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Food Safety and Travel

Posted in Food Safety on November 20, 2019

For our family went on vacation this year and spent Memorial Day with some friends in upstate New York. Between grilling out, sleeping in, and taking a break from the daily grind; it was a most relaxing time. I looked forward to time to just get away as a family and clear my head. This year was extra fun because they got to meet our new daughter. But – the food writer that I am – took Food Safety and Travel into account before I left.

What I don’t get a vacation from is – you guessed it – food safety and neither do you. My wife and I are took a little break from our diet while we were in New York, mainly because there is a little bakery right around the corner with the most delicious pastries you will ever have. Diets are meant to be broken now and again right?

While we are traveling however, paying attention to what we eat is a top priority. Be it fast food, a diner off the interstate, or a packed lunch; taking the time to make sure what we eat on the road is just as important as off the road. Let’s look at some options when traveling, talk about the best way to keep food safe we take with us and what to watch out for if we stop and eat along the way.

Plan Ahead

I mentioned already the idea of packing food for the road. While personally I am not a fan of this I believe it is a safer way to avoid pitfalls of food poisoning. There are a few tips to remember if you go this route though:

Drinks should be bottled to keep from spilling or contamination. Water, soda, or whatever you like can be bottled or kept in a drink container for easy access and safety.

While hot food is preferable for killing bacteria, that is not an option when packing your food. Stay away from raw food on the road as it cannot be cleaned and prepared.

Package each food item separately. Sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, candy, or chips; keep everything in its own container to avoid cross-contamination.

Keep food in a cooler or container you can keep cool with ice. Never eat food that has been left in the car that wasn’t in a cooler. Bacteria thrive in hotter temperatures.

When traveling abroad, the rules change a bit but most still apply. Do your research about where you will be traveling. Pay special attention to water and food availability in the area.

Be Prepared

When traveling, we cannot have every comfort of home. In order to keep ourselves safe, we need to think about what we would need the most and what we can find along the way. Here are a few of the more important items to remember:

Carry hand sanitizer in the car and in a bag if room permits. Hand sanitizer can be a quick replacement to washing your hands but only a replacement.

Be wary of travel stops. Remember these get used by thousands of people and may not be cleaned all that often. The last thing you should do when leaving is wash your hands and touch nothing.

Pack extra non-perishable foods in your suitcase if you think there could be an opportunity for a prolonged time without food.

Don’t be tempted to eat food from vendors or places that might care less about food safety. Use your best judgment when looking for a place to eat.

Pro Tip: Always bring a medical kit with you when you travel. Make sure it has all the basic components to help in an emergency until you can reach a hospital.

Food Safety Principles

Again, the comforts of home are not something we can bring with us while traveling but the habits of food safety are. Taking the time to remember these four principles or taking a copy with you can save us all a lot of grief:

Wash. Wash your hand as much as you can. The car is not germ-free no matter how hard we try to keep it clean. Think of all the places we touch inside the car; even the driver. Before you eat, take a few minutes and wash your hands.

When preparing food to take on your trip, wash all fruits and vegetables before packing them. Even vegetables that say they are pre-washed need to be washed.

Separate. Having food separated is the best way to prevent the spread of bacteria. When preparing food for your trip, make sure you wash utensils and cutting boards after each use.

Cook. If you decide to make food for your trip that needs to be cooked first, it is important to follow proper temperature levels. The CDC has compiled a list of foods and the correct temperature to cook them to in order to kill bacteria.

Chill. A picnic on the side of the road sounds like a great idea right? When you’re finished with your meal, remember to store food in a place cool enough to keep it from growing bacteria. It is recommended to keep food 40 degrees or lower.

Getting Sick

If you’re unlucky and end up sick, taking care of yourself while on the road is just as important as at home. Until you can get to a hospital, there are a few things you can do until that time:

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids will keep your body from dehydrating.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • If possible, don’t drive will ill, your senses are dulled.

Vacations are a part of life – at least I think they should be. Wherever we go, there is always the possibility of dangers concerning food. Preparing beforehand can go a long way in keeping you illness free.

I have already written out a plan for whenever I’m on vacation. Keeping my family safe doesn’t just apply to the road but what and where we are going to eat.

Of course accidents happen and sometimes food safety is out of our control. When that does, being prepared for anything and having the knowledge what to do will keep things from getting worse.

Stay safe when traveling.

By: Dwight Spencer, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)