Enjoy Summer Safely

Essential Food Safety Tips for Outdoor Eating

Summer is the perfect time for picnics and BBQs, bringing family and friends together for fun and delicious meals. However, warm weather also creates the ideal conditions for foodborne bacteria to thrive. To ensure your summer gatherings are safe and enjoyable, follow these key food safety tips.

1. Wash Your Hands

Start with the basics: wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. When working with raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, ensure your hands are thoroughly cleaned before touching any other food. If your outdoor venue lacks running water, bring a water jug, soap, paper towels, or moist disposable towelettes.

2. Beware of Cross-Contamination

Prevent cross-contamination by keeping ready-to-eat foods such as salads, fruits, and buns in separate containers from raw meat. Always use different cutting boards, knives, and serving utensils for ready-to-eat foods and raw meat. If you need to reuse cooking or serving utensils that have touched raw meat, clean and disinfect them thoroughly first.

3. Take Your Food’s Temperature

Using a food thermometer is essential to ensure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature. Hamburgers should reach a minimum of 160°F, and hotdogs should be heated to at least 140°F. Refer to this safe internal temperature chart for guidelines on other foods.

4. Keep Cold Food Cold and Hot Food Hot

Maintain cold foods at temperatures below 40°F and hot foods at 140°F or higher. The danger zone for bacterial growth is between 40-140°F, so avoid letting food sit in this range for more than two hours. On hot days (90°F or above), this window shortens to just one hour.

Cold Foods: Transport cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Serve items like chicken salad or desserts in individual containers placed on ice or in shallow containers in deep pans filled with ice. Drain water as the ice melts and replace the ice frequently.

Hot Foods: Wrap hot food in heavy-duty aluminum foil and store it in an insulated carrier. Grilled food can be kept warm by moving it to the side of the grill rack away from direct heat, preventing overcooking.

5. People at Risk

Certain groups are more vulnerable to foodborne illness, including older adults, children, pregnant women, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Protect these high-risk groups by following additional safety measures. For more information, visit these links:

Adults aged 65 and older

Children younger than five years

Pregnant women

Individuals with weakened immune systems

For comprehensive food safety tips and seasonal advice, check out foodsafety.gov. Don’t miss their handy summer safety infographic—print it out and keep it on your fridge or in your vehicle’s glove box for quick and easy reference.


Nothing puts a damper on summer fun like foodborne illness. By practicing these essential food safety principles, you can help ensure a safe and healthy summer for you, your family, and your friends. Enjoy your outdoor meals with peace of mind!


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About Sara Dow

Sara Dow is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Weight Management Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Kansas State University and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Human Nutrition through the University of Alabama. Sara is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the power of nutrition, exercise, and community.

Want to level up your nutrition?  Register for a One-On-One Performance Nutrition Workshop with Sara. In this 60-minute session, Sara will provide evidence-based guidelines for pre- and post-workout nutrition specific to your goals, healthy recipes, and practical tips for incorporating real foods into your diet to support optimal performance and recovery. Click here to register today! 

Have a question? Drop Sara a line at [email protected].