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10 Wide Open Tips For Food Safety In The Great Outdoors

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By Terry Nicholls

Hiking, camping, and boating are good activities for active people and families. However, if the food isn't handled correctly, food-borne illness can be an unwelcome souvenir.

1. Choose foods that are light enough to carry in a backpack and that can be transported safely. Keep foods either hot or cold. Since it's difficult to keep foods hot without a heat source, it's best to transport chilled foods. Refrigerate or freeze the food overnight. What foods to bring? For a day hike, just about anything will do as long as you can fit it in your backpack and keep it cold -- sandwiches, fried chicken, bread and cheese, and even salads -- or choose non- perishable foods.

2. Keep everything clean. Remember to bring disposable wipes if you're taking a day trip. (Water is too heavy to bring enough for cleaning dishes!)

3. It's not a good idea to depend on fresh water from a lake or stream for drinking, no matter how clean it appears. Some pathogens thrive in remote mountain lakes or streams and there's no way to know what might have fallen into the water upstream. Bring bottled or tap water for drinking. Always start out with a full water bottle and replenish your supply from tested public systems when possible. On long trips you can find water in streams, lakes, and springs, but be sure to purify any water from the wild, no matter how clean it appears.

4. If you're backpacking for more than a day, the food situation gets a little more complicated. You can still bring cold foods for the first day, but you'll have to pack shelf-stable items for the next day. Canned goods are safe, but heavy, so plan your menu carefully. Advances in food technology have produced relatively lightweight staples that don't need refrigeration or careful packaging. For example:

==> peanut butter in plastic jars;

==> concentrated juice boxes;

==> canned tuna, ham, chicken, and beef;

==> dried noodles and soups;

==> beef jerky and other dried meats;

==> dehydrated foods;

==> dried fruits and nuts; and

==> powdered milk and fruit drinks.

5. If you're cooking meat or poultry on a portable stove or over a fire, you'll need a way to determine when it's done and safe to eat. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness, and it can be especially tricky to tell the color of a food if you're cooking in a wooded area in the evening. It's critical to use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers. Ground beef may be contaminated with E. coli, a particularly dangerous strain of bacteria. Illnesses have occurred even when ground beef patties were cooked until there was no visible pink. The only way to insure that ground beef patties are safely cooked is to use a food thermometer, and cook the patty until it reaches 160 F. Be sure to clean the thermometer between uses.

6. To keep foods cold, you'll need a cold source. A block of ice keeps longer than ice cubes. Before leaving home, freeze clean, empty milk cartons filled with water to make blocks of ice, or use frozen gel-packs. Fill the cooler with cold or frozen foods. Pack foods in reverse order. First foods packed should be the last foods used. (There is one exception: pack raw meat or poultry below ready-to-eat foods to prevent raw meat or poultry juices from dripping on the other foods.)

7. Camping supply stores sell biodegradable camping soap in liquid and solid forms. But use it sparingly, and keep it out of rivers, lakes, streams, and springs, as it will pollute. If you use soap to clean your pots, wash the pots at the campsite, not at the water's edge. Dump dirty water on dry ground, well away from fresh water. Some wilderness campers use baking soda to wash their utensils. Pack disposable wipes for hands and quick cleanups.

8. If you're planning to fish, check with your fish and game agency or state health department to see where you can fish safely, then follow these guidelines for Finfish:

==> Scale, gut, and clean fish as soon as they're caught.

==> Live fish can be kept on stringers or in live wells, as long as they have enough water and enough room to move and breathe.

==> Wrap fish, both whole and cleaned, in water-tight plastic and store on ice.

==> Keep 3 to 4 inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice.

==> Store cooler out of the sun and cover with a blanket.

==> Once home, eat fresh fish within 1 to 2 days or freeze them. For top quality, use frozen fish within 3 to 6 months.

9. If using a cooler, leftover food is safe only if the cooler still has ice in it. Otherwise discard leftover food.

10. Whether in the wild or on the high seas, protect yourself and your family by washing your hands before and after handling food.

Copyright (c) Terry Nicholls. All Rights Reserved.

About The Author

Terry Nicholls is the author of the eBook "Food Safety: Protecting Your Family From Food Poisoning". For more tips like these, and to learn more about his book, visit his website at http://tinyurl.com/3fr2t
yourguides@cogeco.ca