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Safety Nugget Week of April 11 - Have a Healthy Summer....While Picnicking< Back to Blog

Apr 15, 2016
By: L. Brown
Categories: Safety

I was looking for supporting information about keeping food safe while picnicking.  But then I stumbled upon an article about using public picnic tables.  I had never thought about this before and was really pretty disgusted while reading it.  I know at home I wipe the table down after a meal with disinfectant spray but never thought about it when I go for a picnic.  Boy, I will now.  Keep reading to see what I learned.

Picnic tables are a common breeding ground for pathogens because you can't tell how well or frequently - if at all - they've been cleaned.  Spilled food can grow harmful bacteria, especially if someone placed uncooked chicken, turkey or hamburger on the table before grilling, Iwen says.

You also don't know what's been crawling on them.  For example, if local creatures, such as birds, lizards or squirrels sit on a table, it raises your risk of contracting zoonotic illnesses (diseases transmitted from animals to humans), such as the parasite giardia or salmonella.

Salmonella is "always possible where animal fecal material is present," Iwen says.

Plus, porous wood tables are difficult to disinfect, because germs can hide in nooks and crannies.

Stay germ-free:  Choose a dry, clean-looking table that's been in the sun because exposure to ultraviolet light can destroy germs.

"Just as we get sunburned, so do microbes," says Michael G. Schmidt, Ph.D., professor and vice chairman of microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.  "If they get sunburned, they die."

Other safety tips:

  • Don't rest food or utensils on the table.
  • Spread a clean tablecloth, Iwen says.
  • "Eat off paper or plastic plates - and use hand sanitizers," Schmidt adds.

Have a happy and healthy summer!


How to Have a Healthy Summer