Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are working to help keep everyone cool, calm and well all season long.
"If you’re packing a picnic, the recipe for perfect outdoor events includes preparing your food properly. Unless you freeze dishes, don’t prepare your picnic items more than one day ahead," says George Kipa, M.D., deputy corporate medical director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. "Be sure foods like potato salad are quickly cooled after making to retard bacteria growth."
Other tips include:
- Once at the site, keep this and other mayonnaise-based foods cold. One way is to serve it in a bowl kept on ice. The two more common bacteria that cause food poisoning, salmonella and shigella, are always waiting for an opportunity to become uninvited guests and ruin a good time outdoors.
- Keeping food at around 40 degrees in a cooler will prevent bacteria growth. Use commercial frozen packs. Keep cold drinks in a separate cooler from food, Kipa recommends.
- Since the trunk of your car can reach upwards of 150 degrees, try transporting your cooler in the passenger area. Once at the site, store it in the shade or keep a blanket over it for extra insulation. Keep it closed and out of the sun until you’re ready to serve.
- Melons can be a wonderful taste treat at the picnic table, but because they are not acidic, they are good bacteria nurseries, often on the rind. Wash all watermelons, honeydew or muskmelons before cutting and serving, and keep these and all other ready-to-eat foods away from uncooked meats, poultry or seafood.
- Don’t partially pre-cook food and finish cooking the day of the event. Doing so encourages bacteria growth, and reheating does not make it safe, Kipa advises. If you’re serving hot food, keep it hot. Don’t reuse utensils that have touched raw foods unless you wash them in hot, soapy water first.
- Wash your hands as well each time after handling raw foods. Thoroughly cook foods like burgers, and make sure poultry is cooked until juices run clear. Don’t use the same plate to serve meats that you prepared them on unless they’re thoroughly washed first, and never reuse marinades.
- When the party is over, properly refrigerate leftovers and freeze them if you don’t plan to use them within a day. And remember the abiding rule of all good party hosts: When in doubt, throw it out.