Getting outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather is one of the perks of this time of year. If picnics are part of your Memorial Day plans, you might be wondering what extra steps you need to take to do so safely in this era of COVID-19. Here are some tips:
First, let’s remember that it’s not the food. Food has gotten a lot of attention lately, from restaurant closures to grocery shortages. When it comes to spreading or contracting COVID-19, however, the risk is not from the food itself. The main way COVID-19 is spread is through close contact with a person who has it. If your picnic plans involve people who don’t live with you, consider the following precautions:
- Spread out
If your typical picnic set up includes one big table for all of the food, consider breaking it up. You can put sides on one table, desserts on another and so on. Spacing out the food will help to naturally space out your guests too.
- Reduce high touch areas
While the risk of spreading COVID-19 through surfaces is thought to be low, it is one that is relatively easy to address. Instead of putting a serving spoon in each dish, encourage people to serve themselves with their own, clean, disposable utensil. Use toothpicks for smaller items. Focus on individual items instead of bulk dishes like casseroles. Many popular casseroles can be made single serve by preparing them in muffin tins. Pre-plating items can also help reduce the frequency of everyone touching the same surface. Make utensil roll-ups for each person with fork, knife and spoon wrapped in a napkin.
- Follow your local rules
Each area of the country is at a different point with the spread of COVID-19 and local rules around staying at home or social gatherings generally reflect this.
- If you are sick, stay home
No one wants to miss out on fun activities but if you are sick you really need to sit this one out and encourage your guests to do the same.
While our current focus is on preventing COVID-19, foodborne illness at picnics is still a very real risk. To make sure that illness doesn’t spoil your outdoor eating, follow these simple rules.
- Wash your hands
This effective step helps with COVID-19 prevention and general food safety, but isn’t always so easy when you are outside. Consider washing your hands right before you head out or bring some hand wipes with you. Hand sanitizer can also help when you don’t have access to running water for handwashing.
- Maintain food temperature
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The bacteria that can make us sick enjoy the warm weather as much as we do. To keep your food safe from unwanted bacteria, keep food below 40°F or above 140°F. Consider ice packs or hot food containers if you don’t plan to eat your food right away. If you can’t do this, remember that anything left out for more than two hours, or one hour if it is really hot out, should be thrown away.
- Handle leftovers carefully
If there is food leftover from your picnic, put it in the refrigerator as soon as possible. If you can’t get it into a refrigerator or cooler with ice, toss it. As good as it might have been, the risk is not worth keeping it around.
More food safety tips can be found at homefoodsafety.org