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how not to get gastro or food poisoning when camping


  • getting food poisoning when camping is NOT fun at all!
  • camping seriously increases the risk of food poisoning and gastroenteritis if campers do not know what they are doing or get lazy (or desperate)

Gastro from the toilets

  • rarely, other campers may have a very contagious gastroenteritis such as a viral cause
  • many other potential pathogens are spread from faeces which are likely to find their way onto your hands by using toilet paper, touching toilet seats, or toilet doors
  • WASH HANDS AFTER touching anything in the camp toilets including door handles!

Gastro from the water

  • whilst this is a problem in many urban areas in countries with dodgy water supply systems contaminated by sewage (cryptosporidium, hepatitis A and typhoid in particular), it is a major issue for campers albeit with different pathogens (especially giardia)
  • one should assume all “fresh water” streams are potentially contaminated and should be treated

Avoiding food poisoning

  • WASH HANDS BEFORE touching food (and afterwards) - hand sanitizers need to have more than 60% alcohol
  • perishables MUST be kept below 5degC or above 65degC - temperatures between these for more than 1-2 hrs risks dangerous bacterial growths
    • return cold foods to the cooler, and chill leftovers promptly or discard
    • NB. the top shelf in many car fridges has a temperature a few degrees warmer than the main compartment - put fruit, veges, chocolate here, not perishables!

Keep it simple stupid (KISS) approach - don't take perishables

  • if you want to keep it simple, take non perishables
  • this avoids the need for fridges or ice esky coolers
  • example non-perishables
    • dried or dehydrated foods such as soups, rice, noodles, uncooked pasta, powdered milk, dried fruits
    • nuts
    • whole fruits and vegetables
    • pre-packaged, shelf-stable meals
    • peanut butter
    • canned meats eg, tuna
    • concentrated fruit juices
    • bread - may last 48hrs or so, although will rapidly become mouldy within a day if left in the warmth of a car
  • once reconstituted or cooked, consume within 1-2 hours, refrigerate or throw out

Same day semi-perishables

  • some things can be taken to be consumed later that day without being in a fridge (although should at least be in a cooler if ambient temperatures are warm)
  • examples:
    • hard cheeses (cheddar cheese may last a few hours)
    • thawing small packaged frozen foods in a cooler may be an option albeit risky if you don't understand the process and risks (see below)

For the food handling expert - you can bring perishables

  • taking a fridge or an iced esky cooler allows taking perishables but these MUST be managed carefully - see keeping your food and drinks cool
  • assume all raw meats, especially poultry or ground mince, are contaminated with bacteria
    • their juices risk cross-contamination of other foods so:
      • package them well so they don't leak the juices
      • stack them in the fridge near the bottom so if they do leak they don't contaminate everything
      • Don't use the same platter and utensils that held raw product to serve cooked product
    • ensure they are cooked to a safe internal temperature
      • most meats should be cooked to 63degC minimum
      • all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal must be cooked to at least 71degC - don't trust the color of the meat!
      • all raw poultry (raw or ground) must be cooked to at least 74degC
      • heat hot dogs to steaming hot
      • reheat any leftover food to at least 74degC
      • allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before slicing or consuming
      • clean the thermometer between uses
  • assume all perishables need to be discarded once more than 1-2 hours outside of a fridge (may be less if ambient temperatures are over 30degC)
    • this includes washed eggs and very soft cheeses
    • out of a fridge status includes eskies when there is no frozen ice left

For the food handling genius - consider using cryovac bags and thawing out frozen foods

  • leaving frozen food out at room temperature or using running hot water is NOT considered safe thawing!
  • according to official advisories1), there are only a few ways to safely thaw perishable foods:
    • 1. In a fridge
      • most items over 500g will require 24 hours to thaw at fridge temperatures of around 3-4degC
      • after thawing in a fridge:
        • ground meat, stew meat, poultry, seafood, should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before cooking
        • red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) 3 to 5 days
        • food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking albeit with some loss of quality
    • 2. In cold water
      • this will allow faster thawing but much more work and you will obvious need access to uncontaminated cold water which may be an issue when camping
      • the item MUST be securely packaged so water will not get into the food to avoid spoiling the food or contaminating it
      • use cold tap water and change every 30 minutes
      • 500g meat will usually take 1 hour to thaw
      • after thawing in cold water:
        • food must be cooked immediately
        • cannot be re-frozen unless cooked first
    • 3. In a microwave
      • this is likely to create uneven thawing and also some areas may start to cook, thus foods must be cooked immediately
      • not a great approach, and few campers will have a microwave
    • 4. JUST cook it frozen
      • this is probably the best camping approach if you don't have a fridge or you need it cooked immediately
      • cooking times will need to be 50% longer than for non-frozen foods
      • make sure you have your meat thermometer if cooking frozen raw meat!
      • an extension of this is to use cryovacs and cook in boiling water
        • pre-cook foods such as pasta with meat sauce, place into cryovac bags, seal well, then freeze and bring to camp in a fridge or freezer
        • place the well sealed cryovac bag in a pot of hot water of at least 60degC on a stove and it should thaw within 10-12 minutes for a small pack - for many pre-cooked cryovac foods you can then just keep the bag in there until it is fully re-heated and then ready to serve - make sure the water doesn't get into the bag and make sure you don't burn yourself opening the bag!
australia/camping_foodsafety.txt · Last modified: 2023/10/18 16:15 by gary1

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