And that’s under normal conditions when there’s electricity to operate a refrigerator. Imagine how bad it could get during a disaster when the power is out and refrigerators aren’t operating!
The reason I mention refrigerators is because the best way to prevent food poisoning is to control the temperature of the food. If you keep food out of the danger zone, which is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, harmful bacteria won’t grow. But all it takes is about 2 hours in the danger zone, and the bacteria can become dangerous.
So here’s a rule to live by — If you have any doubt about the safety of food, throw it out. Replacing food is far less expensive than a trip to the hospital.
I mentioned disasters, but camping is another scenario where food poisoning can become an issue. If you’re taking pre-cooked food to your campsite, you must keep it out of the danger zone. Either keep it hotter than 140 degrees — which is a hard thing to do on the way to the campground — or keep it cooler than 40 degrees.
To help your camp cooler be more efficient, try these tricks:
- Pre-chill the cooler for several hours before packing cold food inside.
- Don’t put warm, or even room-temperature, food into the cooler. Pre-chill the food, or freeze it, before putting it into the cooler.
- While traveling, keep the cooler out of direct sunlight. To help with that, hide it under a blanket or sleeping bag to insulate it from the sunshine.
- Keep the cooler lid closed. If you need to get something out of the cooler, do it quickly and grab everything you need all at once.
- After using the camp cooler, wash it thoroughly to remove all food residue. Do that again before using it the next time you go camping.
- While in camp, wash utensils, plates, drinkware and cookware after each use.
- And keep your hands clean by using a good camp soap before preparing meals. This is especially important if you touch pets, change dirty diapers, go to the bathroom, or anything else that is dirty. Good camp hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent illness.
- And finally, cook your food thoroughly. By bringing the internal temperature up to a safe level, you can destroy harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to make sure the inside of the food is hot enough. When you reheat leftovers, the meat has to be at least 165 degrees F on the inside, to be safe. Chicken and turkey should be at least 185 degrees F on the inside.