Safe outdoor meals

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Follow these tips for safe and tasty outdoor meals during the summer months.

Key points

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after handling food.
  • Keep raw meat, seafood and poultry separate from other food.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of barbecued meat.
  • For picnics, bring plenty of water to keep everyone hydrated.
  • Wash vegetables and fruit before packing them and use cold packs or coolers to keep food and drinks cool.

On a hot summer day, there are few things nicer than a barbecue or picnic. Both offer a great opportunity to get outside, enjoy healthy foods in season and spend time with family and friends. To make sure your dining experience is remembered for fun rather than food poisoning, follow these tips for tasty and safe summertime meals.


Barbecuing is a fun and easy way to prepare, cook and eat outdoors. While many people associate barbecues with hamburgers and hot dogs, there are many more options to throw on the grill. Why not try chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, turkey breast, sirloin steak or vegetable kebabs? Firm tofu, tempeh, shrimp or fish can also work well on the grill. If you are grilling meat, trim the fat and use flavourful, homemade marinades to keep your choices lean, tender and delicious.

Tips for safe sizzling

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Use separate serving dishes, cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked meat. Use a clean plate when taking food off of the barbeque.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry or seafood away from other foods.
  • If barbecuing at home, wash countertops and cooking utensils with hot soapy water to make sure that juices from raw meat do not contaminate other foods.
  • Eating charred or blackened meat and fish releases chemicals that may cause cancer and is not recommended.
  • Marinate meat to reduce the number of potentially harmful compounds in blackened meat. If you use a sauce or marinade on raw meat, do not reuse the sauce with cooked meat.
  • Cook ground meats fully to remove harmful bacteria. Colour is not a reliable sign that meat is safe to eat. Use a food thermometer to accurately check that the internal temperature is at least 71°C (160°F) for ground beef and at least 74°C (165°F) for ground chicken. Visit Health Canada for details on the safe internal cooking temperatures for other meats.
  • Supervise children well. Barbecues reach extremely high temperatures and pose a burn risk. Ensure your children are at a safe distance away.


A trip to the park — or even your sunny backyard — can be a fun way to spend time surrounded by nature with friends and family. One of the best things about picnics is the food! Memories can be made by sharing a meal, but you will want to make sure that your food is safe to eat. Bacteria in food can multiply faster in warm, humid conditions. Some foods are riskier than others, it is best to limit the amount of these perishable foods that you bring along. Examples include cold cuts, eggs, raw meat and mayonnaise. Still, there are so many ways to enjoy your favorite foods and stay healthy! Below are some tips to help you make the most of your picnic meal.

Preparing and storing picnic meals

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before touching food and/or eating.
  • Try to prepare foods in individual portions, so you can avoid having to lay all the food out at once. This will limit the amount of time food sits out in the sun.
  • Do not forget to bring water to keep everyone hydrated. It is easy to become dehydrated in the summer.
  • Always wash vegetables and fruit before you pack them.
  • Keep raw meat away from other food to prevent cross-contamination. Store in a tightly sealed container at the bottom of your cooler.
  • Any food that you would store in a fridge at home, should be in a cooler with ice or cold packs. This will keep these foods from spoiling.
  • If using a cooler, fill it up — a full cooler stays colder than one that is partially filled. Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight and avoid opening it too often. Consider using one cooler for food and another for drinks. The food cooler will not be opened as often as the drink cooler, which means the food will stay colder for longer. The temperature of the cooler should be at or below 4°C.

Last updated: June 26th 2023