Caravan and campervan food safety

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If you are off on a campervan or caravan holiday you don’t want illness to spoil your fun think about how you are going to prepare food on the road. Follow the simple but effective hints suggested here and food poisoning won’t be an unwelcome hitchhiker on your road trip.

When you’re on the road in a motor-home, caravan or campervan, remember these important tips:

Clean

Our health is in our hands! Clean hands will decrease the possibility of food poisoning and other diseases markedly. Remember the 20/20 rule: wash hands for 20 seconds with warm soapy water dry hands for 20 seconds before starting to cook repeat frequently especially after handling raw meats, or vegetables with visible soil. Wash utensils and cutting boards with soap and warm water, and dry thoroughly, before handling different sorts of foods.This is particularly important when dealing with raw meats and vegetables.

Chill

Food that is meant to be kept chilled should be! As soon as possible after purchase meat, poultry, dairy foods, vegetables, salad ingredients, etc should be refrigerated at or below 5ºC. Sounds easy but often food is left in hot cars or put in refrigerators that are not cold enough. A fridge thermometer should be used to make sure the temperature is at or below 5ºC. The temperature should be adjusted in line with changing seasons and the amount stored. Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Cooked food should be stored in covered containers and either put in the fridge to cool, or frozen immediately. Frozen foods should be defrosted in the fridge NOT on the kitchen bench. If in doubt, throw it out!

Cook

Properly cooking food minimises the risk of food poisoning. Cook chicken, minced or boned meats, hamburger, stuffed meats and sausages right through until they reach 75°C. Serve hot food steaming hot above 60ºC. Defrost frozen poultry and rolled and stuffed meats thoroughly before cooking. Always follow cooking instructions on packaged foods.

Separate

Cross contamination is a major way for food borne diseases to spread. To avoid cross contamination keep raw and cooked foods separate when storing and preparing. Food should be stored in covered containers in the fridge and put raw meats and poultry in the bottom of the fridge so the juices don’t contaminate food on lower shelves. Don’t put cooked meat back on the plate the raw meat was on.

Your Travelling Kitchen

Cooking in caravans, motor-homes, or campervans is not always easy. The bench space is usually limited, there is probably less equipment, fridge space is small and a good supply of fresh running water is not always available.

Here are some tips to help cope with all of this:

  • If water is going to be in short supply buy extra chopping boards, knives and other food preparation equipment or by ready chopped or prepared food.
  • Take extra care to clean benchtops and utensils before, during and after food preparation.
  • Carry lots of leak-proof containers with you and use them for any raw food to prevent leaks onto other foods. Zip lock plastic bags can also do the job, provided they are properly sealed and have no holes.
  • Buy fresh – shopping from the local markets is a great way to get to know the small towns. You can also sample the fresh local produce.

Keeping food out of the temperature danger zone

The temperature danger zone where bacteria can grow quickly in food is between 5°C and 65°C. To reduce your risk of food poisoning:

  • Keep a thermometer in the fridge to allow you to monitor and adjust the temperature when needed. If the temperature inside the fridge rises above 5°C, bacteria in the food can multiply and make the food unsafe to eat.
  • Don’t overload the fridge and block air circulation which is needed to maintain the correct temperature.
  • Take the beer, jam and pickles out of the fridge if you’re short of space. They are unlikely to cause food poisoning if they stay outside the fridge.
  • Take special care when preparing cooked food for eating later and storing in the fridge. Make sure that all work surfaces and utensils used are clean. Refrigerate or freeze the food as soon as it stops steaming.
  • If perishable food or leftovers have been out of the fridge for more than 2 hours throw it out.
  • Freeze food in small containers or sealed bags containing only enough for one meal to reduce left-overs. Remember to label and date the packages.
  • Thaw food in a microwave or in the fridge – never on the benchtop. Soups and stews can be heated from frozen in a saucepan. Whatever way you thaw the food, make sure that it is heated to steaming hot above 65°C before it is eaten.
  • Minimise contamination by always storing raw meats and poultry on the lowest shelf of the fridge, below ready to eat fresh food. This will prevent contaminated juices dripping from the raw meat onto foods you will not be cooking again before eating, such as salads or desserts.

Don’t forget to take a cooking thermometer as well to make sure minced meat and poultry are cooked to above 75°C and hot food served above 60°C.

Canned and dry foods

If you’re travelling far from towns and supermarkets, you can supplement your fresh foods with canned and dried products which can be safely stored outside the fridge.
Make sure that you have access to enough safe water to rehydrate any dried food e.g. powdered milk, which will not be thoroughly cooked before you eat it (see tips on safe water below).
Once opened, dried food s should be kept in airtight containers. Leftover perishable food in cans should be refrigerated as soon as possible for later use or used within 2 hours.
BBQs

Cook poultry, minced meats, sausages and boned roasts right through to a temperature of 75°C using a meat thermometer. If you do not have a meat thermometer no pink should be left visible and the juices should run clear. Intact steaks and other solid pieces of meat can be cooked to taste.

Have a clean plate and clean utensils ready to receive the cooked meat – don’t use the same ones that were used for the raw meat as the uncooked juices will contaminate the cooked food.

Cooking only enough meat for one meal is the safest option. Food left out of the fridge for two hours or longer could be unsafe and should be thrown out.

Safe water supply

If you are using an unserviced site, remember, water, even in remote and pristine Australian wilderness is not necessarily safe.

If the water tank in your caravan or motor-home is unsealed or if the water has not been regularly changed, it may have picked up contaminants and should be treated if used for drinking or washing ready to eat food.
Ask about the quality of the water supplied and if it is safe for drinking. If you are unsure about the local water safety use bottled water. Modern water purifiers are transportable and very effective. Used correctly, they will reduce any organic material and organisms from water and render it about as safe as you can possibly get. You can also chemically disinfect water using iodine-based, drinking water tablets, which are added to water before drinking. The instructions for these tablets must be followed correctly and you cannot rely on these to work if the water is cloudy or contaminated with organic material such as leafy matter or soil. Only a water purifier could render such water drinkable.
Enjoy your trip and maximise the chance that your memories will not be marred by bouts of food poisoning by remembering that food safety is an essential ingredient

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