Keep your fresh food stores safe from microscopic creepy crawlies

February 11, 2012 by Bob Difley · 10 Comments  
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By Bob Difley

food-safety-inspectionDeveloped nations such as the USA and Canada have strict laws governing the handling of food from the pickers in the fields through the processors to the canners or baggers. Handling of livestock is also controlled and inspected from the time it leaves the ranch or feeding pens until it ends up in the meat counter or in plastic wrap in the supermarket. But as you all too often read in the news, food bugs (not the kind you can see) still get by the most stringent inspections and into our foods.

While most of us are familiar with and have confidence in our local food suppliers, we unfortunately can’t tell when foods contain something that will make us sick. Whether you purchase food from a major supermarket supplied by big agribusiness producers or from the back of a farmer’s truck at a local farmers’ market you can’t tell what pathogens might sneak through.

Boondockers must be especially careful in the handling and storing of fresh foods when stocking up before a trip,  some of it hidden from view until discovered when the storage area empties out, often having been subjected to a wide fluctuation between heat and cold. We also often keep foods beyond the safe date since if we’re camped out in the boonies we can’t just pop down to the market to replace questionable items—and we are often a distance from medical care as well if we do get food poisoning.

We also might be a bit stingy in using wash and rinse water on dinnerware and cooking utensils because of our limited fresh water supply and waste tank capacity. Boondockers especially should take extra precaution in food storage, food preparation, and clean up. Follow these tips from food safety experts.

• USE PASTEURIZED EGGS If you are not willing to give up soft-boiled eggs or unbaked cookie dough, or you are using a recipe that calls for raw or partly cooked eggs.
• WASH ALL PRODUCE Even if you are going to peel the skin, give it a good scrub so you don’t transfer bacteria from the knife or peeler to the part you are going to eat. Most important, wash all lettuce, even if it comes in a bag that says triple washed.
• LEARN TO LOVE WELL DONE Cooking thoroughly is the best way to eliminate harmful bacteria from meats and poultry. Use a meat thermometer.
• THE RIGHT CUTTING BOARDS Always prepare raw meats and poultry on one cutting board, and use another for vegetables. Clean both with warm soapy water after each use. Whether you use wood or plastic cutting boards, the important thing is to keep boards clean and replace them when they become scored because pathogens can hide in the grooves.
• UNDERSTAND ‘ORGANIC’ Organic means grown without pesticides, it has nothing to do with bacteria and other pathogens. However, there is something reassuring about buying from a small organic farmer at a local stand or farmers’ market. Even so, remember that you need to handle anything organic–meat, fruit, poultry, produce–the same as non-organic. You should still keep meats and vegetables separate to avoid cross-contamination, wash all produce thoroughly and wash platters and other surfaces that come into contact with raw meat and poultry.
• BE SMART ABOUT LEFTOVERS Keeping food too long can pose a risk. You can’t smell, see, or taste the bacteria that causes illness.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also points out:
• Don’t leave food out longer than two hours, and use or freeze all leftovers within four days.
• To avoid throwing out food (and wasting money), plan your trip’s menu and shopping list with leftovers in mind, i.e. roast chicken one day, chicken salad sandwiches the next, to make sure leftovers get used quickly.
• Finally, since many of us fit the definition of “elderly” (even if we disagree with it), the Center says, “The elderly are often likely to keep food too long. But they are more at risk of getting seriously ill from tainted food.”

For more RVing and boondocking tips, visit my Healthy RV Lifestyle website and also check my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (click here for Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).

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10 Responses to “Keep your fresh food stores safe from microscopic creepy crawlies”

  1. butterbean carpenter on February 11th, 2012 6:21 pm

    Howdy Dr. Bob,

    Yes siree, you got my attention now!! I’m elderly and I do keep food a few days!!
    That is a really good article on food poisoning and it sure needs to be observed!!

    Thank you, for writing about it!!

  2. Jim H. on February 11th, 2012 9:22 pm

    Thanks Mr. Bob for a great article on handling food stuff. We are getting ready for a four months trip and this acticle is right on target to help us avoid food contamination while on the road.

  3. Jon on February 12th, 2012 8:29 am

    Good post a reminder that all people should be careful. People should never cut poultry and beef on the same cutting board!

  4. barbara kirkhart on February 12th, 2012 8:42 pm

    I’m sorry, I have to disagree.

    These guidelines are the most conservative possible, and could leave to lots of perfectly good food being thrown out. I lived on a boat in the tropics for five years, and routinely had leftovers (hot and covered) on the counter overnight before putting them in the icebox for later use; I now live in a 37′ RV, and use the same tactic – put the hot leftovers in covered containers until they are cool, then in the fridge – and use them up to 2 weeks later with no adverse consequences. If it doesn’t have mold on it, and doesn’t have an off smell, it’s probably just fine to heat it up and eat it!

    USDA guidelines are crafted to prevent lawsuits and protect the agricultural industry – they are way more conservative than is necessary for people with normal immune systems.

  5. Fatcow on February 12th, 2012 9:23 pm

    Also, one more point be careful with a fish. Fish tend to spoil very fast . Higher the temperature the faster fish spoil.

  6. DG on March 15th, 2012 10:55 am

    I agree Barbara, so much food is wasted (in the USA at least) that it’s very sad. I could live very well off of food I see thrown away if my wife would let me. I’ve gone into retaraunts before and taken food off of tables where the people have left. That makes her very angry. Last time I took a 1/4 of a pizza that was left behind and I ate it. She always says “you don’t know what those people done to that!” I say “well you don’t know what they do to it when it gets prepared either”.

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