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Healthy summer family picnics and potlucks

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For many Columbus families, May means plenty of time outdoors enjoying warm weather, visits to the park and local attractions such as the Columbus Zoo.

To save money and for convenience, many families bring along a picnic lunch on their spring outings. You might even hold a potluck of your own and have people bring foods to share.

However, warm temperatures and food do not always mix. Food left out at improper temperatures can lead to bacterial, parasitic or viral growth that causes food poisoning.

Here are some tips to eat safely this summer while on a picnic or at a potluck.

  • Opt for dishes that do not require any refrigeration or special precautions. These include fresh fruits, vegetables and breads. Avoid cream-based dressings and dips because these can grow germs when left unrefrigerated.
  • Opt for main dish alternatives such as peanut butter and jelly or bananas, bread and cheese or crackers and cheese. Choose hard cheese like cheddar as it can withstand the warmer temperatures better than soft cheeses.
  • If you do bring something that needs to be kept cold, stick a thermometer in it to keep tabs on its temperature.
  • Keep cool foods in a cooler filled with ice or even dry ice.
  • Keep your kids hydrated with water, not sugary drinks.
  • If you bring foods that are to be eaten hot, make sure there is a way to keep it at the right temperature. That slow cooker won't do you any good without an outlet to power it.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or hand wipes to clean your hands if no washing facilities are available.
  • Throw out foods after 1 to 2 hours of being out in daytime temperatures. It might not be frugal, but it is healthy.
  • Children, pregnant women and the elderly are at the highest risk of complications from food poisoning.
  • For more information on summer food safety, visit Columbus Public Health.

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