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Food Safety in the Great Outdoors

Don't let food poisoning spoil your next outing. Following a few simple rules will keep your outdoor meal memorable for the right reasons.

The Mayonnaise Myth continued...

"It's not mayonnaise itself that's bad," Berry tells WebMD. "It's what people do to mayo that makes it go bad. People dip dirty utensils in it at home and then make dips out of it and take it to a picnic where people double-dip with their veggies. Each time you contaminate it, the mayo can only handle a certain level before the bacteria reaches dangerous levels."

Berry says mayonnaise is fairly acidic, which makes for an inhospitable environment for bacteria, and actually may protect many foods from going bad. She recommends starting off with a fresh jar of mayonnaise and only using clean utensils in it if you plan to make that mayonnaise-rich potato salad or deviled eggs for a picnic. Then pack the foods in plenty of ice to keep it cold, and perhaps even serve deviled eggs on a platter lined with ice.

Do's and Don'ts of Outdoor Food Safety

When deciding what to bring on a picnic or camping trip, keep in mind how you'll transport the food (on your back or in a car) and plan accordingly. Here are some summer food safety tips to keep your food free of dangerous bacteria and reduce the risk of food poisoning:


  • Bring plenty of ice to keep perishables cold.
  • Wash hands frequently when handling food or bring lots of sanitizing wipes if soap and water aren't available.
  • Bring along a meat thermometer to make sure meats and poultry are cooked to a safe internal temperature (hamburgers must be cooked to 160 degrees, chicken breasts to 170 degrees, and dark meat chicken to 180 degrees).
  • Put leftovers back into an ice chest immediately after eating.
  • Put freshly caught fish on ice immediately after cleaning.


  • Don't put food out until people are ready to sit down and eat, and not a moment before.
  • Don't leave food out for longer than two hours when the temperature's under 90 degrees or more than an hour when the temperature climbs over 90.
  • Don't partially cook foods at home to finish at the site. Either cook foods fully then refrigerate them or cook them completely from the raw state. Partially cooked foods are breeding grounds for bacteria.
  • Don't eat any nuts, berries, mushrooms, or other items in the wild that you don't recognize.

Published May 22, 2003.


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