Picnic Food Safety Hints
to Keep You Healthy

Food Storage

A picnic can be a great day out but picnic food safety is vital to make sure everyone stays healthy.

You will be carrying food away from home and it must be kept at a safe temperature to avoid bacteria from growing, spoiling the food and making people sick.

Before You Leave Home

  • Prepare food as you would normally - in a clean kitchen.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water before cooking.
  • Keep cooking surfaces clean.
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked food. Raw food and cooked food should never come into contact with one another. Utensils, cutting boards and serving dishes which have been used for one should never be used for the other.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Refrigerate food promptly.

Packing for Picnic Food Safety


  • If you are cooking meat at your picnic cut the raw meat into the sizes you wish to cook before you leave. 
  • Pack meat in a sealed container box at the bottom of an esky or cooler box. This is the coolest area and prevents raw meat juices from contaminating other foods.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Wash fresh fruit and vegetables well under running water.
  •  Make sure they are completely dry before packing them into your cooler. 

Pre-prepared Food

  • Salads, rice dishes, quiche and cooked chicken need to be stored properly to ensure picnic food safety.
  •  Keep them in a cooler inside separate sealed containers.
  •  If possible divide your food into individual portions. This prevents cross contamination and makes it easier to serve at a picnic.

Keep Your Food Safe

Keeping Food Cool

  • All perishable foods must be packed in a cooler box for picnic food safety.
  •  Cool food thoroughly in the fridge before packing - overnight if possible. Don't pack food that is still warm into a cooler box.
  • Place ice, freezer blocks or freezer bags around the food. 
  •  Keep you cooler box as cold as possible by only opening it if when you really have to.

Take two coolers. One for drinks that can be opened more often and the other that can keep the food cool until meal time.

Keeping Food Warm

  • If you are picnicking in winter hot food is always welcome. 
  • Keep hot food at a temperature as close as possible to 60' C (140' F).
  • There are large thermos pots and jugs available that will keep meals hot. Some will even cook your meal on the way to the picnic. Of course these insulated containers can also be used to keep items cool in summer.

Traveling with Food

Travel with your cooler box inside an air conditioned car if there is room. If you have to put it in the boot wrap a blanket around it to keep it cool.

At Your Picnic Spot

  • Store your cooler boxes in the shade.
  • Only open the cooler box of food when you really need to.
  • Discourage insects by keeping you picnic area clean and free from food scraps which attract ants and flies.
  • Once your have laid out your food throw a piece of netting over the table to keep the flies at bay.
  • Use personal insect repellent or insecticide spray before you unpack food, plates and utensils. Aim your spray away from food area and let the spray settle before unpacking.

Serving Your Meal

  • Spread your tablecloth over a picnic table so you have a clean surface to serve your meal.
  • Before you serve or eat your picnic wash your hands. There may be no running water available. Wet wipes or antibacterial gel make good alternatives.
  • Do not dip used cutlery into serving bowls. Use individual serving spoons or tongs for each dish.

After Your Picnic

  • Pack up left over food away as soon as your meal is finished.
  • Store rubbish in large garbage bags ready to take home. This will discourage flies, ants and other insects from invading your picnic spot.
  • When you arrive home throw out any left over food. It has been out in the warm air and has possibly been contaminated with used utensils and packaging.
  • Wash all your equipment, bowls, cutlery and packing boxes in hot water and detergent.
  • Pack everything away ready for your next day out.

Take care with picnic food safety so that everyone can enjoy the day after the picnic as well as the day itself.

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