It's the season for picnics, cookouts and other outdoor parties. But eating outdoors in warm weather presents a food safety challenge.
The risk of foodborne illness increases during the summer months because disease-causing bacteria grow faster on raw meat and poultry products in warmer weather. Bacteria grow best between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
How long can food stay out?
Most of the food you serve at your picnic will only be safe on the table for two hours. If the air temperature is over 90 degrees, food becomes unsafe after only one hour. Once leftovers have been on the table that long, don't keep them – throw them away.
Follow these four simple steps to food safety
- Clean - Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Separate - Don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods and foods that will be served without cooking, like salads.
- Cook - Use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked.
- Chill - Keep cold foods cold.
Get more food safety tips.
Remember: Food poisoning is common. It has been estimated that 48 million Americans get it every year.