Health Watch -- Picnic Precautions

Health Watch is a Public Service of the   Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Make sure your guests carry home fond memories instead of stomach aches after your picnic.

Picnics and backyard cookouts are favorite ways to celebrate summer, but make sure the ants are the only uninvited guests. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say hot weather can create the ideal climate for bacteria to grow in food, and food poisoning can be the result.

Dr. Greene Shepherd, a UT Southwestern toxicologist, has some tips for keeping illnesses like salmonella away from your picnics and cookouts.

First, refrigerate or freeze perishable foods as soon as you get them home from the store. If you're not going to use meats within a couple of days, freeze them. Once you've thawed meat, cook it. Don't re-freeze thawed meat.

Cook foods at recommended temperatures to kill bacteria. That's especially important for ground beef, such as hamburgers. When grilling, cook hamburgers until they're no longer pink inside.

Wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water before you handle food, and wash any hands, surfaces or utensils that come in contact with raw meats. Don't put cooked meats on the same plate you used to carry raw meats to the grill.

Don't leave food standing for long periods of time. Eat hot foods as soon as they're cooked or while they're still hot. Remove cold foods from the refrigerator just before serving and put them away quickly.