Extension Connection: Ensure a safe and healthy picnic season

There are always ants at a picnic. While you can see ants and avoid them, it&8217;s not always possible to see dangerous bacteria. Before a picnic, be sure you safely pack your basket.

More people become ill from foodborne bacteria during the summer because bacteria rapidly multiply between 40&161;F and 140&161;F. So, food transported without an ice source or left out in the sun won&8217;t stay safe for long.

Follow these tips for packing a safe picnic basket:

Try to plan just the right amount of foods to take. That way, you won&8217;t have to worry about storing leftovers.

Clean preparation is essential. Wash hands and work areas; be sure all utensils are clean before preparing food.

Foods cooked ahead need to be cooked in plenty of time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40&161;F. Pack food from the refrigerator right into the cooler.

If you&8217;re planning on take-out foods such as fried chicken or barbecued beef, eat them within two hours of pick-up.

Don&8217;t put the cooler in the trunk; carry it inside the air-conditioned car.

At the picnic, keep the cooler in the shade with the lid closed and plenty of ice. Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing perishable food won&8217;t be constantly opened and closed.

Place leftover foods in the cooler soon after grilling or serving. Any food left outside for more than an hour should be discarded.

Meat requires special care.

Remove from the cooler only the amount that will fit on the grill. Cook hamburgers and ribs to 160&161;F (medium doneness) or until the center is no longer pink and the juices are clear. Cook ground poultry to 165&161;F and poultry parts to 180&161;F. Reheat precooked meats until steaming hot.

Do not partially grill extra hamburgers to use later. Cook hamburgers until completely done to assure bacteria are destroyed.

When taking foods off the grill, put them on a clean plate. Don&8217;t put cooked food on a platter that held raw meat.

Remember, bacteria can be present in most any food as well as on people&8217;s hands. Safe food handling is essential for safe picnics.