Tips for food safety during camping season

Although time consuming, taking the time to prepare before camping can keep the experience fun and safe.

The first camping trip of the year is usually the most work. Restocking the camper/RV after taking everything out last fall makes for extra work. There are many things to do, including cleaning, shopping, packing and making beds, but it’s also important to keep food safety in mind as you work down your to do list.

For your own safety, it is critical that you sanitize your water system before using it. If the water system was winterized with RV antifreeze, rinse the system first. Follow the instructions in your unit’s manual for proper sanitizing.

Check your refrigerator/freezer to make sure it is working properly. Use a refrigerator thermometer in the fridge and in the freezer. The temperature in the refrigerator should be 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below for safe storage of perishable foods.

For campers without electric or gas refrigeration, use plenty of ice in coolers. Pack raw meat, poultry and fish in a separate cooler from produce. Restock your ice every day to keep foods cold. Keep coolers out of the sun. Bring along bottled water for drinking. It is not safe to drink water out of streams, rivers and lakes unless you have a water purification tablets or equipment.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you do not use any canned foods that may have been left in your camper over the winter. Canned goods that have been frozen, should always be discarded. Clean surfaces in the food preparation area, sinks and refrigerator. Clean your grill if it was stored away without cleaning it first.

Part of the enjoyment of camping is the tasty food prepared outside on the wood fire or on the grill. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry and fish is cooked to the correct minimum temperature. Ground meat should be cooked to 160 F, poultry should be cooked to 165 F and steaks, ribs or chops should be at least 145 F.

Remember to use a clean plate when taking cooked foods off the grill or fire. Never reuse the plate or container that held the raw meat, fish or poultry to hold the cooked foods unless you washed it first with hot soapy water and rinsed.

A little time and effort before your camping trip can make sure you have a fun and food safe adventure.

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