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Cook Safely So Your Only Picnic Worry Is the Weather

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Cook Safely So Your Only Picnic Worry Is the Weather

Picnic and Grilling Safety Tips to Ensure Your Outdoor Event is Fun and Safe

Ministry of Health

Whether it's a picnic with friends, or a family barbeque at the park, don't invite food poisoning to the party.

Each year, thousands of Ontarians suffer from food poisoning due to improper food handling. The risk increases in the summer months due to the warm and humid weather, which allows bacteria to multiply faster, and because more people are eating outside without the conveniences of refrigeration and running water.

The next time you're out for a picnic, firing up the grill, or preparing any meal, practice these safe food handling tips:

  • Clean -- make sure hands, utensils, preparation surfaces and all produce are washed before eating and/or cooking
  • Separate -- keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from ready-to-eat foods during storage and preparation
  • Cook --  cook food thoroughly -- especially meat -- paying close attention to cooking times and temperatures, as they can vary
  • Chill -- refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. When transporting food, surround it with icepacks in a cooler.

Additional precautions you can take while prepping food at home:

  • Never defrost food on the kitchen counter. The outer layers of food will defrost before the inside thaws. Bacteria can grow under these conditions. Thaw meat safely either in the refrigerator or under cold running water before cooking.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator, not out on the counter. If using marinade to baste cooked meat or as dipping sauce, set aside marinade before combining it with raw meat.
  • Reduce bacterial growth by keeping chilled foods cool (4 degrees Celsius and below). 

Quick Facts

  • Food poisoning can vary from minor to severe, with symptoms appearing from hours to weeks after eating contaminated food.
  • Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and in serious cases, can lead to hospitalization.
  • Infected people may not exhibit any symptoms but may still be able to pass on the illness to others, so make sure to wash your hands well before and after preparing meals.
  • Contact your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of food poisoning.
  • Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk of suffering from serious and/or long-term health complications, and even death, from food poisoning.

Additional Resources


“Summer is a time to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather with family and friends; no one wants to ruin that time with the unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning. Stay safe by taking four simple steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.”

Dr. Eric Hoskins

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care

“Thousands of people in Ontario suffer from food poisoning each year; the majority of cases occur at home and go unreported. At-risk behaviours include not washing food or hands, keeping foods out too long, under cooking and not separating food during storage and preparation. If you have any signs or symptoms of food poisoning, contact your doctor.”

Dr. Robin Williams

Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health

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