Being sick is not a good way to enjoy an RV outing. Food can be one source of illness whose risk can be minimized by taking just a few basic precautions. These precautions become even more important when food is shared with a group such as at a rally pot luck event or the hors d'oeuvre at happy hour.
There are over 250 different diseases caused by contaminated food or drink which in the United States result in millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths. Don't participate in these statistics. Use a modicum of care in food handling to minimize risks to yourself, your family, and your friends.
Note that any public event may require a permit from the health department with authority in the region. What a "public event" is may depend upon who is doing the definition.
Safe food service depends upon five fundamental habits. These are clean hands, clean service, clean food, the right temperature, and healthy personnel.
Food that contains meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk or other perishable foods or material capable of supporting growth of disease-causing microorganisms need special handling. Examples of these kinds of foods are hamburgers, tacos, hot dogs, spaghetti and chili cooked rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, cut melons (cantaloupe, watermelon) and vegetable sprouts. Also consider anything wet as at potential risk for disease causing problems. These are all considered to be potentially hazardous because they will support bacterial growth.
Perishable foods must be kept below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees depending upon whether they are to be served hot or cold.
The most important contributing factors in most food poison outbreaks have been a combination of the following: preparing the food more than twelve hours in advance, storing the food at room temperature, under-cooking and inadequate cooling and re-heating of the food. Eliminating the necessity to refrigerate and re-heat the food before serving reduces the risk of an outbreak. When you plan to take a casserole or other perishable to a pot luck, prep what you can at home but plan on the baking just before dinner.
Iced tea is considered a high risk food item. Follow these steps to safely prepare iced tea: (a) Wash, rinse and sanitize all parts of tea equipment before use. It is important to clean and disassemble the dispensing valve for thorough cleaning. (b) Make only as much tea as needed for a few hour's service. (c) Brew tea using boiling water - no sun tea! (d) Keep the tea refrigerated.
Cook all food products to an internal temperature of 165 F. This will ensure that heat sensitive pathogens such as E. Coli, common to ground beef, and salmonella in eggs is destroyed. If food is cooked in a microwave oven, cook food to an internal temperature of 190 F.
The two hour rule: For any of these perishable foods, make sure they are not out of the oven or the refrigerator (i.e. on the serving table) for any more than two hours.
Germs are easily spread to others. Persons infected with a communicable disease, which can be transmitted through food (including a cold or flu) or with open sores or infected cuts on hands, should not be involved in any food preparation or handling.
Hand washing facility. While water can be scarce in the camping environment, good hand washing practice must be observed when preparing or handling food. A basin with warm soapy water can be used to wet the hands, but fresh water should be used to rinse after a good lathering. This fresh rinse water can be used to refresh the basin of soapy water.
Food preparation area: The food preparation area needs to be protected from wind and provide for washing and food preparation in a manner to avoid cross contamination. It also needs to provide a safe working environment for the cook.
Disinfect: Prepare a spray bottle with a solution of a quarter teaspoon of bleach per quart of water. Use this to clean food preparation and presentation and eating surfaces such as cutting boards or tables.
Use disposable towels to clean spills and dry your hands after washing. Studies have shown that the dishtowel or sponge is frequently the most bacteria laden object in the kitchen. Disposable towels can be used once and then discarded to eliminate a culture growth opportunity in the food preparation area.
Prevent cross contamination: Keep raw meats, fish and poultry separate from other foods and each other. Don't allow their juices to drip on other foods.
Use the "small batch cookery" approach when preparing any perishable foods. This means you bring out only as much food as you need to complete one particular step in the recipe. For example, you do not need to have all the ingredients for chicken salad on the counter at the same time. The produce can be contaminated with the raw chicken juice and then re-contaminate the cooked chicken when all the ingredients are combined.
Wash the dishes: The rule is Scrape, Wash, Rinse, and Sanitize. Use a minimum of a three compartment sink or three basins to wash utensils and equipment. (a) Scrape food from the dishes into a waste receptacle. (b) In the first basin, wash the dishes with warm water (100-120 F) and detergent. (c) In the second basin, rinse them with clean warm water. (d) In the third basin sanitize the dishes. Use one teaspoon of bleach for each gallon of cold water in the basin. (e) Air dry the dishes and utensils. Do not use a towel to dry them.
Leave your site in better condition than when you arrived: Dispose of garbage often because it attracts pests such as flies and yellow jackets. Patrol the area to pick-up litter. Place garbage, including litter, into refuse containers with tight fitting lids. Use containers to collect waste water,and discard in a sanitary manner (e.g. public restrooms.) Do not dump liquid waste into streets, storm drains, or onto the ground.
North West Center for Public Health Practice . Ben Franklin Health District -
Rockefeller University . Grab and Go Food Tips -
Preventing Food Contamination -
University of California, Irvine, food service guidelines -
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