When you’re planning a summer picnic, you want your biggest concerns to be avoiding ants and rain. However, without the proper food safety precautions, an innocent picnic can lead to big health problems.
As you age, your body becomes less capable of resisting food borne illnesses or food poisoning. From small changes like a decreased sense of smell that makes recognizing spoiled food more difficult, to larger changes like the liver and kidney not functioning as well to rid the body of toxins, food safety becomes a more complicated issue.
However, that’s not to say you should shy away from enjoying a summer meal stretched out on a picnic blanket. Use these six tips from AARP to make sure your picnic is fun, safe, happy, and healthy.
6 Tips for Summer Safety, Picnic Style!
- Be prepared to handle perishables. While the safest option is to pack foods that don’t need refrigeration, if your picnic does contain perishables, make sure you’re prepared. Forgo the traditional picnic basket in favor of a cooler and ice packs and make sure your food is packed in airtight containers.
- Be suspicious of spoiling. If you’re concerned that a food might not be safe for consumption, always err on the side of caution. It’s better to risk wasting food than to risk your own health. Use your senses to smell, touch, or tentatively taste for freshness—then get a second opinion if you’re still not sure.
- Wash your hands. Eating with clean hands when you’re eating outdoors can be a bit of a challenge. Do your best to locate a sink and warm water to wash up before eating and pack hand sanitizer just in case.
- Be wary of cross-contamination. If your picnic includes grilling out, you’re probably packing raw meat like hot dogs or hamburgers. In order to avoid cross-contamination, pack your raw foods in separate containers and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling.
- Use smaller containers. For your perishable picnic items like potato salad, pack several small containers instead of one large container. That way, you can serve from one container while the others stay packed away in your cooler away from the heat.
- Watch for expired condiments. Since condiments tend to enjoy a long shelf life, their expiration dates can often go unnoticed. Make sure to check dates before packing up your picnic basket and throw out any condiments that are past their prime.
Outdoor dining can be one of the nicest perks of the summer—just make sure you’re being cautious with food safety so your picnic doesn’t turn into a trip to the doctor. Beyond food safety, make sure your picnic basket also includes lots of water to keep you hydrated and sunscreen to protect your skin!
Need help packing your picnic basket? Our guide “Feed Your Body Right: Nutritional Needs After 50” outlines the foods you should be eating to stay healthy as you age.