The summertime is a perfect time for outdoor dining experiences such as a neighborhood BBQ or a family picnic.  In fact, there’s a whole day set aside on the calendar for honoring celebrations such as these.  June 18th is International Picnic Day and I hope you all will join us in celebrating this fun occasion wherever you are!  Socializing with friends and family while enjoying a meal together is a long-standing tradition in many cultures and what better background for this kind of gathering than the beautiful outdoors! Unfortunately, the hot summer temperatures are the prime environment for foodborne bacteria.  I’ve included some helpful food safety tips below to ensure that your next summer gathering doesn’t have any unwanted guests.

Keep cold foods cold: Refrigerated items should be kept at a temperature of 40° F or below. Make sure you have coolers and ice packs on hand to keep all your ready-prepared foods at the proper temperature as you travel.

Keep coolers closed: To keep food and drinks as cold as possible, always keep coolers closed when not in use and try to limit the number of times it is opened and closed.

– Avoid cross-contamination: Keep raw meats separate from all other foods to avoid their juices contaminating any of your other party foods.  If possible, transport them in a separate cooler just to be safe. Remember that raw meats should never be rinsed due to the increased risk of cross-contamination.

– Cook meats to appropriate internal temperatures: Never leave the house without your trusty meat thermometer. (Well, if you’re grilling out at least!) Meats are considered fully cooked when they have reached the appropriate internal temperature.  You can’t just assume that it’s cooked merely by the way it looks – use a meat thermometer to confirm that the meat has been cooked thoroughly. For a listing of the safe food temperatures for various meats, you can visit the FDA’s website at

– Keep food out of the Danger Zone (40° F – 140° F): Bacteria grow most rapidly within this temperature range, doubling in number within 20 minutes.  Remembering to keep “cold foods cold” and “hot foods hot” will serve to keep your friends and family safe from foodborne illnesses caused by these harmful bacteria.  Also remember that foods should not be left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90° F).

I hope you’ll remember these simple yet very important tips about food safety as you enjoy the summer season. Don’t forget to grab a basket and some friends and celebrate International Picnic Day on June 18th!

~Ashlee Overstreet, Director of Dietetic Services