With summer just around the corner, it’s time to get excited about all the amazing food possibilities that come with beach picnics, backyard barbeques and ghost stories around the campfire. While dining al fresco feels so effortless and carefree, it’s still important and easy to remember proper food safety and how to keep our picnic tables full of delicious and safe food all summer long. We have compiled a few easy tips on what to do this summer when preparing food outdoors.

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  • Clean – When grilling, be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent foodborne illness, don't use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food. Pack plenty of napkins and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands – especially if you are eating barbeque!

  • Cook – Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature. NEVER partially grill meat or poultry and finish cooking later.

  • Separate - When shopping, buy cold food like meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination — which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food — put packages of raw meat and poultry into plastic bags.

  • Chill - When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 °F or below. Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.

To learn other helpful tips from the Food Safe Families campaign (on behalf of the Ad Council, USDA, CDC and FDA) for eating outdoors this summer, check out FoodSafety.gov or visit Ask Karen to get answers to nearly 1,500 common questions in English or Spanish.

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