Keep Your Picnics Safe

With the 4th of July quickly approaching, it’s important to remember to keep your picnic food safe and avoid the dangers associated with keeping food outdoors in the summer heat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers many helpful tips.

Pack and Transport Food Safely

When bringing food to your picnic, it’s vital to ensure food is stored properly during transportation.

  • Keep cold food cold - Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.
  • Organize cooler contents - Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in another so that when people open and reopen the beverage cooler, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures.
  • Keep coolers closed - Once at the picnic site, limit the number of times the cooler is opened to ensure the contents stay cold.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate - Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood securely wrapped to keep their juices from contaminating prepared/cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean your produce - Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables and dry them with a clean cloth towel or paper towel before packing them in the cooler.

Follow Safe Grilling Tips

If you plan on grilling at your picnic, there are important guidelines that should be followed to ensure your food is safely prepared.

  • Check for foreign objects in food - If you clean your grill using a bristle brush, check to make sure that no detached bristles have made their way into grilled food.
  • Marinate safely - Marinate foods in the refrigerator — never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. In addition, if you plan to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion separately before adding the raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Never reuse marinade.
  • Cook food thoroughly - When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready. Always use it to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly.
  • Keep “ready” food hot - Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals. This keeps it hot but prevents overcooking.
  • Don’t reuse platters or utensils - Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food. To keep this from happening, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.


When you’re done with the food at your picnic, make sure to store the food in a cooler to keep the food at a safe temperature. Once you return home, refrigerate leftover meats and salads that have stayed cold. If any of the food has become warm, discard it to avoid any health risks.

For more tips on how to keep your picnic safe this July 4th, visit the FDA’s website

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