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Cooler Safety

Packing a cooler for your trip? Follow these food safety guidelines

Now that summer is near, it’s time to gear up and head for the great outdoors. However, there are a few things to remember before packing a cooler for your car, boat or camper.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service have provided a list of general rules to follow when preparing a meal for an outdoor trip.

  • Pack safely by using a cooler if car-camping or boating. Always keep frozen items in a cold source if hiking or backpacking. Try freezing water in clean, empty milk cartons to create a longer-lasting cold source for coolers.
  • Try to keep any raw food away from food to be consumed immediately. Bacteria can be present in raw foods, sometimes causing illness if consumed.
  • Either double wrap raw meat or poultry packages, or seal them in plastic bags to prevent juices from the raw product from dripping on other foods.
  • Keeping your hands clean is a necessity when preparing food in any environment, but is crucial when preparing food in the outdoors. By using disposable wipes or biodegradable soap, you’ll cut back on the major risk of illness.
  • Avoid consuming unfamiliar water sources. Pack bottled water if possible or use a water purification tablet if unsure of the water quality.
  • It’s difficult to keep hot foods at safe temperatures for extended period of time. Instead, transport chilled foods and cook on site when possible. Check your local camping supply store for light-weight pots and portable stoves.

These tips can keep you safe from harmful illnesses related to consumption. By following these precautions, you can make certain that your camping and outdoor adventures will be safe and fun.

Remember to burn any leftover foods instead of tossing them into a trash can. Leftover foods can attract animals.

For more information on outdoor food safety, contact your local WVU Extension Service county office.

You may also call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) between 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. ET.