Top food safety tips for picnics

Picnics are a great way to enjoy the outdoors and can make for an affordable family day out. Here are some tips to help you to keep your food safe when away from the kitchen.

As a general rule, all foods are suitable for a picnic but keeping large amounts of cooked food and salads chilled when on a picnic can be a challenge. Ready to eat foods need to be refrigerated as they are highly perishable and if not stored correctly could make you ill. Foods that should be chilled include cooked meats, quiches, mayonnaises, prepared salads (e.g. coleslaw, potato salad) and dairy products like cheeses.

Keep it cool

It is essential that food is held at the appropriate temperature during preparation and transport, as warm temperatures can make your food an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

  • A picnic cool bagCooked food needs to be chilled thoroughly in your fridge before you leave
  • Use an insulated cool box/bag with enough ice or icepacks to keep the food chilled (frozen juice cartons can be used as ice packs)
  • Take the food from the fridge at the last moment before you leave and then place it in the cool box/bag straight away
  • Keep the cool box/bag in the coolest part of the car away from direct sunlight e.g. in the boot
  • When you arrive, keep the cool box/bag out of the sun and keep the lid closed as much as you can.  Leave the food in it until you are ready to use it.
  • If any perishable food has become warm then it should not be eaten and should be disposed of carefully.
  • When travelling home if there is still ice left in the cool box/bag, and you are certain that any unused food has not been left out or warmed up, then it should be safe to bring it home
  • However, as always, the rule with leftovers is if in doubt throw it out!

Cook it thoroughly

If you’re cooking outdoors, it is essential that meat is cooked thoroughly.

  • Chicken, pork, burgers, sausages and other meat that has been minced, skewered or rolled should always be cooked the whole way through. This is because bacteria may be mixed throughout the meat, and not just present on the outside, as with steak
  • To check that the meat has been properly cooked all the way through, cut it in the middle with a clean knife to ensure that it is piping hot in the centre, there is no pink meat remaining and the juices run clear.

Prevent cross-contamination

It is surprising how easily germs can be spread from dirty hands, utensils, surfaces and raw foods.

  • If you plan to barbecue, be sure to keep raw food completely separate from ready to eat food, such as sandwiches and salads
  • Place any raw meat in sealed containers at the bottom of the cool box/bag, or in a separate bag if at all possible. This will prevent the spread of germs from meat juices to other foods
  • Use separate plates and utensils for raw and ready to eat foods
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating or drinking, or handling raw meat. If there is nowhere suitable to wash your hands bring antibacterial wipes or gel instead
  • Don’t put food directly on picnic tables or other outdoor surfaces, and don’t allow it to touch the ground
  • Pack away food and utensils when not being used as food poisoning germs can be carried by birds, insects and other animals.