Picnics and BBQs are a great way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. This summer, most of us will find ourselves grilling burgers or preparing salad to bring to a cookout. Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful handling food for these events, foodborne bacteria can multiply, putting you and your family at risk of illness. Keep reading for safe food handling tips:
- Keep your hands clean
- Use soap and water to wash your hands thoroughly. Always wash your hands before and after handling food, after using the washroom and after you sneeze, cough or blow your nose. Use a camping jug with a spout if safe running water is not available near the food preparation area.
- Stay cool
- Use a cooler filled with ice to store your perishable food at 4°C or less during transport and when outdoors. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often. Don’t keep food outside for more than one hour on hot summer days.
- Prepare ahead of time
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before you put them in the cooler to transport. Make sure you bring enough utensils and plates and use a clean set for serving cooked foods. Never reuse platters or utensils that have touched raw meat.
- Organize your food
- Keep raw meat separate from other foods in tightly sealed containers or resealable plastic bags. Put raw meats at the bottom of your cooler to keep juices from dripping onto other food. If possible, use separate coolers to store raw meats and ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook meat thoroughly
- Meat must be cooked to a safe internal cooking temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Use a probe thermometer to make sure you have cooked your food to a safe internal temperature. Remember - examining the colour of meat is not a reliable way to check if it’s done cooking.
You can teach food handling skills from an early age. Get young children in the habit of washing their hands before and after they eat. Children can also help with food preparation. Involving them in food preparation not only presents an opportunity to teach safe food handling, but also helps develop healthy eating behaviours. My two-year-old son enjoys watching me cook dinner and sometimes he’ll get involved by stirring or mashing foods. It’s usually a messy endeavor, but I know he’s having fun and learning!