Eating Outdoors – Staying Food Safe in Spring and Summer

With temperatures starting to rise across much of Canada, it’s a great opportunity to dine outdoors with picnics, barbecues and patio dining all popular options.
May 25, 2018

With temperatures starting to rise across much of Canada, it’s a great opportunity to dine outdoors with picnics, barbecues and patio dining all popular options. In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can stay food safe when dining outside of the home.

Control food temperatures

Food that you’d normally keep refrigerated can start to harbour dangerous levels of bacteria if left outside for too long. Here are some tips for ensuring these types of food are safe to eat:

  • Keep food cool. Use a cooler or ice blocks next to the food to keep temperatures low.
  • Don’t transport food in the trunk of your car as it can get extremely hot. Keep food in the passenger part of your car where airflow is better.
  • Serve high risk foods quickly. If it’s something that you’d normally refrigerate, consume it within two hours.
  • Throw out any food that’s been out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
  • If you’re cooking food on the barbecue, use a probe thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. Meat must be cooked to at least 75°C / 167℉ for two minutes or longer and served at a temperature of 60°C / 140℉ or above.
  • Always cook items made of ground meat (such as burger patties and sausages) all the way through. Never leave these items pink inside.

Keep things clean

Eating outdoors is a lot of fun but it does provide more opportunities than usual for food to become contaminated.

Often the items we use to transport and serve food outdoors aren’t used that often and so bacteria may have had a chance to reach dangerous levels since the last use. Follow these rules to be sure you’re not contaminating food that you prepare and serve:

  • Wash coolers and picnic blankets in hot soapy water and allow to air dry before use.
  • Clean barbecues thoroughly. Even if you gave your barbecue a good clean at the end of last barbecue season, bacteria may have had a chance to grow in hard-to-reach grooves and cracks since the last use.
  • Wipe down picnic tables with detergent and/or use a clean tablecloth on the table to prevent the spread of bacteria from table to food.
  • Clean utensils, plates and serving equipment before use.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently – especially after touching outdoor furniture or equipment that may not have been used for a while.

Don’t cross-contaminate

It’s easy when barbecueing to cross-contaminate between raw and cooked food, so always:

  • keep raw food well away from ready-to-eat foods such as salads and bread
  • use separate serving utensils for uncooked and ready-to-eat foods
  • use plates or bowls that have not had uncooked foods in them to serve cooked foods

With a little care and effort, it’s easy to enjoy dining outdoors safely. Enjoy the sunshine and happy outdoor dining!