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Many travelers are drawn to camping as a way to reduce the expense of their summer vacation. A self-catered getaway holds many opportunities to save some cash. Campers often forgo pricey restaurant dinners, in favor of meals prepared at the site. Al fresco cooking can be an outlet for creativity. Campground chefs often get their start devising brave new uses for marshmallows and wieners before working their way up to more complicated fare.
Good Food Hygiene
The word vacation doesn’t, however, signal a holiday from food safety. A case of food poisoning will bring the woodsy fun to a screeching halt. Steps should be taken to avert disaster.
One of the keys to food safety is the temperature. Both before cooking and after, food must be kept at a temperature that inhibits bacterial growth. According to the Peterborough County-City Health Unit, many foods should be kept in a cooler or trailer fridge set for 4°C or lower. Foods that should always be refrigerated include: milk and milk products, eggs, fish and meat.
A thermometer is, obviously, the best way to ensure a safe temperature is maintained. This can be a great excuse to run out and buy one of those fancy digital thermometers that records minimum and maximum temperatures. They’re cheap and fun…for people who enjoy measurement. Store the thermometer in the fridge or cooler so the temperature can be easily monitored.
The cooking process is an opportunity to kill any bacteria that may exist in the food despite refrigeration. Meat, particularly ground meat and poultry, needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 70°C.
Meat can appear cooked without reaching a safe internal temperature. Once again, the best way to be sure is to use a thermometer. A food thermometer is an important kitchen tool and must-have for any thermometer collection. It will take the guesswork out of cooking and as an added benefit; will help to prevent overcooking. Dried out burgers won’t be tolerated anymore.
To avoid the unsavory task of dish washing, many campers use disposable dishes and cutlery as much as possible. Inevitably, however, there will be some washing-up. Many tools, like barbecue utensils, knives and cutting boards aren’t disposable and will need to be cleaned, so be prepared. Have a wash basin, liquid dish soap, dishcloth and towel on hand. Wash the dishes right away, so they will be safe to use when meal time rolls around again.
Avoid cross-contaminating raw foods with cooked foods and meats with fruits and vegetables. Use separate utensils and prep surfaces for each stage of cooking (i.e., preparing fruits and vegetables, preparing raw meat, and serving cooked food). Clean everything, after use. Disinfecting wipes, while not everybody’s cup-of-tea, are a convenient way to add another layer of defence against bacteria.
To save time and hassle on holiday, some prep can be done ahead of time. Fruits and veggies can be washed and chopped at home and stored in a container in the cooler or fridge. It can really speed up the cooking process and reduce clean up time too.
Safety Rules for Food at the Campsite
Good food hygiene is necessary whether at home or abroad, but there are some food-related concerns that are specific to camping.
Fire is not a daily concern for most, but dinner time at the campsite often involves a few flames and smouldering embers. Fire, while useful, is a demanding and dangerous mistress. Children need to be closely supervised around the campfire. Come to think of it, some adults need to be closely supervised around the campfire. For heaven’s sake don’t use the fire to dispose of anything explosive. Nobody wants their vacation to end with shrapnel.
Animals also present a hassle and a concern. It is almost a guarantee that careless campers will have their sleep interrupted by scavengers trashing the campsite. Lock the food away, where the critters can’t get at it. Dispose of any refuse. Never store food inside the tent. If camping in an area where the scavengers may take the form of something nasty, like a bear, consider hanging the food from a tree, away from the tents and vehicles. Follow the recommendations of the local park rangers and wildlife officers.
Food safety at the campsite requires some effort and planning but it is absolutely necessary. By keeping food hygiene and safety in mind, disaster can be avoided and the holiday fun won’t come to an untimely end.