Food safety rules don’t change just because you’re experiencing the
great outdoors. You want to make sure that you keep perishable foods
cold enough, separate foods to prevent cross-contamination, keep your
hands clean as you’re preparing food, and cook foods thoroughly.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection
Service provides detailed guidelines for Food Safety While Hiking,
Camping and Boating online at go.osu.edu/outdoorfdsafe. Recommendations include:
Bring nonperishable foods: canned tuna, ham, chicken or beef;
dried meat or jerky; dry pasta and powdered sauce; and dried fruit and
Pack all perishables in a cooler. Always use plenty of ice. If you
are using ice cubes, make sure the melted water is contained to prevent
cross-contamination from raw foods. Large ice blocks and ice gel packs
stay cold longer than ice cubes. Pack the cooler full — that way the
cooler will keep cold longer. Keep the cooler in the shade, or cover it
with a beach towel or blanket to help further insulate it. The cooler’s
ability to keep things cold enough drops significantly in direct
sunlight. Do not open it very often. Use a separate cooler for
beverages, which you can open more often without putting perishable
foods at risk.
If you’re taking burgers, hot dogs, or any raw meat or fish, pack
them in a separate cooler to keep the raw juices from
cross-contaminating food and drinks that won’t be cooked. Consider
freezing them before leaving on your trip, and pack them with large ice
packs. Bacteria multiply quickly in temperatures between 40 degrees and
140 degrees, called the “danger zone.” They can reach dangerous levels
within two hours, or within one hour at 90 degrees or above. And don’t
make the mistake of thinking you’ll be safe if you cook the food
thoroughly enough: When in the danger zone, microorganisms can produce
toxins that remain in the food even after heat kills the bacteria. So,
keep raw meat cold.
Bring a meat thermometer. When you cook meat outdoors, you don’t
have as much control over the heat source. Meat that is charred on the
outside can remain uncooked on the inside. Never rely on color to tell
whether a burger is done. A burger can be undercooked even if it is
brown in the middle. Cook all poultry products, chicken or turkey
burgers, hot dogs and sausages to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, measured with a
thermometer at the thickest part of the meat; cook ground beef to 160
degrees F; and cook steaks, chops and seafood to at least 145 degrees F.
Keep your hands clean. Clean and sanitize utensils and other
cookware before and after handling food. Never use a plate that held raw
meat for any other food, including cooked meat. Bring plenty of
disposable wipes, biodegradable soap and fresh water to clean with.
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