July is National Picnic Month

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

July is National Picnic Month, and the Mercer County Health Department would like to remind you to keep picnic food safe. Summer is the perfect time to pack up the family and enjoy a picnic at your favorite park or vacation spot. When transporting food, follow these simple food safety guidelines:

1. Chill the food thoroughly before packing for an outing.

2. Pack condiments in small containers rather than taking the entire container.

3. DO NOT partially precook meat or poultry for the grill. Precooking is unsafe because the food is not heated enough to kill potential microorganisms in the meat. Meat should be transported raw or thoroughly cooked and eaten cold.

4. Always place leftover foods in the cooler promptly after grilling or serving. Never let food sit out on picnic tables unprotected from insects, unwashed hands and the hot summer sun.

5. The more time that food has been sitting at an unsafe temperature, the more likely harmful bacteria has grown. Discard any leftovers that have been sitting out in the summer heat for more than 1-2 hours.

Picnic foods are challenging because picnic foods receive a lot of handling. Potato or macaroni salads, sandwich fillings, hamburger patties and fresh watermelon receive a lot of handling during preparation. Handling increases the risk of contamination with harmful bacteria. It is important that hands are washed prior to handling food and prior to eating. Summertime picnics are fun. Kick off the July Holiday weekend with a safe cookout with family and friends. If you have any food safety questions, please call the Mercer County Health Department at 309-582-3761.