It is the time to remind everyone of food safety procedures. First, let me report there is no such thing as the “5 second rule.” If something falls to the floor, dirt or ground, the bacteria do not wait for five seconds before contamination.
Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands. And I repeat, wash hands when handling food and ice. Foodborne illness outbreaks come from germy hands. Warm water and plenty of soapy hand scrubbing is the way to stay safe. Hand sanitizers are not substitutes for clean hands but they are better than nothing.
Usually the biggest error in backyard barbecuing is putting cooked meats on the plate that held the meat before it was cooked. Take two plates out to the grill. Always keep raw and cooked foods separate.
Put a serving utensil into each food and use it. Dirty fingers could introduce unwanted bacteria to your party. Switching tongs or a spoon from food to food could lead to cross-contamination.
Food needs to be kept above 135 degrees Fahrenheit or below 41 degrees. Food stored between the temperatures of 41 degrees and 135 degrees allows bacteria to grow. This is called the temperature danger zone. Keep food safe.
If menu items are kept at room temperature or above 70 degrees for more than four hours throw them away. Large food roasters can keep hot foods hot but be careful that a high temperature does not overcook the item. Mushy potatoes may be safe but not the same quality after six hours at 300 degrees.
Keep a food thermometer on hand. Follow the directions to calibrate it and use it. Most people keep their refrigerator above 32 degrees and below 41 degrees. I recommend setting your refrigerator at 37 to 39 degrees to allow for temperature fluctuations when the door is opened.
Perform this test on the thermometer before each use. Open a refrigerated cold drink and put the food thermometer in it to check the temperature. If it reads 41 or below, the thermometer is most likely accurate; this is not scientific but better than nothing.
Cooking and serving food outdoors needs special attention to assure safe temperatures. If the predicted weather will be above 70 degrees, keep plenty of ice around. A kiddie swimming pool filled with ice makes a nice makeshift storage for salads to keep them cool.
The important thing to remember is to leave your guests with pleasant memories of an outdoor party. Do not have uninvited bacteria at the picnic. Practice safe food handling.
Picnics are for fun, not feeling funny. Gastrointestinal issues can be avoided with a few food safety precautions. Hot foods need to remain hot and cold foods need to stay cold.
The 5 second rule has sent many picnickers to the bathroom or the Emergency Department. That’s no way to have summertime fun.
Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator in Wooster. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org