Dr. Keith Schneider, a professor of food science and health nutrition at the University of Florida.

By Makenzie Atkins

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, about 150 million hot dogs will be consumed on Independence Day. Most of these hot dogs will be devoured at picnics or outdoor barbecues. The question is, do you know how to safely prepare and store your picnic foods? Dr. Keith Schneider, a professor of food science and health nutrition at the University of Florida, helped us learn more about food safety before Independence Day picnics to avoid getting sick this summer.

According to Dr. Schneider, if you plan on bringing raw meats to cook on an outdoor grill, make sure they are prepared before you leave home. When getting ready to pack raw meat, you should place it in a separate container and then in a cooler. Using a separate cooler entirely is the best way to avoid contamination.

When it comes to warm side dishes like macaroni and cheese or baked beans, you must be careful with how long they sit out in the heat. Perishable foods should only be left out on the picnic table for up to two hours. If perishable side dishes might be out longer than two hours, always come prepared with a way to keep them cool. For cold side dishes that have mayonnaise mixed in, you need to be especially careful. While commercially produced mayonnaise does not need to be refrigerated, once it is mixed with eggs, potatoes or pasta, it can be very dangerous if not kept cool.

Make sure you are not “using the same plate or tongs to put the raw food on the grill and to take the cooked food off,” said Dr. Schneider when telling us about safety rules people tend to forget. “Use a clean plate and tongs for cooked food.”

Staying clean can also be hard when picnicking outside. Washing hands with soap and water is always the best choice, but if this is not possible, using hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Not washing your hands or using hand sanitizer is not an option if you want to stay healthy.

With all the tips and tricks out there, its hard to remember everything when having a picnic or barbecue outdoors. It is really important to follow as many safety rules as you can to stay happy and healthy this summer.

For more information, contact Schneider at keiths29@ufl.edu or call 352-294-3910.

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