings great opportunities to share special events with family and friends. As you gather the basket, blanket, grill and cooler, I would like to remind you of the following tips from the United States Department of Agriculture to keep your food safe and your family healthy to enjoy the summer activities.

When planning your grocery list, put the perishable items last to buy at the grocery and quickly transport to home.

Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator -- NOT ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER! If your meat is still partially frozen when you're ready to leave, no problem. Just cook it a bit longer at the picnic. Avoid charbroiling or burning items; use foil to place on the grill rack.

Cook everything thoroughly. Hamburger patties, pork chops and ribs should be cooked until all the pink is gone; poultry until there is no red in the joints. Use a meat thermometer to be sure.

Take what you know about kitchen cleanliness out to the grill. If there's no water available, take your own or use wet wipes to clean your hands before working with food. Keep bacteria on raw meat and poultry from spreading. Wash your hands again after working with raw meat or poultry and before handling other food.

Pick up cooked meat and poultry with clean utensils and place onto a fresh plate for serving. Don't re-use utensils, plates, or bowls you used with the raw product, for either the cooked meat or other foods.

Keep all perishable food in a cooler with the ice on top (cold air descends). Ham, potato or macaroni salad, hamburgers, hot dogs, lunch meat, cooked beef or chicken, deviled eggs, custard or cream pies should all be kept cold. For serving, especially for large groups, consider taking a child's inflatable swimming pool along. Fill it with ice and then everyone can put their food items in it to keep them cold. Remember to put food away before spending the afternoon in games or conversation.

For replenishing food, have a replacement dish instead of filling up the current one on the table.

Keep the cooler in the shade with a blanket over it to protect it from the heat. Avoid keeping it in the trunk of the car; if possible transport it in the back seat where it is likely to be cooler.

Put perishable foods back in the cooler as soon as you finish eating. Don't leave them out while you visit, swim, or hike. If the food is left out for more than two hours, discard the leftovers (no more than an hour if it's really hot!). Plan conservatively so that you don't have a lot of leftovers; if in doubt, throw it out!

If you are eating more than one meal outdoors, maybe a second cooler is needed that won't be opened until needed. Consider a separate cooler for beverages.

Pack your picnic basket in the reverse order of items needed. The table covering should be the last thing in and the first thing out. Use plastic or foil to cover an end of the table to provide a clean working area. Keep the foil to wrap up dirty utensils for the trip home.

Eating outdoors is a great experience! Take time to plan your meal and involve your family in the preparation so that everyone gets enough to eat and food is taken care of properly. It's activities like these that create special memories for you and your family members. Take care and have fun!

(c) 2008 Daily Record, The Wooster, OH. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.