Warm weather is the perfect time for getting together with family, friends, and a feast of favorite summertime foods. Whether you’re planning a backyard barbecue, a picnic on the square, or attending an evening concert in the park, following a few basic food and allergy safety tips will help ensure that every guest enjoys a safe, healthy summer full of wonderful adventures!
Planning an allergy free picnic zone need not be overwhelming. By taking a few thoughtful steps to ensure every guest can enjoy those favorite summertime foods worry free, these festive warm weather gatherings are sure to become some of summer’s best memories!
Wash and Prep Wisely
When preparing foods for a crowd, always wash foods thoroughly under cool, running water. Keep prep areas clean and free of crumbs or juices that may contain bits of allergens that can adhere to other foods.
Make it easy for guests to see which foods and beverages are gluten free, vegan, or may contain peanuts, wheat, dairy, or another food allergen by visibly marking each food with proper labeling. Simply Stamps’ line of food safety stamps are perfect for marking foods that guests with food sensitivities should avoid.
Pack Foods with Care
Keep foods with potential allergy contaminants sealed tightly and packed separately from others. Whenever possible, packing these foods in separate coolers is best. Be sure all allergy-specific foods are clearly labeled to avoid cross-contamination and improper placement on your picnic buffet.
Cook Foods Carefully
When cooking more than one food on a grill, or when using a public grill, cover the cooking surface with aluminum foil to avoid contamination from other foods that may have contained allergens that have been transferred to the grill’s grates.
While hot sunny days and warm summer evenings may be perfect for outdoor dining, warmer weather also creates an ideal environment for the growth of harmful bacteria and other pathogens that can surprise guests with a sudden bout of food borne illness. By carefully following these food safety tips, your summertime meals will be wonderful memories of fun in the sun!
Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds is best, both before and after handling food. Bring along some hand sanitizer just in case a hand washing area is not within reach.
Wash Food Thoroughly
Before packing up your favorite picnic and grilling foods, thoroughly washing them at home will ensure they’re clean and ready when you are, especially if there are no food preparation areas at your destination.
Properly Pack Your Picnic
Picnic baskets are the quintessential summertime accessory, but these stylish carriers are not made to keep your favorite warm weather foods at a safe temperature. To keep perishable foods at the proper temperatures, choose well-insulated coolers packed with plenty of ice. Store coolers away from direct sunlight and keep your chilled beverages in their own containers since these are likely to be opened and closed more often. Be sure to bring along that favorite picnic basket, too, perfect for packing dining plates, silverware, napkins, cups, tablecloths, and other summertime dining essentials!
Cook Foods to Safe Internal Temperatures
Assessing when food is done by color or texture is not an indication of whether it is thoroughly cooked. Always use a food thermometer to be sure that meats, poultry, seafood, and egg dishes are properly cooked to safe eating temperatures. Once prepared, these hot foods should be kept at 145°F or above. Safe cooking temperatures include cooking fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb to 145°F, chicken and turkey to 165°F, and fish to 160°F or until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.
Never thaw frozen foods on an open counter top. Always thaw foods in a refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave oven. Foods thawed in water or a microwave should be cooked immediately. Marinating foods should only be done in the refrigerator. When dining outside, nestle those warm weather salads (especially those made with eggs or mayonnaise) in larger bowls filled with ice for proper insulation.
Avoid the Food Safety Danger Zone!
Food temperatures that fall between 40°F and 140°F have the greatest risk of causing food borne illness. When the temperature outside is below 90°F, foods should not remain within these danger zone temperatures for longer than two hours. If the temperature is above 90°F, this time should not exceed one hour.