According to an area dietitian, keeping picnic food safe is all about common sense.
Nancy Yergin, a registered dietitian with the Forest County Penn State Cooperative Extension, said food safety at summer picnics comes down to proper temperatures, keeping food covered and hand washing.
"When people have picnics, they tend to leave food sitting out while they play softball get caught up in activities," she said. "But you only got about two hours of safety. You really have a short window to have it out."
In essence, putting out all the food at a picnic and grazing all day long can have negative effects. As food sits out, the ambient temperature warms the food which allows the growth of bacteria.
Leaving food uncovered, Yergin said, opens the door for even more potential dangers.
"Leaving food uncovered lets flies come in and tap dance on it," she said, leading to shigellosis caused by the shigella germ the fly deposits on the food.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines shigellosis as an infectious disease with the symptoms of diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.
While picnics may take place at a rustic location, Yergin said, "It's really important at picnic to have a place designated for hand washing."
Cross contamination between the cook, the types of food and the final product can wreak havoc on the stomachs of the picnic-goers.
For example, the cook can pass staphlyoccus aureus to the food and eventually to those dining. According to the CDC, staphlyoccus aureus is a common bacteria found on the skin and in the noses of up to 25 percent of healthy people and animals.
Yergin said when staphlyoccus aureus is passed to another person, the bacterium emits a toxin. The subsequent illness is the product of the body fighting the toxins. The symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.
"That's where the term food poisoning is accurate," she said.
Although antibacterial sanitizers and wipes are convenient, they are not always the right solutions.
"It's not appropriate for the person preparing the food to use (antibacterial sanitizer)," she said. "They really need to wash their hands with soap and warm water."
While food-related illnesses may not always be serious, there are certain groups of people who may have a hard time recovering.
"Foodborne illnesses can be very serious for older folks and babies," Yergin said.
As the body rids itself of toxins through vomiting, children and the elderly can suffer from dehydration which may require medical treatment.
"A little common sense goes a long way," Yergin said. "If it's hot, it should be kept hot. If it's cold it should be kept cold. Give people a place to wash their hands, and keep the food covered."