How to pack picnic food safely

July 28, 2015

How-to guide on packing picnic food safely

A picnic in the park is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, but having food out in the hot sun can be a health risk. With careful preparation, picnic food will arrive at its destination fresh, wholesome and intact.

How to pack picnic food safely

How to pack your food

If you picnic often, invest in good-quality containers. And don't forget to include napkins, utensils and condiments too.

  1. Choose plastic containers with replaceable lids. Each can contain a personal "mini meal" such as a salad. Or, wrap food well in foil or cling film to keep it fresh and insect-proof.
  2. Pack food in coolers or bags. If you're taking both hot and cold food, have one box or bag for each. Keep food extra cool with sealed bags of ice cubes or cooled freezer packs. If you don't have a cooler, line a picnic bag or basket with a large sheet of bubble wrap plus cans of pop or bags of ice cubes – they will keep food cool for an hour or so.
  3. Thermos flasks are ideal for hot or cold drinks. Choose a wide-necked thermos for soup.
  4. On a hot day, pre-freeze sandwiches and yoghurt and put directly into the cooler. They will defrost as you travel. Avoid foods such as egg mayonnaise, potato salad, fish and pasta and rice dishes, which are most prone to food poisoning bacteria.

Safe food storage

To store food safely you need to control the multiplication of bacteria, which contaminate food and produce harmful toxins. Similar toxins are also produced by the molds (fungi) that flourish on poorly stored food.

In the fridge

  • Keep the temperature no higher than 5°C (41°F) to help to prevent bacteria and molds reproducing.
  • Store dairy foods at the top of the fridge or in the door space.
  • Cover cooked foods with cling film or store in sealed containers at the top of the fridge.
  • Cool cooked foods before storing.
  • Store raw meats on the bottom shelf, below cooked foods.
  • Don't mix different meats in the same container, or meat with fish.
  • Keep fruit, vegetables, dairy and any food that won't be cooked away from raw meat and fish.
  • Keep fruit and vegetables in salad drawers.
  • Put fresher items behind older ones to use them in order.
  • Once opened, transfer perishable foods, such as canned goods, to the fridge. Always follow the storage instructions on a product's label.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, even when shopping and unpacking your groceries.
  • To avoid contaminating food or spreading bacteria, never use the same knife for different kinds of food unless you wash it thoroughly in between. Keep a separate chopping board just for use with raw meat and poultry.

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