Robert Gravani, food safety expert and professor emeritus of food science at Cornell University, says that there are several steps that people can take to make summer picnics safe.

Gravani says:

“Follow safe-food preparation recommendations. The USDA has four key recommendations that can help keep you, your friends and family safe from foodborne illness: Clean, separate, cook and chill.

Clean means wash your hands and surfaces often. Separate means don't cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry apart from cooked foods. When you cook, use a food thermometer to be sure meat and poultry are safely cooked. Finally, remember to chill: Refrigerate or freeze your food promptly.

“When bringing food to a picnic or cookout, use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs so that the temperature in the cooler is at or below 40°F. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source. Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable foods in a separate cooler. Be sure to replenish ice as it melts during the day.

“Hand washing is important. Unwashed or improperly washed hands and surfaces can quickly spread germs and cause foodborne illness. When eating away from home, find out if there’s a source of potable, safe drinking water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning or pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths, moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hand washing, but if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can.

“When cooking on the grill, use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread, and keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook. Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures.

◦ Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a three-minute rest time

◦ Ground meats: 160 °F.

◦ Whole poultry, poultry breasts, and ground poultry: 165 °F.

“When serving food outdoors, remember that perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather – above 90°F – food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour. Serve cold food in small portions and keep the rest in the cooler. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it at 140°F or warmer until served. Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.

“Leftovers and reheating. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than two hours – one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F. When reheating fully cooked meats like hot dogs or hamburgers, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot."