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Safe food preparation and serving strategies for picnics and BBQs

1 in 6 Americans develop food poisoning each year, with that number spiking during the hot summer months. While most people recover without lasting effects, 3000 people die each year due to food poisoning.1 To enjoy summertime picnics and BBQs without the risk of food poisoning, follow these 4 basic steps:

  1. Clean utensils, food preparation and cooking surfaces – including the grill or picnic tables – with soap and water. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables under cold running water before cutting, cooking and eating. 
  2. Separate raw meat, chicken and poultry from all other foods by using separate plates and cutting boards. Never use the same cutting board or serving plate for raw meat or any other types of food. Bring raw meat, chicken or poultry to the grill on one plate, and use a separate, clean plate to serve the cooked food.
  3. Use a food thermometer to make sure that meat is cooked to a safe temperature. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the food to get the most accurate internal temperature. Use these guidelines:
    • Cook beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, roasts, and chops to 145°F.
    • Cook ground meats to 160°F.
    • Cook whole poultry, poultry breasts, and ground poultry to 165°F.2
  4. Refrigerate cold foods and leftover cooked foods promptly. If the temperature is over 90°F chill foods within one hour. If the temperature is below 90°F chill foods within two hours.1

Special tips for summertime:

  1. If you don’t have access to running water where you’re preparing food, cooking or eating bring a jug of water, soap, and paper towels so that you can wash your hands and preparation surfaces.2
  2. Keep cold food cold outdoors by using an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Or fill clean plastic bottles or milk containers with water and freeze, and place these in the insulated cooler.
  3. A full insulated cooler will stay cold longer than one that is only partially filled. Place the cooler out of direct sunlight so that the food inside stays cold for a longer period of time.1
  4. Always use a fresh, clean plate and utensils for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.1
  5. Do not leave perishable food such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products or cooked foods out of an insulated cooler or refrigerator for more than two hours.  In hot weather above 90°F, do not leave food outside a refrigerator or insulated cooler for more than one hour.1
  6. Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the insulated cooler.  
  7. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot at 140°F or warmer until serving by sitting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where it can overcook.1


  1. Foodsafety.gov. Keep Food Safe: Summer and Vacations. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/events/summervacations/index.html  Accessed 7-22-17
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Eating Outdoors, Handling Food Safely. https://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm109899.htm Last updated 7-7-17. Accessed 7-24-17