Although summer is many months away, it is never too early to write about food safety, especially since the year-round RVers* are on the road. As a health professional, my thoughts on food safety is different from most. For example, while at the local Mall, I informally asked twenty people,
"What comes to mind when I mention the words, food safety?"
Seventy-five percent responded, washing your hands; 20% responded, don't go to work when sick, 2% responded, that food was free of contaminates, and 3% responded, do not know/cannot say.
Frankly, I expected everyone to respond as 75% did, to wash your hands. The 20%, who responded, stay home when sick, were food court employees, on break. Of the remaining 5%, 2% told me they worked in nearby farms, and 3% responded they were late for a movie. Hmm, I wonder what they were going to see in such a hurry. Anyway..
When I think of food safety, I think of:
- Washing hands before and after preparing food,
- Watching for cross-contamination of food,
- Proper storage of food, and
- Knowing when it is time to discard food.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, "Estimates that every year about 76 million people in the United States become ill from disease-causing substances, found in food."
Cross-Contamination of Food
The galley (kitchen) area in recreational vehicles (RV) is quite small, which makes it optimal for cross contamination of foods, or spreading germs from one food type to another. This can occur from improper handling and storage of food either during harvesting, at the grocery store, or in the RV (or at home for that matter). Although proper cooking kills microorganisms, raw meats, fish, and poultry may contain microorganisms that can cause serious gastrointestinal illness.**
Therefore, when preparing raw foods, keep all fresh food, like fruits and vegetables away, and always clean the area before preparing a new food item. Speaking of the sink, many people use the sink when preparing food, however the sink is one of the dirtiest places in the kitchen. Therefore, it is best to place food on a clean cutting board.
Lastly, one of the most common forms of cross-contamination occurs from handling food and failing to hand wash after using the bathroom. Poor bathroom hygiene is the number one cause of unexplained sudden diarrhea, what most refer to as, "a touch of food poisoning."
Implementing a few food safety practices can easily prevent most problems related to food contamination:
- Wash hands after using the bathroom and before handling food.
- Do not keep food at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours.
- Keep cold food, cold and hot food, hot.
- To slow down or prevent the growth of organisms, refrigerate perishable food immediately.
- If the food looks or smells bad, throw it out.
- Defrost foods in the microwave, refrigerator, or water, and not on the counter.
In conclusion, with the implementation of several food safety tips, cooking in the recreational vehicle galley can be easy, fun, and kind to the gastrointestinal system.
For more information on food safety, visit:
National Institutes of Health (nih.gov).
*RVers = Owners of Recreational Vehicles
**Gastrointestinal illnesses related to microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites pose a great risk to everyone.
Disclaimer: Dr. Mundorff is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Traditional Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases, nor be misinterpreted as a prescription. This information is provided with the understanding that the author is not engaging in a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with her readers. In the author's best judgment, the information and opinions expressed here are accurate and sound at the time of publication. Readers who rely on the information in this book as a replacement of the advice of a medical doctor assume all risks of such conduct. The author is not responsible for errors or omissions. Please consult your doctor before starting any alternative modalities.