Thousands of Labor Day picnics and barbecues are being held today in backyards, parks, churches, and at special holiday events all across the country. To make sure that foodborne pathogens aren’t a gatecrasher at your Labor Day celebration, remember to handle picnic foods safety. Here are some helpful tips: Picnic and barbecue foods (potato salad, hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon, etc.) are usually handled a lot before they’re consumed. The more they’re handled, the more chances there are for them to become contaminated with foodborne pathogens. Foods being prepared for a picnic or outdoor gathering are often not cooled rapidly enough, allowing harmful bacteria a chance to grow. Be sure to cool cooked food quickly by putting it in shallow containers and refrigerating it right away. Since picnic and barbecue food often sits out in warm temperatures for quite a while, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to make sure you aren’t encouraging foodborne illness. Bring plenty of ice or frozen gel packs to your picnic or barbecue, along with coolers and insulated containers. USDA recommends filing insulated containers with boiling water, letting it stand for a few minutes, emptying out the container and then filling it with hot soup, chili or stew. Keep the container closed until it’s time to eat. Food that needs to be kept cold, especially mayonnaise-based salads and cut melons, should be kept in coolers on ice or surrounded by frozen gel packs. Also, be sure to wash melons before cutting them and immediately refrigerate the pieces. Put foods that need to be chilled in waterproof containers or plastic wrap before placing them in the cooler. It’s a good idea to put coolers in the passenger area of a car rather than the trunk, where temperatures are usually higher. When you arrive at your picnic site, put the cooler in the shade with a blanket over the top and keep the cooler closed until it’s time to eat. When grilling food at your picnic or barbecue, wash your hands (or use antimicrobial disposable hand wipes) before touching any food and make sure your cooking tools are clean. Keep cooked food on a lit grill or eat it within an hour of cooking. Put leftovers away as soon as possible and don’t leave cooked food out for more than an hour. Bring plenty of utensils and dishes so you won’t risk cross-contamination by preparing meat, poultry or fish and then putting them back on the same dishes after they’re cooked. If you must use the same dishes and utensils, be sure to wash them before using them the second time. If there are no washing facilities available, bring disposable plates and utensils. When cooking meat, be sure it’s thoroughly cooked so juices run clear and there’s no pink in the center. Never partially cook meat and then leave it to sit and finish cooking it later. If you can’t keep hot picnic food hot and the ice has melted in your cooler, throw the food out. When it comes to food safety, better to be safe than sorry. Happy Labor Day!