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Food Safety Tips for Summer Picnics

Sharon McDonald, MEd, RD, LDN – Senior Extension Educator

Penn State Extension


PHONE: 814-865-6953

According to the FDA “Handling Food Safely While Eating Outdoors,” there tends to be an increase in foodborne illness (food poisoning) during the summer months. Follow their tips to keep food safe.

Packing and Transporting

 Keep food at 40°F or below by packing food directly from the refrigerator to the cooler. Surround

food with ice or freezer gel packs to keep it cold.

 Pack a separate drink cooler so the main food cooler is opened less, and food stays cold.

 Keep coolers in the coolest place possible.

 Bring enough ice to keep coolers below 40°F. Keep a refrigerator thermometer in the cooler to monitor temperature.

 Ideally, pack raw meat, poultry, or seafood in a separate cooler. If not possible, store these items in leak-proof containers and under ready-to-eat foods (e.g., salads, fresh fruit and vegetables, sandwiches) in the cooler.

Set up a handwashing station using a 5-gallon container with a spigot and fill with warm water. Pack liquid soap, paper towels and a bucket to collect wash water. Everyone should wash their hands for 20 seconds before, during, and after handling food. If using a hand sanitizer, apply after washing hands with soap and water.


 Remove meat, poultry, or seafood from the cooler just before placing on the grill.

 Cook only the portion of meat, poultry, or seafood that will be consumed in 2 hours or less.

 Use a clean, properly calibrated thermometer to check the final internal cooking temperature of foods.

 USDA recommends the following cooked food temperatures for food safety: 140°F for hot dogs, precooked sausage or wings, 145°F for shrimp, fish, beef or pork steaks and chops, 160°F for ground beef burgers, ribs, fresh sausage, 165°F for chicken, turkey, and vegan burgers.

 Do not use the color of the meat or its juices to determine doneness; meat that has changed to a"cooked" color or whose juices run clear, may not have reached the proper temperature to kill harmful bacteria.

 Always use clean plates and serving utensils when serving cooked food.


 Remove cold foods from the cooler and hot foods from the grill only when you are ready to eat.

 When possible, place containers of cold foods directly on ice or in a container set in a deep pan filled with ice.

 Hot foods can be kept on the grill to maintain temperature or placed in another type of insulated container.

 Do not let foods sit on the picnic table for more than 2 hours. It the outdoor temperature is 90°F or higher food should not sit out for more than 1 hour.

 If food does sit out longer then throw it out.

Be food safety smart this summer!


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