May 30, 2014

Beware of the picnic trip

Search for that picnic hamper you put away last year give it a good clean. Check and clean the plates and cups check on the thermos flask is still keeping the water hot.

It’s a lovely day and what better way to spend your time than loading up the car and setting off to the countryside for a family picnic.  But first let’s stop and think of some of the hazards that may spoil a great day out…

In practice, there are many picnic safety elements to take into consideration to ensure your day is as enjoyable and trouble free as possible.  It is advisable to firstly pick a suitable place to put the picnic blanket or set up the barbeque; check the ground and surrounding area before laying out the blanket and unpacking the food and drink.

If you take children they will want to explore climb and find new friends in other picnickers; this means wandering off and only missed when food is being served or you think it’s very quiet all of a sudden.  It is not only toddlers that can go missing, younger children and teens will also wander off to find new horizons.

Walk round the area with the children if you intended to let them explore out of your sight check to see if there are any particular dangers such as unguarded water, ditches, pits etc.

It is also worth checking out the fauna and flora which can also be a real concern; brambles nettles thorn bushes etc. can ruin the day if children end up being injured.  It may be worth giving the children a whistle to use in emergency.

The insect life was there before you so check out for hives nest or mounds where they may have set up home because your loving prepared food will attract them for sure.

Take care of your skin, remember sun screen lotions and hats – sunburn can be very serious particularly for the young or elderly so put the sun screen and hats on as early as possible.   If you are not used to the rays, make sure you use a high protection sun screen.  Wearing a hat will help protect against nausea and dizziness from too much sun.

Having a picnic and enjoying  BBQ food outside on a hot sunny day with good friends and a few drinks can be the highlight of summer but remember food hygiene when preparing ,packing and serving – these warm weather events present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive.

Food Safety begins with proper hand cleaning and before you begin setting out your picnic, ensure that hands and surfaces you are putting food on is clean.

As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly.  To protect yourself, your family, and friends from foodborne illness during warm-weather months:

  • Preparing food  – Clean produce by rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before packing them in the cooler , this includes those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush.
  • Pack and transport food safely – Keep your food safe: from the refrigerator/freezer all the way to the picnic table.  If you pack your food in the now popular cooler boxes consider packing beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another. That way, as picnickers open and reopen the beverage cooler to replenish their drinks, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to warm outdoor air temperatures remember to keep it closed.

Eggs, raw meats, poultry and fish, keep them separate to prevent cross contamination.

Cold perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40° F = 4.44 C or below until serving time.  Once served do not leave it exposed to the heat of the day if it spoils discard it one idea to keep things cool is to keep them in ice drain away melting ice.

HOT FOOD should be kept hot, at or above 140° F = 60 C. The hot food should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container until serving. Just as with cold food – these foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F.  If food is left out longer, throw it away to be safe.

  • Follow Safe Barbeque Tips – Grilling and picnicking often go hand-in-hand and just as with cooking indoors, there are important guidelines that should be followed to ensure that your grilled food reaches the picnic safely.

Cook food thoroughly.  When it’s time to cook the food, have your food thermometer ready.  Always use it to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly.

Keep “ready” food hot.  Grilled food can be kept hot until served by moving it to the side of the grill rack, just away from the coals.  This keeps it hot but prevents overcooking.

Don’t reuse platters or utensils.  Using the same platter or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood allows bacteria from the raw food’s juices to spread to the cooked food.  Instead, have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side to serve your food.

Check for foreign objects in food.  If you clean your grill using a bristle brush, check to make sure that no detached bristles have made their way into grilled food.

Remember if you are using a gas fire Bar B Que in a confined space you can produce Carbon Monoxide so ensure all equipment is checked and the area is well ventilated; you should also ensure there is a cooling down period before putting the BBQ away.   If possible have a bucket of Water or Extinguisher on hand.

  • Serving Picnic Food: Keep it COLD / HOT – Keeping food at proper temperatures – indoor and out – is critical in preventing the growth of foodborne bacteria.  The key is to never let your picnic food remain in the “Danger Zone” – between 40° F   =4.44 C and 140° F – 60C for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90° F. = 32C  This is when bacteria in food can multiply rapidly, and lead to foodborne illness.

You may bring the family pet along for the day and the children may be safe playing ball with it but not all animals are the same and some can turn nasty when children play ball around them Remember if you do bring the family pet and put it in the car for part of the day it needs water and air car can become like an oven very quickly even on cloudy sunny days.

Most of us love animals and you are likely to come across various species whilst picnicking. You should make sure children are educated about proper behavior towards animals, both the wild ones and the ones which belong to other picnicking families.  Many have little appreciation of the hazard posed by E. coli O157 or on how to avoid infection.  It is therefore important that everyone on starting a visit to an open farm, particularly those with children, is made aware that:  E. coli O157 should be assumed to be present in the faeces of all ruminant animals and on the animals themselves and on many surfaces.  A very small dose can cause infection.  Hand washing with soap and water is the most effective method of reducing.

In the event of an accident occurring you may want to have packed a first aid kit and any additional medicines that you can think of.  Whilst we look at picnics in a domestic environment, it is worth highlighting that when out door events such as picnics and BBQs etc. are managed and arranged as a works social event and all relevant Health and Safety Food Safety legislation risk assessments will still need to be implemented.

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