Summer Time To Be Outdoors
Fresh air and exercise are good for overall health. Hiking, camping, and even picnicking involve preparing and storing at least one meal. Especially in the heat, food needs to be handled correctly, or you could come home with food poisoning.
Keep Foods Cold or Hot
Food safety principles are the same whether you’re in the kitchen or enjoying the great outdoors. The key is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. That can be easier said than done. That’s why planning ahead is important.
Meat and poultry may contain bacteria which cause food borne illness. Cook meats thoroughly to kill these bacteria. After they are cooked, they must eaten or cooled to a temperature that keeps the bacteria from growing. Most bacteria don’t grow below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees. The danger zone is between the two.
Pictured: Ben, Tim, and Joshua
Bacteria Quickly Multiply
Food held between 40 and 140 degrees may reach the “Danger Zone” after only two hours. When traveling with foods, it’s can be easier to cook before leaving home, cool overnight, and store in water-tight containers. Then place the food in a cooler with a cold source. This will avoid the Danger Zone, but frozen gel-packs and ice cubes aren’t the only option.
You can use a double purpose cold source. Freeze a portion of the food to be eaten and use as a cold source as it defrosts. Or wash out empty milk cartons, fill with clean water and freeze. After the ice has melted, you have clean drinking water. Pack foods in reverse order you’ll be using them. The first foods used, should be packed last on top, the last foods used pack first on the bottom of the ice chest.
When you reach your destination, place your cooler in the shade and insulate the cooler with a blanket or tarp. When you return home, if there is no ice left in the cooler, discard all the food. If you’re bringing a lot of food, consider two coolers. Fill one with frequently used items like drinks and use the other for meal preparation items. That way one ice chest will be kept closed and cooler. Most food is perishable even if it’s cooked: Luncheon meats, cooked chicken, salads, and anything made with mayonnaise. Don’t forget the 2-hour rule. No food should be in the Danger Zone (between 40 and 140 degrees) for more than 2 hours. Of course, some foods don’t need to be stored in a cooler: Whole fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, popcorn, plain bread, cookies, and trail mix.
Cleanliness is Vital
Disposable wipes come in handy when outdoors. Keep foods from cross-contaminating. Bacteria can easily spread to other foods by your hands, utensils, and juices dripping from packages. Always wash your hands before handling foods. Don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry.
Part of cleanliness is safe drinking water. The easiest way to be sure your drinking water is safe is to bring bottled water or fill containers from home with water. Other than that, boiling water and water purification tablets are the only way to be sure microorganisms are killed.
To purify by boiling: Bring the water to a roaring boil, then boil for another minute. If you’re at a higher elevation, boil for several minutes longer. Of course, always clean up after yourselves. Don’t leave your trash for others to pick up. If there aren’t any trashcans nearby, pack up your trash to dispose of at home.