Knowing proper food safety procedures - and following them! - will help to ensure that your family stays healthy and happy on your next camping trip.
Cooking and eating outdoors when you go camping is fun!
However, it's no fun worrying about whether your camping food is safe - and it's even less fun when someone gets a foodborne illness!
Fortunately, safe food handling is easy! Just follow a few common sense proper food safety guidelines about food temperature, handwashing and drinking water.
You've heard this one before: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. But just how hot is hot, exactly?
Hot foods need to be above 140 F (that's 60 C).
Cold foods need to be below 40 F (4 C).
The danger zone between those temperatures is where bacteria thrive. It takes only a couple of hours for food in the danger zone to become dangerous.
Keeping food out of the danger zone is easy at home, and even at camp if you have an RV with a refrigerator and an oven. But what about when you are tenting?
You'll need to take extra care to keep food in the safe temperature zone.
This is fairly straightforward. Just plan ahead and eat your hot foods as soon as they have been cooked.
This can be trickier!
Most car campers use coolers. There are a variety of types available.
You'll know that your cooler is cold enough to keep your food safe as long as there is ice in the cooler. Once the ice has melted, food safety is no longer assured.
or fill an empty plastic bottle with water. Square 2 pint/1 litre bottles are the perfect size and shape. Be sure to leave room at the top for the water to expand as it freezes.
The beauty of these ice packs is that your cooler doesn't end up with a puddle of water on the bottom when the ice has melted!
The cooler you can keep the cooler (!), the longer the ice will last. Here are some tips:
Just as at home, proper handwashing is an important part of proper food safety - but it's a bit more challenging if you don't have running water.
Safe food handling requires clean hands, though, and fortunately that's easy to accomplish with just a bit of thought.
If there's a camp bathroom close by, great! Just remember that it may or may not have soap. Take your own if you aren't sure. A packet of soap leaves is a handy thing to carry in your pocket.
Even if there is a bathroom nearby, I set up a handwashing station at the picnic table, with a jug of water, a basin, a towel and a soap pump.
As always, wash your hands frequently:
Make sure that the kids wash their hands with soap before eating too.
Be sure that the water you use for drinking and cooking is safe.
If you are in doubt, don't use it!
You can purify water by bringing it to a rolling boil for at least one minute, or by using a water purifier.
You should boil or purify not only water for drinking and food preparation, but also the water you'll use for washing vegetables and fruits and for brushing your teeth.
If you aren't sure about the safety of the water at your destination, carry a big jug of water from home.
That way you won't have to wait to eat or drink when you get to your site.
If you're camping for just a couple of days, you might be able to bring enough for your entire trip.
Following these simple guidelines about proper food safety will ensure that your food for camping is as safe to eat as it is delicious! (By the way, I have lots of great camping food ideas! Click here for some inspiration.)
These guidelines apply to picnic food safety, too!