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On a gorgeous day, who doesn’t love a picnic? Picnics and cookouts can be a great way to have fun with friends and family in the summer…unless someone gets sick from the food. Don’t let anything get in the way of your summer celebrations. Just take some simple safety precautions, and enjoy dining in the great outdoors!

• After eating at a picnic, are you ever tempted to go back for seconds a few hours later? Not a good idea! Summer weather  provides the perfect temperature for bacteria to grow in food that isn’t kept chilled, which can cause food poisoning and illness.

• Keep your cool! In addition to bringing plenty of clean utensils, paper towels and trash bags, don’t forget a cooler filled with ice. If you are planning to use frozen meat, fish or poultry for the grill, it should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight —NOT on the counter. For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag, put it in cold tap water, and change the water every 30 minutes until the food is thawed.

• Before preparing foods, wash your hands. If a sink is not going to be available, be sure to bring hand sanitizer or hand wipes.

• In 90° temperatures or above, food should not be out of the cooler for more than an hour. Foods that are the most likely to be affected by bacteria include dairy products, meat, fish, coleslaw, potato salads, egg salads, and unwashed fruits and vegetables.

• If there are any leftovers, pack them in the cooler and make sure to refrigerate them as soon as you get home.

Summer seems to go by quickly, so enjoy picnic season—the safe way—while you can!

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