UACES Facebook Harmful Bacteria grows strong in summer temperatures
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Harmful Bacteria grows strong in summer temperatures

By Olivia McClure
U of A System Division of Agriculture 
July 22, 2016 

Fast Facts:

  • Meat should be kept lower than 40°F
  • It is recommended to store raw meats separate from ready-to-eat foods 

(346 words)

LITTLE ROCK – Summer is a great time for outings, but its warm temperatures are also ideal for the growth of harmful bacteria on picnic foods. 

Serena Fuller, associate professor of Nutrition for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has a few tips for outdoor eating. 

“When it comes to choosing food items for a picnic, first think about the items you would store in your pantry, or at room temperature,” she said. “Those are the foods that do not require special storage in order to maintain safe eating conditions. Adding ‘keep cold foods’ into your picnic however does require special attention.” 

Fuller said that when storing food in an ice chest, it is recommended to keep raw meets and ready-to-eat foods and condiments separate. 

“As you put raw meats in the cooler it is important to know where the meat should go when it comes to depth of ice,” Fuller said. “How to tell where it should go is in accordance with its appropriate safe internal temperature. The higher the recommended temperature the lower down in the ice chest it goes.” 

Chicken, which should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, goes at the very bottom. Ground meats, with a 160-degree cooking temperature should go in the middle. Steaks, with a safe temperature of 145 degrees should go just below the surface and and fish, also with a 145-degree safe temperature should lay across the top. 

“Keeping foods at the appropriate temperature can prevent harmful bacteria growth and make your outdoor experience a good one,” Fuller said. “All meats should be kept at less than 40 degrees F, while waiting to be prepared. 

“After cooking your meat, take a look at the outside temperature, Is it less than 90 degrees?” she said. “If so do not leave ‘keep cold foods’ out longer than two hours. If it is above 90, do not leave those foods out for more than one hour.” 

“Going on a picnic is a great way to enjoy the summer months, but it is important to be prepared and have a plan," Fuller said. 

For more information about summer picnic safety visit or contact your county extension office.


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. 

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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