Memorial Day is a seasonal marker...time for moving our eating to the great outdoors.The most important thing to remember is keeping foods at their safe temperatures.

Keep outdoor eating safe

Image Couple Bbq Outdoors Image Couple Bbq Outdoors Image Couple Bbq Outdoors

Memorial Day is a seasonal marker….time for moving our eating to the great outdoors. But picnics and barbecues are conducted in warm weather, and that means bacteria get happy and multiply. And that means the possibility for food borne illnesses. The most important thing to remember is keeping foods at their safe temperatures – in other words, hot foods kept hot, and cold foods kept cold.

Food Temperature Safety for the Outdoors:

  • Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or less. Use a roomy cooler with frozen-solid ice packs.
  • Hot foods should be heated to 140 degrees or more.
  • On a hot day, food can only safely sit outside for one hour.

Safe Grilling Tips:

  • Marinate food to be grilled in the fridge or keep in the cooler until grilling time.
  • Partially cook the meat inside, and then finish with grilling outside.
  • Any platters or utensils that touched raw meat should not be used again. Place the cooked meat onto clean platters with clean utensils.

Pack Up Food Safely:

  • Use spacious and roomy coolers so that the food can stay well-chilled.
  • Store beverages in their own cooler since the cooler will probably be opened up more often with everyone grabbing a drink throughout the day.
  • Use small containers for the foods to keep it better chilled. Just set out one small container at a time, keeping the others chilled in the cooler.
  • Only food that is already chilled or comes from the fridge should be stored in the cooler. Putting warm food in the cooler will not chill that food but rather it will warm up the cooler and not adequately keep chilled all of the other food.
  • Rinse your produce before putting it in the cooler.
  • Make sure the ice or frozen gel packs are really frozen solid.
  • Keep the opening of the coolers to a minimum to retain the lower temperatures.
  • Store coolers in the shade or under the picnic table.
  • Take food out in small batches, and replenish with chilled food.

Now don’t forget the disposable hand wipes and clean table cloths to cover the serving and eating surfaces. And of course, trash bags for cleaning up easily are important to detract ants and other bugs looking for waste to nibble on. There is more picnic and cookout safety information at

Recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.