On the Road Again…Traveling and Picnics

TomatoesWhen eating outside while traveling or picnicking away from home, it’s important to take along the basic food safety necessities and follow these tips to reduce risk of foodborne illness:

  • Soap and water are essential to cleanliness.  Bring your own soap and water to your picnic or campsite. If water for hand washing is not available, disposable wipes or hand cleanser will do. Wash your hands before and after handling food.
  • Take foods in the smallest quantity needed – pack only the amount of food you think you’ll use. Consider taking along non-perishable foods and snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated.
  • Pack foods in your cooler in reverse-use order – pack foods first that you are likely to use last. Pack plenty of ice or freezer packs to ensure a constant cold temperature.
  • If meat and poultry need to stay cool for a long period of time, they may be packed while still frozen. Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be eaten raw such as fruits.
  • Fill cooler to capacity, a full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled.
  • Keep drinks in a separate cooler from foods. The beverage cooler will be opened frequently while the food cooler stays cold.
  • When traveling, transport the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. Keep the cooler out of direct sun. At the picnic or campsite keep your cooler covered with a blanket or tarp.
  • Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90º F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.
  • Bring a food thermometer in your grilling supplies. Use it to make sure meat and poultry have reached a safe internal temperature.
  • When the picnic is over, discard all perishable foods if there is no longer sufficient ice in the cooler or if gel packs are no longer frozen.


If you have more questions or concerns about food safety, contact:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). TTY 1-800-256-7072.
  • The Fight BAC!® Web site at www.fightbac.org
  • Gateway to Government Food Safety Information at www.foodsafety.gov

The Partnership for Food Safety Education is a non-profit organization and creator and steward of the Fight BAC!® consumer education program. The Partnership is dedicated to providing the public with science-based, actionable recommendations for the prevention of foodborne illness.