Think before you picnic… A guide to food safety in summer

The heatwave sweeping the nation is great for picnics or al fresco dining but bad for food hygiene.

When disregarded or even ignored it can lead to serious consequences and with a predicted 20million people in the UK planning to go for a picnic this summer – 1.6m in the North West – it’s vital to eat sensibly.

Yet only a fifth of the people in the North West are actually concerned about picnic food hygiene – online research with 2,000 UK adults in May can reveal.

Heather Hancock, Chair of the Food Standards Agency Board, urged people to remember to keep food cool this summer, an important defence against food poisoning.

“Generally, the cooler the temperature the slower germs will grow,” she said, with Food Safety Week running until June 25.

“That’s why paying attention to how food is stored and transported is especially important in the warm summer months.”

As a result of people being unaware of the risks, there are more than one million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK, cases of it originating from Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella which rise in the summer months.

The groups most at risk of getting food poisoning include:

  • Pregnant women
  • People over 65
  • People with weakened immune systems

The FSA has created a guide which highlights the precautions you should take in hot weather when picnicking:

  1. Rinse fruits – (including those with rinds) and vegetables, before packing them in a cool box.
  2. Ensure cold food is kept cold – Store them in a cool box at 5°C or less.
  3. Place drinks in one cool box and foods in another
  4. Keep the cool box closed as often as you can
  5. Ensure food is not left outside for longer than two hours – or one hour if it’s very hot. After this, the risk of bacteria increases and it becomes unsafe to eat, so best to throw it away when you get home.

The FSA’s recently published Food & You survey highlights a lack of knowledge from some people around food safety which may be putting themselves and their families at risk.

For example, while 58% of people in the North West check their fridge temperature, HALF don’t know that a fridge should be kept between 0-5°C and a third do not always check use-by dates before cooking or preparing food.

For more advice visit:

National Picnic Week is taking place between June 16-25. More information here

Image courtesy of Alpha via Flickr, with thanks.

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