Packing food for a safe and healthy camping trip
Camping is fun and it's relaxing. You get back to nature, feel the sun on your skin and forget about work for a while. So don't ruin it by getting food poisoning.
Each summer cases of food poisoning in the UK almost double. There's something about eating outdoors that makes us more reckless with food. The good news is, it's quite easy to avoid getting ill. All you have to do is follow this simple advice.
If you're out camping, it's probably because it's hot, so make sure you stay hydrated. And, in case you're wondering, drinking beer doesn't count. Alcohol is a diuretic and diuretics increase the excretion of water from the body.
Find out if there's drinking water at your campsite. If not, make sure you bring enough drinking water with you.
Never drink water directly from a river, stream or pond, even if it looks crystal clear. It could be contaminated and unsafe.
"If you use one of the products designed to make water safe, such as activated filters or water purifying tablets, make sure you follow the manufacturer's advice," says a Food Standards Agency (FSA) spokesperson.
What food should you bring?
"Anything that needs a fridge or a freezer is probably best left at home," says Sian Porter, a registered dietitian. "You want to keep things that need to be kept cool to a minimum."
Sian also advises leaving anything that needs complicated preparation at home. Remember, camping is meant to be relaxing and fun. You don't want to be filleting a sea bass while everyone else is singing songs around the campfire.
"It's probably a good idea to do a rough meal plan before you go, so you don't take too much stuff," says Sian.
It's best to take foods that can be stored at room temperature, says Sian. Bring tinned foods, fruit and vegetables, but not bagged lettuce as it'll spoil very quickly, and foods that have been UHT sterilised: UHT milk, UHT fruit juice and UHT yoghurt.
Small cartons or tins are best because once you've opened them they start to spoil. So, if you're making a cup of tea, use sachets of UHT milk. Don't open a litre bottle. A couple of hours in the sun and you'll be tipping it away.
"Carry food in suitable containers so that it can't become contaminated, and in cool bags if the food is normally refrigerated," says a FSA spokesperson.
If you take ready-to-eat foods with you that are normally refrigerated, make sure you use them within 4 hours. After 4 hours, you should throw them away.
"If you take raw foods with you, like meat or fish, they should be kept separate from ready-to-eat foods in sealable containers and if possible in a cool bag," says the FSA spokesperson. "And always follow instructions on food labels. For example, don't use food after its use-by date."
Once you're at the campsite, don't leave your food in direct sunlight, and make sure it's always covered. Once you've used something, put the lid back on. If soil or insects get into your food it might make you sick.