Handling food safely on the road

Handling Food Safely on the Road

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N! Oh, how we long for that eight letter word every summer, when millions of us eagerly get away from school and work.  We take to the road in cars or recreational vehicles; live on boats; relax in beach or mountain vacation homes; and camp.

No matter where we go or what we do, there is a common denominator that runs through all of our summer travels and relaxation-it's called F-O-O-D!

The "road" to food safety, however, can either be a bumpy one or smooth-depending on what precautions are taken handling meals as we travel this summer.

Remember these simple, common-sense food safety rules which can save a vacation from disaster.

Plan ahead.

  • 1. If you are traveling longer than 30 minutes with perishable food, place it in a cooler with ice or freezer packs.
  • 2. When carrying drinks, consider packing them in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently.

Pack safely.

  • 1. Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler.
  • 2. Meat and poultry may be packed while it is still frozen; in that way it stays cold longer.
  • 3. A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled.

When camping...

  • 1. Remember to keep the cooler in a shady spot. Keep it covered with a blanket, tarp or poncho, preferably one that is light in color to reflect heat.
  • 2. Bring along bottled water or other canned or bottled drinks. Always assume that streams and rivers are not safe for drinking.
  • 3. Keep hands and all utensils clean when preparing food. Use disposable towelettes to clean hands if clean running water is not available.

When boating...

  • 1. Don't let perishable food sit out while swimming or fishing. Remember, food sitting out for more than one hour is not safe when the outside temperature is above 90°.
  • 2. Now, about that "catch" of fish-assuming the big one did not get away. Gut and clean the fish as soon as they are caught. Wrap both whole and cleaned fish in water-tight plastic and store on ice. Keep 3-4 inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice. Cook the fish in 1-2 days, or freeze and use it within 6 months. Make sure the raw fish stays separate from ready-to-eat foods.

When at the beach...

  • 1. Plan ahead. Take along only the amount of food that can be eaten to avoid having leftovers. If grilling, make sure local ordinances allow it.
  • 2. Bring the cooler! Partially bury it in the sand, cover with blankets and shade with a beach umbrella.
  • 3. Bring along moist towelettes for cleaning hands.

When in the Vacation Home or the RV Vehicle...

  • 1. If a vacation home or a recreational vehicle has not been used for a while, check leftover canned food from last year.
  • 2. Check the refrigerator, if it has not been used, thoroughly clean it before using.

Here are ideas for snacks that travel well.


  • 3 cups cereal
  • 2 cups raisins or dried fruit
  • 2 cups nuts
  • 2 cups pretzels

Mix together well and keep in self closing container.

Banana Snack Mix
  • 3 cups Golden Grahams® cereal
  • 1 bag (7 oz.) malted milk balls (2 cups)
  • 1 cup dried banana chips
  • 1 cup honey-roasted peanuts

In covered container or large resealable food-storage plastic bag, gently toss all ingredients.  Store tightly covered or sealed.

For more information, contact:

Nancy A. Freeman, County Director
Harrison County Extension Service
nfreeman@ext.msstate.edu    (228) 865-4227