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Remember Food Safety This July 4th!

Picnic foods - how do you keep them safe to eat? The following information may help you during the hot summer months. 

Nashville, Ark. – Many people enjoy picnics during the warm summer months and Fourth of July cookouts. Unfortunately, warm temperatures also allow bacteria to grow more easily in food. Therefore, it is important to plan for safety when eating outdoors.

             Keep in mind, perishable foods that have been out longer than two hours should be discarded to reduce the risk of contacting a food borne illness. If the weather is very warm, perishable foods should be discarded after one hour.

            When picnicking in the yard or near the house, foods should be kept in the refrigerator until ready to prepare and serve. If the picnic will be away from home, foods should be kept in an ice chest that is the right size for the amount of food to be carried.

            To safely include meats with a picnic meal, put raw meat, fish, and poultry in plastic bags before placing them in the ice chest. This will prevent the juices of these products from contacting and possibly contaminating other foods, such as produce, which may be eaten without cooking. It is a good idea to keep raw meat products in a separate ice chest from other foods to help prevent cross-contamination.

            Foods will stay at their best if the ice chest is kept as cold as possible. Freezer packs or plastic bags of ice are best to pack around food to keep it cold. You might consider using a separate ice chest for soft drinks, since this chest is usually opened frequently.

            When driving to the picnic site, transport the ice chest in the body of the car, since this area is cooler than the trunk. Once at the picnic site, the ice chest should be kept in the shade.

            When cooking food outdoors, take precautions to assure that the food is thoroughly cooked. Solid pieces of meat, such as steaks and chops, can be eaten rare, but should be cooked long enough to assure they are well-heated on the surface. Hot dogs should be steaming hot throughout. Ground beef and poultry should be cooked thoroughly to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature can be measured using a meat thermometer.

            Eating outdoors offers special challenges in making sure everything that comes in contact with the food is clean.

            If running water is available, wash hands before handling food and again anytime they touch something unclean. Baby wipes or liquid hand sanitizers may be used as an alternative to soap and water. Utensils and dishes used with raw meat, fish, and poultry should be washed before being used with cooked foods or foods that will be eaten without cooking. If running water will not be available, take extra utensils and dishes so there is no need to use the same ones for raw and for cooked products.

            Once back in the kitchen, remove food from the ice chest and refrigerate immediately. Any food that is of questionable safety should be discarded.

            Picnickers should wash ice chests thoroughly, especially if they contained raw meat, poultry, or fish; and allow them to air dry before placing them in storage.

            Assuring safe food is a greater challenge when eating outdoors. However, with a little extra care and planning, you can have safe meals while enjoying the great outdoors.

            For more information about outdoor food safety, please contact the Howard County Extension Office located on the second floor of the courthouse, call me at 870-845-7517 or visit The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture. 

Recipe of the Week

            This recipe was demonstrated at the Farmer’s Market this past week. It uses blueberries and cucumbers, both of which are plentiful right now at the market. The dressing for this salad may be a bit tangy for some people. Cut back on the lime juice or add just a little more sugar or honey!

Cucumber Blueberry Salad



1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper


1 cup fresh blueberries

1 medium cucumber, cut into small chunks

4 cups fresh arugula or spring mix lettuce

¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup crumbled reduced-fat Feta cheese

2 tablespoons coarsley chopped walnuts (toasted optional)


In a small bowl whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.

  1. In a large bowl mix together all salad ingredients.
  2. When ready to serve, add vinaigrette to salad and toss.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories – 212, Total fat – 10g,  Sodium – 368mg, Protein – 7g, Calcium – 143mg, Iron 1mg, Fiber – 4g, Potassium -  303mg

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.