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8 Food Safety Tips for BBQs and Picnics

happy family having a picnic in the park

Fresh air and exercise, friends and family, and coolers of favorite homemade dishes are the ingredients for a happy summer party.

But warmer temperatures help bacteria grow, so it’s more important than ever to practice food safety during the hot summer months.

Keep your food from spoiling by following these safety tips from the US Department of Agriculture:

  1. Wash hands, utensils, containers, and work surfaces before handling food to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading.
  2. Marinate foods in advance, in the refrigerator using a glass or plastic food-safe container.l.
  3. Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut-up fruit and vegetables, and perishable dairy products.
  4. Separate raw meats, poultry, and seafood from ready-to-eat foods including fruits, vegetables, salads, cheeses, and desserts. Use separate coolers, plates, and utensils.
  5. Keep cold food in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Transport the cooler in the passenger area of your car, not in the hot trunk. At the picnic site, cover the cooler with a blanket and place it in the shade.
  6. Throw out leftovers that have been sitting out for more than 1 hour. Store the rest in a cooler that still has ice. If all the ice has melted, throw away the food.
  7. Bring a food thermometer to be sure grilled foods are cooked enough.
  8. Bring hand sanitizer if your picnic site doesn’t have hand-washing facilities.

Healthy eating resources

The USDA FoodKeeper app for Android and Apple devices offers storage and cooking tips for hundreds of food and beverage items.

Good health starts with good nutrition. The American Cancer Society can help you and your family make healthy food choices with our tips and recipes.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.