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Getting food safety right for problem-free picnicking

schedule 15th August 2017 by Emma Brook in Food and Drink Last updated on 24th April 2018

Picnic with wine, grapes and bread

Picnics are one of the best ways for friends and families to bond over food, and in areas where summer sun is a relative rarity, the opportunity to have a picnic doesn't come around too often.

As such, it's important to make sure that your picnic isn't spoiled by food safety issues. Packing, transporting and serving picnic food is a relatively straightforward process, but there are a lot of common mistakes that can increase the risk of food going bad.

By remembering a few simple pieces of advice, though, you can make sure that your picnic experience is problem-free, and that everyone invited can enjoy good food, great weather and even better company without any food hygiene problems arising.

Picking the right containers

When packing food for a picnic, make sure you have the right containers and storage options available to safely transport all of the different food items you're hoping to serve.

The ideal solution will be to bring a portable cooler, as this will greatly expand the number of perishable items you can safely bring with you to the picnic site. It's also important to make sure you bring plenty of containers with lids to assist with temperature control and germ exposure, or to bring thermos containers for items that need to be kept at a specific temperature.

Think about each food item's shelf life

Some types of food are OK to be left out for hours at a time without going bad, while others need to be treated with great care, as even a short spell in the summer sun can render them dangerous.

Popular items such as cooked meat and potato salad actually fall into the latter category, meaning they may not be a great choice without adequate cold storage capabilities - especially if there's a long car ride to the picnic site involved. By contrast, fruits, vegetables, canned or dried meat, bread and biscuits are all very safe options, requiring very little in terms of specific handling requirements.

When making these decisions, also consider the weather conditions - foods will spoil faster on warmer days, so try to avoid unnecessary risks when the sun is blazing.

Remember hand hygiene

Picnics often begin after a little bit of outdoor walking, so it's vital to make sure that any sweat, dirt or other grime is washed off your hands before you start serving up the food.

Larger dedicated picnic sites may sometimes offer running water for the purpose of washing up, but if such facilities aren't available, it's a good idea to bring along some wet wipes, napkins and other such supplies to make sure your hand hygiene standards aren't slipping.

Don't keep any leftovers that have been sitting out

Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to bring back lots of leftovers from a picnic, as food that's been out in the sun is very unlikely to still be safe to eat at a later date. There may be exceptions for items that were stored in a cooler, but as a general rule, you should be looking to eat everything you bring there and then.

As such, you should make sure you've given proper thought to exactly how much food everyone will need at your picnic. By getting the portions right, everyone will be able to have their fill and enjoy a great time outdoors, without having to throw too much away afterwards.


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Emma Brook - Virtual College

Author: Emma Brook

Emma works in the marketing design team at Virtual College and works on a variety of print and digital design projects. In her spare time she enjoys going to gigs and the theatre.

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