Everyday Wellness: Picnic perfect

July 19, 2012

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Keep your picnic perfect and stop the "summer bug" caused by food-borne illnesses.

Follow these food safety tips to help stop the bacteria that cause vomiting, diarrhea and the other intestinal symptoms associated with food-borne illnesses:

* Discard any food that has been left out longer than two hours. Bacteria begin to grow quickly after two hours.

* Take just enough food so you don't have to worry about leftovers.

* Thoroughly chill any precooked foods before you put them in a cooler.

* Be extra careful with salads that use mayonnaise. Cool cooked ingredients (like chicken, eggs or potatoes) to 40 degrees before mixing with mayonnaise.

* Eat takeout foods like fried chicken within two hours, or buy them ahead of time and chill before putting in coolers.

* Put the cooler inside your air-conditioned car, not the trunk. Keep it in the shade at the picnic site. Pack foods that you plan to eat first on top to cut down on openings and closings. Use a separate cooler for drinks.

* Never put cooked meat on a surface that held raw meat unless the surface has been thoroughly washed with soap and water.

* Cook meats to the proper temperature: burgers (well-done), ribs, and hot dogs to 160 degrees; whole chicken to 180 degrees; ground poultry or chicken breasts to 170 degrees.

Sources: Iowa State University Extension Food Safety Project; National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse