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MDARD Reminds Michiganders to Keep Food Safe While Celebrating Independence Day

LANSING, MI — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is reminding Michiganders to play it safe regarding food during the July 4th weekend. Following a few safe food-handling tips can keep everyone safe from foodborne illness.

“Celebrating Independence Day outdoors is a rite of summer in Michigan, as are the picnic foods we all love to eat,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “Make sure your celebration is remembered for the people you spend it with, the delicious foods you share, and the fun you have. Don’t spoil that fun by sharing foodborne illness with your guests.”

Here are the top ten food safety tips to help make outdoor eating fun and safe:

1. Safe food begins with proper hand washing. Everyone involved in the cooking or eating should wash their hands with soap and water. If water is not available, use disposable handwipes or hand sanitizer.
2. It is especially important to keep cold foods cold when it’s hot outside. When transporting food to a picnic site, keep it cold so bacteria can’t grow and spoil it. Cold foods should be kept cold and at 40° F or below to prevent bacteria growth. Pack them in coolers with ice or frozen gel packs. The Danger Zone for food is between 40° F and 140° F. This is when bacteria can grow quickly, leading to foodborne illness.
3. Pack meat and other perishables in coolers containing ice or cold packs. Keep coolers in the shade and avoid opening the lid too often.
4. Pack beverages in a separate cooler from perishable foods. The beverage cooler will be opened more often, while the food cooler will keep contents cooler longer.
5. Pack clean, soapy sponges, cloths and wet towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands. Use a table cover for picnic tables whenever possible. Picnic tables are usually exposed to weather and wildlife and may not be clean even if they look clean.
6. Take only the amount of food that you will cook and eat. Serve the food immediately and remember not to keep food out of the refrigerator or cooler for more than two hours. If the air temperature is 85° F or hotter, keep food out less than one hour. Food left out after these times should be discarded.
7. Be sure to take plenty of clean serving spoons and forks so each dish has its own. If one dish spoils, the bacteria won’t be moved to another dish through a contaminated utensil.
8. All meats should be cooked to the proper temperature. Bring a meat thermometer and test your meats for doneness to assure they are properly cooked.
9. Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Use only clean plates for cooked foods.
10. Clean the picnic site before you go home as common courtesy for the next picnickers. You wouldn’t want to sit down at a dirty picnic table or cook on a dirty grill; no one else does either.

For more food safety tips, visit