Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What’s the Proper Way to Handle Picnic Food?

Use separate coolers for raw meat, beverages and everything else. Use separate coolers for raw meat, beverages and everything else.

It’s the time of year for picnics and cookouts, but it’s important to keep safety in mind too when heading outdoors to eat.  

“Eating outdoors in the hot summer months makes it prime for food-borne illnesses,” said Rita Smith, a registered dietitian at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. 

If you are planning to head outside to eat or host a cookout this summer, there are several tips you should keep in mind to keep your food - and you - safe. The first rule of thumb? 

“Any food that belongs in the refrigerator belongs in a cooler,” noted Smith. 

It’s also recommended that you have several coolers – one for raw meats, one for beverages, and one for everything else. They should each be loaded with ice or ice packs. 

“Have a big roomy cooler, so you have lots of space for layers of ice, or really frozen hard  ice packs so everything can stay chilled,” noted Smith. 

When it comes to packing up your dishes, several small tubs of each item is best. 

“It’s a good idea to have food packed in smaller containers and then you can just put out one small container of potato salad, the other two or three containers stay covered and closed and in the cooler nice and chilled and you can just make a replacement,” commented Smith.  

Finally, always pay attention to the time – and put food away if it’s been out too long. 

“In the warm weather, food can stay out of the refrigerator or cooler for two hours, but once the temperature is 90 degrees and higher, that drops down to just one hour,” said Smith. 

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health, please email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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