Food safety precautions for July 4th

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have released food safety and health tips for celebrating this 4th of July.

Planning to enjoy a picnic, barbecue, or meal under the summer sun on this holiday weekend? Remember to pack your picnic basket with food safety in mind, as foodborne bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply faster in warm weather. Follow these tips to keep your picnic or barbecue food safe when eating outdoors:

Before your picnic

  • Defrost meat, poultry, and seafood in the refrigerator or by submerging sealed packages in cold water. You can also microwave-defrost, but only if the food will be grilled immediately afterward.
  • Marinate foods in the fridge not the countertop. Never reuse marinade that touched raw foods unless you boil it first or set some of the marinade aside before marinating food to use for sauce later.
  • Wash all produce before eating, even if you plan to peel it. The knife you use to peel it can carry bacteria into the part you eat. Fruits and vegetables that are pre-cut or peeled should be refrigerated or kept on ice to maintain quality and safety.
  • If your picnic site doesn’t offer clean water access, bring water or pack moist towels for cleaning surfaces and hands. Don’t forget to pack a food thermometer!

Packing coolers

  • Place food from the refrigerator directly into an insulated cooler immediately before leaving home.
  • Use ice or ice packs to keep your cooler at 40°F or below.
  • Pack raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler, or wrap it securely and store at the bottom of the cooler where the juices can’t drip onto other foods. Place beverages in a separate cooler; this will offer easy drink access while keeping perishable food coolers closed.
  • Avoid loading coolers in the trunk of the car, as it can collect heat. Once at the picnic site, keep food in coolers until serving time (out of direct sun) and avoid opening the lids often.


  • Cook meat, poultry, and seafood to the right temperatures ─ use a food thermometer to be sure (see Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart). Keep cooked meats hot at 140°F or warmer until serving time — set them to the side of the grill rack to keep them hot.
  • When removing foods from the grill, place them on a clean platter. Never use the same platter and utensils for cooked food that you used for raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Time and temperature

Don’t let hot or cold food sit in the “Danger Zone” (between 40°F and 140°F) for more than 2 hours – or 1 hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F. If they do, throw them away.

To add healthy living to your food-safe picnic or barbecue, follow these tips from the CDC:

CDC To-Do List for a Healthy 4th

  • Do visit parks that are close to your home to limit exposure to others outside your immediate family when traveling.
  • Check with the park or recreation area in advance to prepare safely. State and local authorities will decide whether swim areas at lakes will be open for recreation.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with (social distancing), and wash your hands or use instant hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol to help limit transfer of germs.
  • Do not go into a crowded area.
  • Do avoid gathering with people you don’t live with.
  • Do wear a cloth face covering as feasible. Face coverings are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, can’t move, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • Do wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub hands together until dry, if soap and water are not readily available.
  • Do monitor children on playgrounds where equipment and play activities can spread germs. [The CDC recommends social distancing and hand-washing practices at play grounds too!]
  • Do play it safe around and in swimming pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds – keeping a safe distance between yourself and others. Importantly, evidence suggests that COVID-19 can not be spread to humans through pools and water playgrounds. Proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.

A note on swimming! Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity needed for a healthy life. Taking steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is one way you can play it safe in and around swimming pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. Don’t visit a swimming pool if you are sick with, tested positive for, or were recently exposed to COVID-19. Practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet (two meters) from people you don’t live with. Swimming does carry some health and safety risks. Visit CDC’s Healthy Swimming website for information to help you prevent illness and drowning, so you can safely enjoy the fun and health benefits of swimming.

Stay well and food-safe, Barb