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Keep It Cold—Tips for Safely Transporting Food When It’s Hot Outside

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Summer and cook-outs, picnics, and potlucks go together like peanut butter and jelly or whatever your favorite summer time dish is. Regardless of what’s on your cook-out’s menu, transporting food on a hot summer’s day takes some thoughtful planning and a properly packed cooler because hot temps will heat up cold foods quickly.

According to Diane Van, Food Safety Education Staff Deputy Director, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, cold foods need to be kept at 40 degrees or below Fahrenheit to prevent spoilage.

She notes that perishable foods should move from the freezer or fridge to the cooler, and you should make sure your cooler is filled to its capacity; if the cold foods don’t completely fill the cooler, add more ice until the cooler is packed tightly.

If you have the responsibility of transporting raw meat, seafood, or poultry to the cookout, be sure to pack any or all of that into a separate cooler, advises Van who notes that if these items need to be in a shared cooler, wrap them securely and place them at the bottom of the cooler to avoid contaminating other foods. Van instructs that all foods should be packed in watertight containers.

Since the beverage cooler will be opened constantly, it’s best to keep them in a separate cooler, according to Van.

If you are worried about keeping the proper temperature of the cooler, remember to pack an appliance thermometer and check that the cooler registers at the ideal temperature—40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

“When the temperature outside is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, put perishable food back in the cooler within one hour after eating,” reports Van.

If your cookout or picnic is set at the beach, Van suggests burying your cooler in the sand a bit, covering it with a blanket, and keeping it under the shade of an umbrella.

Practice food safety and your cookout will be all about good food, good friends, and a good time.

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