|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
Steven Cohen (202)720-9113
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2002 - "Everything but the kitchen sink" is what picnickers sometimes pack as they begin the summer beach, boating and barbecue season. However, outdoor food gatherings would be safer if picnickers could actually pack the kitchen sink. Foodborne illnesses resulting from cross-contamination rise during this season where food is often consumed away from home.
"The challenge of keeping hands and utensils clean is greater when preparing and eating food without having the use of a kitchen," said Susan Conley, director of Food Safety Education for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. "Cross-contamination can occur when harmful microorganisms from raw meat and poultry are transferred to ready-to-eat foods if cutting boards, hands and utensils are not cleaned properly."
Here are important safety tips to remember when picnicking:
Find out if there's a source of potable (safe drinking) water at your destination. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning; or pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving food is a prime cause of foodborne illness.
Always wash your hands before and after handling food, and don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Soap and water are essential to cleanliness, so if you are going somewhere that will not have potable water, bring it with you. Even disposable wipes will do. Include lots of clean utensils, not only for eating but also for serving the safely cooked food.
It’s essential to keep hot food hot and cold food cold on the way to, and throughout, the meal. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Already-hot summertime temperatures can spike higher in direct sunlight on the beach or in a boat. Food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill more than two hours (one hour when the outside temperature is above 90 °F).
Most bacteria do not grow rapidly at temperatures below 40 °F or above 140 °F. The temperature range in between is known as the "Danger Zone." Bacteria multiply rapidly at these temperatures and can reach dangerous levels. Raw meat and poultry products may contain bacteria that cause foodborne illness. They must be cooked to destroy these bacteria and held at temperatures that are either too hot or too cold for these bacteria to grow.
If bringing hot take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecue, eat it within two hours of purchase. Or plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing it into an insulated cooler. In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, remember to pack a food thermometer to check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When reheating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165 °F.
Carry cold perishable food like hamburger patties, hotdogs, luncheon meats and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food. Perishable cooked foods such as meats, chicken and potato or pasta salads must be kept cold, too.
Store food in the cooler except for brief times when serving. Cook only the amount of food that will be eaten to avoid the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature. Discard any leftovers that have not remained cold.
A new publication from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service helps consumers to safely plan and serve food for outdoor gatherings. Single copies of the 40-page colorful Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer's Guide to Food Safety are available free by writing: Federal Consumer Information Center, Item #604 H, Pueblo, CO 81009. The Cooking for Groups Web page can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/cfg/cfg.htm.
The Spanish version of Cooking for Groups ("Cocinando para Grupos: Guía de Seguridad Alimentaria para Voluntarios") is also available at the same Web page or by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555.
For more information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555. The Hotline’s hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern Time, year-round. An extensive selection of timely food safety messages is also available at the same number 24 hours a day. Information can also be accessed on the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. E-mail inquiries may be directed to MPHotline.firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Further Information, Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-9113
Fax: (202) 690-0460