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Blogs

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Keeping Hands Clean and Summer Camp Trip Foods Safe

Byline: Janice López-Muñoz, BS, MSIH, Public Affairs Specialist

Date: June 5, 2019

Does your child’s summer camp itinerary include outdoorsy trips that require them to bring snacks? How will you fulfill their taste buds while keeping perishable snacks safe? How will you make sure kids will clean their hands before eating? These trips will probably be in hot, sunny weather, and that can come with food safety risks. Let’s keep calm and be food safe this summer!

Summer Camp Grocery Shopping

It’s important to kick-off the shopping strategy by making a list of items that you know the kiddies will enjoy devouring, especially if they are active and expending a lot of energy. Some items to consider are fruits and veggies, yogurt, cheese sticks, deli meats, bread, crackers, nutritional bars, popcorn and tortilla wraps. These items make great basics for fun and delicious summer camp meals. Once back from the grocery store, USDA recommends that you place all perishable items in the refrigerator, for safe storage, within 2 hours (summer months are hot; if the outside temperature is over 90⁰F, perishables should be refrigerated within 1 hour).

The Kitchen is Open

The easiest way to keep germs out of your kitchen is to wash your hands; a recent USDA observational study revealed that consumers were not washing their hands sufficiently 97 percent of the time. Give yourself time to wash your hands for a full 20 seconds with soap and warm water -- that’s how long you should be washing to kill any germs that might be present. Once everything is clean, you are ready to start putting together easy and tasty meals for those exciting summer camp trips.

Shipped to Summer Camp

Proper storage is key to food safety when sending perishable meals to summer camp. Talk to the camp counselors to see if portable coolers, filled with ice, will be available on trips. Since perishable items should be kept safely cold (at 40°F or below) until it’s time to eat, pack items in an airtight container before placing them in the portable cooler. You can also pack perishable items in an insulated lunch bag with two cold sources (two ice packs or one frozen juice box or frozen bottle of water with one ice pack).

If you have a question about food safety for your summer activities, call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, ET. Callers may also listen to food safety messages on various topics, recorded in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day. You can also email or chat via Ask Karen.


 

Waves, Sun, Grill and Food Safety

Byline: Janice López-Muñoz, BS, MSIH, Public Affairs Specialist

Date: June 19, 2019

The summer months are the perfect excuse to spend time at the beach. The best memories in my childhood are with my family enjoying a day at the beach grilling. My parents organized every detail of the trip, but looking back and knowing what I know now about food safety, our beach grilling fun could have easily been spoiled with bacteria that could have made us sick.    

There are always challenges when cooking outdoors, but a little bit of preparation can have you basking in the sun, enjoying some well-deserved beach time with the family.

Before Firing Up the Beach-Grill

  • Make sure local ordinances allow grilling activities. If yes…it’s time to pack! 
  • Only pack the amount of food you will consume to avoid leftovers.
  • Season your favorite meats, poultry or seafood at home before packing them for the trip. Remember to wash your hands before handling the raw items and in between spice containers when seasoning.
  • Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler.
  • Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry tightly wrapped and store them at the bottom of the cooler. This will help keep any running juices away from cooked foods or foods meant to be eaten raw (e.g. fruits, veggies, salsas, guacamole or bean salad). 
  • Pack the drinks in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
  • A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. If you still have space in your portable cooler, pack it full with more ice.
  • Don’t forget to bring moist towelettes and the food thermometer!

Keeping Food Safe Ashore

  • Once you arrive at the beach, partially bury your portable cooler in the sand, cover it with blankets or towels, and shade it under a tree or with a beach umbrella.
  • Do not open the lid of your cooler containing perishable foods unless necessary. This will keep perishable foods colder for a longer time.
  • Don't leave any perishables sitting out in the hot sun for more than 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F). 
  • Start setting up your grill and get it clean before bringing the food out.
  • Clean your hands before placing any foods on the grill.

Beach-Grill Time

  • Make sure your grilled items are safe to eat by using a food thermometer and checking to see if they reached the right minimum internal temperatures:
    • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145°F with a three-minute rest.
    • Fish: 145°F
    • Ground beef, veal, lamb, or pork burgers: 160°F.
    • Poultry (whole or ground): 165°F.
  • Serve all your delicious food using clean plates and utensils.
  • Remember: Clean your hands before starting to eat!

If you have a question about food safety for your summer activities, call 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, ET. Callers may also listen to food safety messages on various topics, recorded in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day. You can also email or chat via Ask Karen.


 

Follow the USDA Blog year-round for information on health and safety topics.

 

Last Modified Apr 17, 2019