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CHICAGO -- Compared with a year ago, a third more Americans will be "carrying on" meals and snacks from home this summer when traveling via plane, train or automobile. Yet most families take detours around simple home food safety precautions that can keep travel treats from spoiling even the best-laid family vacation plans.
A new survey from the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Foundation shows that of the more than 60 percent of people who say they plan to take one or more vacations this season:
-- 52 percent are traveling by plane. Nearly 40 percent plan to bring
food with their carry-on bags, and more than 60 percent plan to bring
food if the airline does not provide it.
-- 90 percent are traveling by car, and 97 percent of them will bring
-- 22 percent of those traveling by bus and 19 percent of train travelers
plan to pack food to eat en route.
"More than ever, families are toting food from home when they set out for vacation. This could be a reflection of the continual tightening of family pocketbooks; the availability of new convenient car-friendly foods; or even airlines' elimination of in-flight meals," says Carolyn O'Neil, registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the ADA/ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety program. "Our kitchens and dining rooms have extended beyond the confines of our home. So we need to remember to apply the same home food safety 'road rules' when preparing meals eaten away from home. Following some easy steps can help you save the adventure for vacation, not your back-seat picnic."
According to the survey, travelers who pack food to eat on the way to their destination typically bring sandwiches (67 percent), chips and dips (66 percent), fresh fruit or vegetables (65 percent) and prepackaged lunches with meat and cheese (28 percent), all of which can spoil if not kept at proper temperatures.
The survey also reveals 30 percent leave the food they bring unrefrigerated for three to four hours, and 15 percent leave it out for more than four hours.
"This can create a food safety hazard for travelers and their companions," O'Neil says. "Perishable foods should never be left out and unrefrigerated for more than two hours, the point at which harmful bacteria begin to multiply rapidly." In hot weather (above 90.F), she says, reduce the time to one hour.
Make sure your family doesn't squeeze a case of food poisoning into those already-stuffed suitcases by following a few easy pre-travel food preparation tips from ADA/ConAgra Foods Foundation:
-- Wash hands with soap and water before preparing foods and after
switching tasks, such as handling raw meat and then cutting vegetables.
Sing the chorus of your favorite vacation-themed song while you wash for
20 seconds. Also, make sure food preparation surfaces are clean.
-- Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate. This includes placing
raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so
juices don't drip onto other foods.
-- Be sure to pack moist towelettes to clean up before digging in.
-- In hot weather, transport perishable food in a cooler (packed with ice
or ice packs) in the back seat of an air-conditioned car instead of the
trunk. Remember to drop in a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the
temperature remains below 40.F.
-- If traveling by plane or train where space is tight, freeze a juice box
or yogurt for a chilly treat that will also help keep other foods cool.
Pack foods in a small, soft-cover travel cooler that will conveniently
slip under the seat. Or, give each family member his or her own insulated
lunch bag full of favorites.
-- If stopping roadside for a mid-trip cook-out, remember to grill foods
to proper and safe temperatures: hamburgers (at least 160.F), hot dogs
(reheat to 160.F), and chicken (170.F). Pack raw meats for the trip in a
cooler, placing them in a well-sealed container or wrapping tightly in
saran. Be sure to keep them separate from other packed foods as raw
juices from the meat can easily contaminate ready-to-eat foods.
-- Don't forget that carry-out and fast food are also susceptible to food
poisoning if not properly handled. If not eaten or refrigerated within
two hours, toss it.
The ADA/ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety ... It's in Your Hands program educates consumers that home food safety is a serious issue and provides solutions so Americans can easily and safely handle food in their own kitchens. This program complements government-sponsored food safety initiatives that speak to the leading critical food-handling violations by emphasizing the following four key messages: 1) Wash hands often; 2) Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate; 3) Cook to proper temperatures; 4) Refrigerate promptly below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information, visit www.homefoodsafety.org.
Impulse Research Corporation conducted the home food safety survey in
April 2003 for the American Dietetic Association and the ConAgra Foods
Foundation through an online survey of a random sample of 1,036 adults
ages 18 and above who plan to take at least one trip this spring or
summer. The sample was chosen to closely match U.S. population
demographics. Percentages do not add up to 100 percent as many travelers plan to take
more than one vacation this summer via different modes of transportation.
Source: ConAgra Foods, Inc.