Handling Food Safely While Vacationing

Summer vacation time means travel time and no matter where we go or how we get there, most of us bring food along. The “road” to food safety can either be bumpy or smooth – depending on what precautions are taken handling meals as we travel during the warmer months.

Registered dietitian Christopher Carnright with the UConn Health Center says when you’re hitting the road, take the time to pack and store your food safely to ensure your vacation isn’t ruined by a bout of food poisoning.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers some general rules for keeping food safe when traveling.

  • Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F).
  • Perishable food should be placed in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.
  • Meat and poultry may be packed frozen so it stays cold longer.
  • A full cooler maintains its cold temperatures longer than one partially filled.
  • Consider packing drinks in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
  • Keep raw meat wrapped separately from cooked foods or fruit.

Carnright says when camping, keep the cooler in a shady spot and cover it with a blanket or towel, preferably one that is light-colored to reflect heat. When at the beach, partially bury the cooler in sand, cover it with blankets and shade it with a beach umbrella.

Keep hands and all utensils clean when preparing food. You can use disposable moist towelettes to clean hands. Carnright also says remember to clean fruit and vegetables before eating. Even the outside of cantaloupes and watermelons should be washed so that the knife used to cut the fruit doesn’t spread germs to the inside.

When staying in a vacation home or recreational vehicle, check leftover canned food from last year. Canned foods which may have been exposed to freezing and thawing temperatures over the winter should be discarded. Make sure the refrigerator and food preparation areas are thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water.


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