Handling food safely when dining outside is essential to keep you, your family, and your friends healthy. The picnic and barbeque season provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation with friends and family. But these warm weather events also give food-borne bacteria a chance to thrive. When taking food outside the house, food poisoning is a real risk. Long-term removal of food from its usual environments – the refrigerator, freezer, pantry, or sanitised kitchen – can increase the risk of contamination.

Handling food safely while eating outdoors

When eating outdoors at picnics or BBQs, it is important to take extra safety precautions, especially in warm weather. Follow these simple food safety guidelines for transporting food to prepare and enjoy outdoors:

Properly sanitise hands and utensils

Prior to packing food items, ensure both your hands and any utensils and storage containers are clean and sanitized. This prevents contamination during transportation. If handwashing facilities aren’t available at your destination, pack hand sanitiser for use before preparing and eating the food.

Clean food before consuming

When packing your picnic or BBQ food, ensure to properly clean any fruits or vegetables before placing them in the cooler. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables before rinsing them under running water. Dry using a paper or cloth towel.

Keep food cool to avoid contamination

It is important that food is stored at the correct temperature before it is eaten, so freeze cooler blocks ahead of time. Cold food should be kept at approximately 40°F or lower to prevent the growth of bacteria. Some food can be packed into a cool box whilst still frozen to keep it cooler for longer.

Organise your food storage

Effective food storage organisation prevents cross-contamination and the development of bacteria. Ensure any raw meat or seafood is wrapped tightly and kept away from other food items within a cool container.

Keep coolers closed

Avoid opening your cooler frequently throughout the day as this will raise the internal temperature of the box. Keep perishable items in a separate cooler from any drinks and snacks, as these will likely need to be accessed regularly throughout the day.

Pack a food thermometer

A food thermometer can help you to determine whether cooked meat is safe to eat by measuring the internal temperature of the food. This makes it an ideal utensil to bring along to an outdoor BBQ, where sausages, burgers, ribs and more are likely to be cooked on the grill.

Defrost meat, poultry and seafood properly

If you are planning to cook frozen meat, poultry or seafood, ensure it has been defrosted correctly first. To defrost, simply leave the food in the refrigerator or place it in a sealed container before dipping it into cool water.

Marinate safely

Never marinate food outside or on the kitchen counter, as this exposes produce to warmer temperatures and allows bacteria to thrive. Place any meat or seafood in the fridge to marinate, and set aside a portion of the marinade if you intend to use it on the cooked food later on.

Keep food hot until you are ready to serve

Keep cooked food hot to avoid bacteria forming. Move grilled food to the side of the grill rack to keep the temperature high until you are ready to serve – this preserves heat whilst preventing overcooking. The aim is to maintain a temperature of 140°F until it is time to eat.

Separate utensils for different food types

Avoid using the same utensils for different food types as this can lead to cross-contamination. Mark utensils according to their food group, for example, place red labels on the knives and chopping boards used for meat.

Be aware of allergens and dietary requirements

If you are hosting an outdoor event, be aware of food allergens and the ingredients used in any food you serve. Similarly, request any dietary information prior to the event so you can tailor your menu to suit.

Don’t leave food in the ‘danger zone’

Don’t leave food in the ‘danger zone’ for more than two hours – this refers to temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. If food exceeds the two-hour timeframe, it may be contaminated and should be thrown away.

Food safety accreditation online

Want to learn more about food safety while eating outdoors? Get in touch with the Australian Institute of Accreditation for accredited online food safety courses. We take great pride in offering comprehensive training options, open learning pathways, and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee for all our students. Call us immediately at 1300 662 750, or use our online contact form to get in touch.