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Keeping picnic foods safe

Ants aren't the only thing that ruin a picnic. Getting sick from the food isn't fun either. Make sure you keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold to beat the bacteria.

Radio interview source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Extension Food & Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University

 
Whenever you pack a picnic, it's best to separate each food into its own container.
 
Julie Garden-Robinson is an extension food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University. She says picnic safety starts before you leave the house. Find out if the place you're going has a safe water source. If not, bring your own, or some moist towelettes for cleaning hands and surfaces. Pack food in two separate coolers.
 
"You'll want to have one for your meats and one for your ready-to-eat foods including soda pop because you don't want to get the meat juices on those foods that are ready to eat," she says. "And then be sure that you pack enough clean utensils and dishware so that you can have nice clean things to use at your place."
 
It's important to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. Serve grilled foods immediately, and don't let them sit out for an extended time. Garden-Robinson says it may only take an hour for hot items to fall into the temperature danger zone, where bacteria start to grow. Keep food either below 40-degrees or above 140-degrees.
 
Meat isn't the only item to worry about. Fresh, cut-up fruit such as cantaloupe and watermelon are potentially hazardous.
 
"They can grow bacteria, they can make you sick," says Garden-Robinson. "So you want to keep the watermelon and canteloupe and other fruits that are cut up cold. On the other hand, if you bring along whole fruits like apples, you can leave those out at room temperature and you're perfectly fine."
 
When people do get sick, they often blame the mayonnaise in the potato salad. But Garden-Robinson says mayonnaise is quite acidic and not a habitat for bacteria. Illness is more like caused by raw ingredients such as onions or potatoes.
 

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