Food Safety While Camping
Jun 29, 2015
Janice Lopez-Munoz, MSIH, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Hotdogs heating on a campfire.Camping is a great way to spend time with family and friends while taking in the great outdoors. As you set up your tent and pots and pans, don’t neglect your food safety routine just because you’re outdoors. The safety steps you take when cooking at home don’t change when you cook over a camp fire or grill.
Safe Food and Cooking While Camping
If your camping plans will be for more than a day, meal planning becomes more important. Canned goods are safe and shelf-stable. If your menu includes any of these items they can be stored in your pack without a cold source: peanut butter in plastic jars, concentrated juice boxes, canned tuna, canned chicken, canned beef and dried fruits and nuts.
If your meals will need some cooking, having the necessary equipment at your camping area is a must. Make sure you to pack any equipment you will need (e.g. portable stove) and be sure to include a food thermometer. The only way to determine if your meat or poultry is safe to eat is to use a food thermometer.
Serving Hot and Cold Items While Camping
Burgers are always popular while camping, but ground beef may be contaminated Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 (a particularly dangerous strain of bacteria). Using of a food thermometer to check if your patties are cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 °F is critical. If the meal plan includes another popular item, hot dogs, make sure they are steaming hot.
Keeping perishables cool is essential to avoid food becoming unsafe. Bacteria multiply rapidly at warm temperatures, and food can become unsafe if held in the “Danger Zone” (40 °F – 140 °F) for more than two hours. If the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F, food can become dangerous after only one hour. That’s why it is essential to pack one or two coolers for your camping trip–one for drinks and snacks and another one for other perishable food. Remember to pack your coolers with ice or frozen gel packs.
Last but not least, don’t forget to pack some disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for your hands and quick cleanups.
If you have any questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or visit AskKaren.gov to chat with a Food Safety Specialist. Follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter to receive daily tips and information on recalled food.