It’s the middle of summer, and even though temperatures are peaking in the 90-degree range, we still enjoy being outdoors. Whether you are packing a picnic lunch to travel to the ballpark or playground, or planning for that Fourth of July cookout, here are a few food safety guidelines from the LSU Ag Center that you should consider following. 

Pack a safe picnic

For a simple picnic:

• Make sure the cooler is filled with ice or ice packs.

• Return chilled foods to the cooler right after serving.

• Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before handling food.

• Adults should supervise handwashing for children.

• Make sure you have lots of paper plates, napkins, utensils and clean dishes to hold foods.

For a cookout:

• Separate storage bags and containers during transportation, and make sure the containers are sealed properly so raw meat and poultry juices do not leak onto fruits, vegetables, and cooked foods. 

• Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before handling food. 

• Use a food thermometer to make sure you cook foods to a safe internal temperature.

• Return leftovers to the cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs within two hours of serving — one hour if the day’s temperature is above 90 degrees.

Pack a healthy picnic

For a simple picnic:

• Pack your picnic basket with lots of colorful, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

• Use raw vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini and celery as appetizers and serve hummus or salsa as a dip.

• Prepare cool salads filled with chopped vegetables and tossed with light, low-fat dressings instead of potato salads and pasta salads.

• Choose drinks like water or 100 percent fruit juice instead of sugary sodas.

• Serve sandwiches or burgers on 100 percent whole wheat bread or buns to add whole grains.

• Try angel food cake topped with fresh berries for a refreshing dessert.

For a cookout:

• Take along vegetables like colorful peppers, zucchini, onions and Portobello mushrooms to put on the grill.

• Grill burgers made with lean beef or ground turkey breast or go for a veggie burger.

• Dress grilled burgers with lots of fresh vegetables, like lettuce and tomatoes, and use avocados in place of mayonnaise.

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