Picnic Safety Tips

Whether camping, going to the beach or park for the day, or just hanging out in your own backyard, picnics are a fun way to enjoy eating outdoors. Unfortunately, summer weather also creates the perfect opportunity for bacteria to grow on foods that aren’t handled properly.

To help protect yourself and fellow picnickers from foodborne illness, practice the following safe food handling tips:

Store and Transport Perishable Foods Properly

Put perishable foods such as hot dogs, cut fruits and salads in individual containers and place on the bottom of the cooler with ice packs on top. This provides the best insulation for foods that need to remain cool and helps prevent cross-contamination.

Transport uncooked meats in a separate cooler from ready-to-eat foods

Put Cold Drinks in a Separate Cooler

By placing sodas, bottled water and other drinks in a cooler by themselves, you’ll avoid frequent opening of the cooler containing perishable foods.

Carry Coolers in the Car’s Passenger Area

Keeping coolers in the passenger area instead of in the trunk allows the air conditioning to help keep the contents cool.

Avoid Taking Dishes That Contain Uncooked or Unpasteurized Eggs

If you plan on making a dish that contains a homemade salad dressing or mayonnaise, use pasteurized eggs or egg products. Food items containing properly prepared homemade or store-bought mayonnaise need to be kept cold until just before serving.

Wash Melons Prior to Serving

Bacteria can be present on the exterior of melons and can be carried into the edible section when cutting it.

Don’t Prepare Food More Than One Day Before Your Picnic

Unless you plan to freeze cooked food, don’t make it well in advance of your picnic. Cooking foods in advance allows for more opportunities for bacteria to grow. Be sure to reheat pre-cooked foods to at least 165º F before serving.

Remember the One-Hour Rule

Don’t consume perishable foods that have been sitting out beyond an hour on days where the temperature is over 90º F.  On cooler days, perishable foods should be returned to the cooler or discarded if not eaten within two hours.

Throw Out Leftovers

Since most picnic leftovers have been sitting out for more than an hour or two and have had many people handling them, throw them out. The longer that food sits out at unsafe temperatures, the more likely harmful bacteria will grow.

Wash Hands Before Eating or Handling Food

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating or handling food. If there’s no source of clean water, bring soap, water and paper towels or use disposable wipes or a hand sanitizer.

Consumer Resources Mailing List

Receive NSF consumer updates.

View Mailing List Archives

close