Potato salad. Hot dogs. Brats. Hamburgers. Food thermometer. All the fixings for a perfect Fourth of July picnic.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Director of Worksite Wellness Melissa Olson encourages everyone to think of food safety when preparing for the holiday. Olson is also a registered and licensed dietitian.
Olson recommends following these tips from Home Food Safety:
- Wash your utensils and cutting boards. Be sure to wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. And remember to wash your fruits and vegetables before you cut them.
- Separate your raw meats from other foods to avoid cross-contamination, which can cause foodborne illnesses.
- Cook. It is important to cook your meat to the proper temperature. Not sure what that is? Check out this handy chart.
- Refrigerate. You will need to refrigerate leftovers within two hours. If it’s a hot day (90 degrees F or hotter), your time is reduced to one hour. The two hours start from the moment you pull the dish from the grill, oven or the refrigerator.
Olson adds, “The rule of thumb is: When in doubt, throw it out. It’s not worth the risk of getting sick as anyone who has experienced food borne illness will tell you.”
“If you have a food thermometer, you can use it to grill your meat to the proper temperatures and it can also help you monitor keeping your hot foods hot and your cold foods cold,” Olson said. Cold foods should be stored in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs and kept at 40 degrees F.
And when you’re at the picnic, wash your hands as often as you would in food preparation. If water is not available, bring along a jug of water and soap.
Olson also encourages picnickers to put on sunscreen and to reapply if they go into the water. Likewise, wear hats and appropriate sun gear.
And no picnic can be enjoyed if you’re fighting mosquitoes, so be sure to pack bug spray, Olson adds.
By Denise Pinkney, who is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.