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Food Safety When Dining Outdoors

There's nothing like enjoying food outdoors, but you have to be sure you don't put yourself at risk while you're at it.

On The Early Show Friday, registered dietician Keri Glassman gave pointers on packing the cooler for some summer chillin' and grilln' -- and food safety!

Be Clean!

Clean preparation: Wash your hands before preparing food and after you've touched raw meat or poultry.

Avoid cross-contamination (the transfer of bacteria from one place to another) by using different cutting boards, platters and utensils for raw and cooked foods (different colored cutting boards help with that!)

Wash your hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before eating. If you can't, use antibacterial wipes before eating.

Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils, platters and plates.

If you're bringing raw meat or poultry to cook at your picnic, pack it in sealed containers at the bottom of the cooler, so it won't drip onto any other foods.

Don't forget to wash out your cooler between uses. Use warm, soapy water and leave the top open for it to completely dry.

Remember: Melons have been shown to cause food-borne illnesses because of the bacteria found on their rind being transferred to the flesh when they are cut.

Be sure to rinse all your produce -- even those such as melons that you peel!

Package foods in zip-top bags. Other packaging isn't as waterproof, so your foods can get soggy and/or contaminated!

Keep Food Cold!

Keep it below 40 degrees: Above 40 degrees encourages the growth of bacteria.

A block of ice keeps coolers cooler than ice cubes!

You can also use frozen bottles of water to fill in the gaps between items, then drink them as they melt.

Have you heard that freezing water bottles can lead to toxins being released that can cause cancer? This is a MYTH! There is NO scientific evidence supporting it.

If you cook foods ahead-of-time, make sure they're cooled first before putting them in a cooler.

Don't pack your cooler ahead-of-time; pack it just before you leave home with foods that have been stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

A full cooler stays colder than a half-empty one. Use a small cooler if not brining a lot, or fill with more ice.

Don't put your cooler in the trunk (it can get to be up to 150 degrees!), or in direct sunlight.

While traveling, keep it in the air conditioned car with you.

Keep it in the shade or covered with a light-colored tarp or blanket that will reflect the sunlight.

Food shouldn't be out for more than two hours OR one hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees.

Refrigerate any leftovers promptly and in shallow containers. That helps with rapid and even cooling.

Since cold air travels down, remember to put ice on the top of your foods and beverages, as well as on the bottom


Bring PLENTY of cold water.

Keep drinks in a separate cooler -- this one is usually opened more often!

Freeze water the night before.

Kids can get dehydrated quickly and easily when they're running around and forgetting to drink enough. If they're running around and playing games, remind them to take water breaks.

Let kids pick out a special, fun water bottle. They will want to drink more AND will remember which one is theirs!


Don't partially grill meat or poultry to finish cooking it later.

Cook meats thoroughly: Poultry, 165 degrees; Hamburgers, 160 degrees; Beef, veal and lamb, 145 degrees; Reheat cooked hot dogs to 140 degrees.

Don't guess -- use a food thermometer to be sure.

When in doubt, throw it out!!

Remember: Smelling or even tasting a bite of food isn't a reliable way to tell if it has gone bad.

Bring some healthy non refrigerated foods that you do not need to worry about, such as fruit, nuts, popcorn, crackers.

Healthy and less perishable swaps for typically picnic foods:

Potato salad made with mayo as opposed to pasta salad made with whole wheat
pasta or quinoa, cut up veggies and olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Dips made with sour cream as opposed to hummus or salsa

Creamy salad dressings as opposed to oil and vinegar dressing

Mayo as opposed to mustard

Cream pie (or custard?) as opposed to frozen fruit salad; you can even serve it in ice cream cones or as "kabobs"!

Other ideas:

Freeze small boxes of 100 percent juice, cut off the tops and eat with a spoon as ices.

Blend frozen berries with nonfat plain yogurt. Spread onto a graham cracker square. Top with another graham cracker square and freeze.
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