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Properly preparing a picnic
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The school year is winding down and Memorial Day is just around the corner. Activities such as boating, camping and picnicking are fun ways to experience the great outdoors.

Eating healthy and safe foods make outings more enjoyable. To keep foodborne illnesses off your itinerary, practice these simple and important food safety rules offered by The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension:

* Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold; 40 degrees or lower and 140 degrees or higher. Bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone and reach dangerous levels after two hours. It’s easier to cook foods before leaving home, cool and pack in a cooler with a cold source.

* If cooking outdoors, have a hot campfire or portable stove. Cooking food to the safe minimum internal temperature is vital to destroy foodborne bacteria in meat and poultry products. Pack a calibrated instant-read thermometer.

* Plan ahead for how to wash hands, utensils and clean-up during cooking. Remember, raw meat and poultry juices contain bacteria that can easily be spread by cross-contamination to surfaces, utensils and cooked foods. Soap and water are a must. So bring it along if none is available.

* Add paper towels and disposable wipes to the cleaning supplies checklist. When transporting raw meat and poultry, double wrap it in resealable zipper food storage bags or snap-on lid containers that will not drip raw juices on other foods.

* Don’t put cooked food in containers or on platters that held raw meat or poultry. Keep everything clean.

* You may decide to cook and refrigerate or freeze foods in advance and pack them into coolers with a cold source. Transport uncooked items in a separate cooler with a cold source. This will prevent ready-to-eat foods from coming in contact with raw foods requiring cooking.

* Cold sources can include ice, frozen ice packs, frozen bottles of water and frozen food. Place a refrigerator thermometer in the cooler to make sure it hasn’t reached the danger zone.

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I had the opportunity to meet members of the Gainesville High School NJROTC during the recent American Legion Post 328 Children & Youth Health and Safety Expo.

If you would like to add to your recipe collection, the NJROTC is selling a “Potluck Cookbook.” It features recipes by cadets and their families. It costs only $10.

For information, call 770-536-4441.

Sandra Stringer is a nutrition educator with the Hall County Extension Office 770-535-8290.