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Dietary Restrictions? Keep Clear of the Danger Zone When Traveling

Couple taking a food break during a road trip.If you have dietary restrictions, it can be a challenge finding food when traveling. In these cases, you may prepare and bring your own meals when traveling to avoid unnecessary trouble. 

Unfortunately, if you don’t take food safety into account when preparing and traveling with food, you may be taking a highway to the danger zone. That’s because harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone,” the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F. You must take care when packing perishable food to ensure their safety before you eat them on the road.

Prior to preparing meals:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before handling food. This is the best way to reduce the spread of germs and prevent food poisoning. When handling raw meat, poultry or seafood, you should also wash hands after touching these products.
  • Avoid handling cellphones and other electronic devices, mail, keys and bags during the food preparation, and keep them off preparation and eating surfaces.
  • Always use clean utensils, plates and cutting boards. Remember to use separate cutting boards – one for fruits or vegetables and the other for meat or poultry.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water — but not meat, poultry, or seafood.

While preparing meals:

  • Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at mealtime. That way, there won’t be a problem with scrambling to store leftovers safely.
  • It’s fine to prepare the food the night before, but pack lunch bags right before leaving home. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. You should not freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these later.
  • Pack snacks and meals containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat if stored in a paper bag for too long.
  • Including at least two cold sources when packing. Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack.  After a few hours the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.

When Traveling:

  • Keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD. Perishable foods only last two hours at room temperature if not stored properly, and this time drops to only one hour if the temperature inside or outside is above 90 ˚F. Travel with a cooler or insulated bag to keep your perishables at proper temperature before you eat them.
  • For microwavable foods, read the package instructions carefully to find out what settings to use for your food. Microwave packaged food or leftovers until they reach 165 °F. Using a food thermometer is the only way to make sure harmful bacteria has been destroyed.
  • Always use microwave-safe plates when reheating. Some non-microwave safe containers can melt or warp and may leak harmful chemicals into your food.
  • Cover food with a lid, plastic wrap, or wax paper, turning up one corner to let steam escape. Also, rotate or stir food halfway through cooking. This helps to heat food evenly and removes cold spots.

Follow these tips and you’ll keep bacteria out of your meal.


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Posted in: At-Risk | SeasonalTagged: Summer