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Preschool Education Articles

Safe Food Picnicking With Kids

     Children love picnics, but remember, food spoils quickly in the summer heat. In hot weather, it is especially important to pack food carefully to prevent food-borne illness.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for safe and tasty picnics:

     Use commercial ice packs or make your own. To make your own ice pack, take some ice cubes and place them in the kind of plastic bag that's meant for the freezer. Wrap the bag with foil and place either this "ice pack" or a freezer gel pack inside your cooler or bag to keep food cold.

     Make several sandwiches at one time. Wrap each sandwich by itself and freeze it separately. After the sandwiches are frozen, put them all together in a big plastic bag and keep them in the freezer until you're ready to leave. Simple sandwiches like peanut butter, cheese, sliced meat, or poultry sandwiches freeze best.

     When you leave the house, place the frozen sandwiches in your cooler or bag. They will thaw by lunchtime. Put lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise in a separate container and add them to the sandwiches just before you eat them.

     Freeze small cans or boxes of juice or small containers of yogurt or applesauce, and place them in your cooler or bag. The frozen food will thaw by lunchtime.

     Serve safe, warm-weather lunch foods such as fresh or canned fruit, raw vegetables, raisins, crackers, or cookies.

     Pack all food in clean plastic wrap or sandwich bags. 

Here are some tips to help you serve safe food at the picnic site:

Keep the cooler in the shade. Don't leave it in direct sunlight or in the trunk of the car.

Keep the lid on the cooler. Avoid opening the cooler frequently.

Add more ice if the ice begins to melt.

Do not leave food out for more than an hour in hot weather.

Serve food from the cooler quickly.

Serve small portions so the food doesn't stay out of the cooler too long. 

If you plan to prepare food at the picnic site, there are some other rules you should follow:

Keep food cold until you're ready to grill it.

Cook food completely at the picnic site; no partial cooking ahead of time.

Cook food thoroughly; red meat and poultry until it is no longer pink and juices run clear, fish until it flakes with a fork.

Use a clean plate to serve cooked food.

Make sure that juices from raw meat don't come in contact with other foods. 

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Van Horn, J. E. and Horning, L. (1995). Safe food: picnicking with kids. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Family child care connections*, 4(5), Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

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