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Tips for the Perfect Picnic

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Spoiled food can ruin a picnic almost quicker than we can cry "Ants!" And although food poisoning can be a problem during any season, it's more likely during summer, since bacteria flourish in hot, humid settings.

A few commonsense tips will guarantee us a much safer, more enjoyable picnic season:

* Food safety starts in our kitchens by washing our hands and work areas before preparing food.

* Place cooked chicken or potato salad and any other picnic foods in shallow containers so they chill quickly and thoroughly in the fridge. They need to be the right temperature before packing in coolers.

* Use the right size cooler for the job, and fill it to the top; the more stuff you pack in it, the colder it will stay. Also, make sure there is plenty of ice or frozen gel packs on top, since cold travels down.

* If you'd like, place your food in resealable plastic bags so that if any ice melts, nothing will get wet. A good rule is to put all beverages in one cooler ('cause that's going to get opened and closed repeatedly throughout the day), and food in another. That should help the food stay at the right temperature until you're ready to serve it.

* Transport the coolers in an air-conditioned car, not a hot trunk.

* Once at your destination, place the coolers in a shady spot.

Following these simple guidelines will help ensure that the only thing you bring back from your picnic is the memory of the..."OOH IT'S SO GOOD!!"


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