Keeping food safe at a picnic

When taking food outdoors, it’s easy to let your usual practises slip. The time between preparing dishes and eating them tends to be longer than normal and food can become unsafe to eat if left out for more than two hours. So plan ahead to keep your food cool until you’re ready to eat, and follow our tips to keep food safe when out and about this summer.

man and woman eating at barbecue party

When taking food outdoors, it’s easy to let your usual practises slip. The time between preparing dishes and eating them tends to be longer than normal and food can become unsafe to eat if left out for more than two hours. So plan ahead to keep your food cool until you’re ready to eat, and follow these tips to keep food safe when out and about this summer.

1. Clean up first

Rinse fresh fruits (including those with rinds) and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cool box.

2. Keep cold food cold

Place cold food in a cool box with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at below 5°C to prevent bacterial growth.

3. Organise your cool box

Pack drinks in one cool box and perishable foods in another. If using freezer packs (frozen drinks work well for this purpose), distribute them throughout the box – not all at the bottom!

4. Keep your cool box closed

Once at the picnic site, limit the number of times the cool box is opened as much as you can. This helps to keep the contents cold for longer.

5. Pack away your picnic

Once you’ve served it, dishes should not sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if it’s very hot outside. After this, the risk of bacteria increases and it becomes unsafe to eat, so best to throw it away when you get home. Pack away food so that your guests are not tempted to nibble later. To reduce waste, pre-plan portion sizes according to the size of your party and only pack what you need.