Medical Mythbuster: My picnic food will be safe as long as I keep it in the shade

Whether your summer picnic is at the beach or in your backyard, it important to know that just keeping your food in the shade isn’t enough to keep it from spoiling. This is because the bacteria that cause food poisoning are able to multiply very quickly in the heat of summer. You should not just keep food out of the sun, but place it in a cooler or refrigerator that is at least 40 degrees or lower until serving time. Once you begin eating, it’s also important to not let your potato salad, deviled eggs, and pasta salad sit out too long. It’s best to put your food away in a cooler after one hour, especially if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.

Here’s some more tips on keeping your food safe during a summer picnic:

  • Put your picnic drinks and food in separate coolers. Since drinks are accessed more often, this will help limit the number of times the cooler with the food is opened, keeping it cooler.
  • Be careful not to cross-contaminate. Raw meat, poultry and seafood need to be securely wrapped and kept separate from other food. This will help keep any bacteria from uncooked food from contaminating food that you will eat raw, such as fruit or salad.
  • Be sure to rinse your fresh fruits and vegetable under running water before packing them in your cooler. Firm-skinned fruits and vegetables should be rubbed by hand or with a vegetable brush. You can skip washing if your packaged fruits or vegetables are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” or “triple-washed.”

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