Your car is packed, laughter fills the air, and you're ready to go on a long-anticipated camping trip. The last thing you want is poor food management to ruin the festive mood. Luckily, there are a few golden rules to remember and high-risk perishable foods to watch out for to minimize the chances of food poisoning. For example, "keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold."
Certain groups, such as pregnant women, older adults, and those with chronic diseases, are particularly at risk of food poisoning. In general, use your senses as your first line of defense—smell, taste, and inspect food to see if it passes muster. More tips incoming!
Clean water is so crucial for food safety. Many food items require washing before eating. Sometimes we need to rinse utensils too. You can't assume the water where you're camping is safe because a stream looks crystal clear. It's best to err on the side of caution and pack water if you're car camping, or pick up some water purification tablets. If you can't find these disinfecting tablets, boil the water for at least one to three minutes.
Eggs are an essential part of the Breakfast of Champions. Whether you're out for a barbeque brunch or camping in the fresh morning air, don't let eggs be your downfall. Always check that eggs aren't dirty when you purchase them. They shouldn't be cracked, either.
Especially if refrigeration is intermittent, don't consume foods with raw egg, like cookie dough, Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, and egg nog. Generally speaking, since eggs can be problematic, leave them as a last resort for outdoor adventures, just to be on the safe side.
Congratulations! You caught a fish or five. Now what? Gut the fish and wrap your whole and filleted fish in water-tight plastic. Fill a cooler with four inches of ice, then sandwich the fish between layers of ice. The fish must go into a proper freezer as soon as possible if you don't plan to eat it within the next day or two.
If you're catching or collecting shellfish, check environmental reports before you eat it. If there has been a red tide or a harmful algal bloom, skip the shrimp scampi this time around.
Drinking freshly pressed milk might seem appealing, but milk that's come straight from a cow is unpasteurized. You wouldn't want Louis Pasteur's toils to be in vain, now would you? He figured out that heat kills the germs in liquids and forever influenced health outcomes and the food industry.
Unless you've got a tried-and-trusted farm connection, look for dairy products labeled as pasteurized on the packaging, and try to keep cheeses like queso blanco fresco and yogurt dips cool or avoid them altogether when outdoors. Store all dairy below 40F, and pay attention to use-by dates.
Improper food safety practices around meat often cause food poisoning. So, what are some of the guidelines you need to adhere to? For starters, cook meat thoroughly and eat it straight after cooking—cook only as much as you need. It can be tempting to rush the process when your stomach is grumbling when out and about, but if the inside of your patties, sausages, or cooked poultry is still pink, or the juices from cooked meat don't run clear, you're playing with fire.
Deli meats also come with a warning, and you can do your part by storing them properly.
Veggies and leafy greens might not be your prime food poisoning suspects, but keep them in mind. They can become contaminated during the supply chain, so always wash your fresh produce thoroughly because you eat much of it raw, and ensure you only buy prepacked salads kept in a fridge.
Prep your salads and fruit beforehand so you don't have to do as much handling of food when you're at the picnic site.
Perhaps you're keen on savory rice and plan on taking some cooked rice on a camping trip. Rice is one of those dishes, however, that needs to be refrigerated promptly, so if you don't have a reliable way to keep it cold, pick a different meal for the camping trip. When heating cold rice, get it to a point where it's steaming hot to cover your bases.
Prevent cross-contamination, i.e., don't let raw meat come in contact with cooked food, either directly or indirectly via utensils. Use clean plates to hold your food rather than letting it touch picnic tables or unclean bbq prep areas. Ready-to-eat food should always remain covered except while eating to prevent flies from paying it a visit.
Avoid topping up perishable food by adding the fresh on top. Either eat what's there, or change it out for the fresher option.
Outdoor recreation is meant to be fun, not riddled with anxiety. You'll have less stress by planning camping trip meals around shelf-stable foods and using biodegradable hygiene wipes to clean your hands frequently and clean cloths to dry them. If you're having a cookout in your backyard, keep perishables in the fridge until they're needed, and return them immediately after you're done with your meal.