There’s nothing quite like a day on an Aussie beach going between the sun and the waves, with an esky packed full of your favourite snacks. With summer finally here, I know I’ve been spending most of my weekends horizontal on a beach towel in the sand.
But there’s one thing us beach lovers don’t always think about when packing food and drink for the hot weather outside. It turns out, to avoid getting sick, we need to know more about the best temperature to keep hot and cold foods in our eskies.
In Queensland alone, there were 4261 cases of Salmonella notifications received during the past year. Can you imagine how many instances have gone unreported?
Foodborne illness is increasing in Australia and we need to be especially careful in summer as bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures, and preparing food outdoors makes safe food handling more difficult.
So what is the best temperature to store the hot and cold foods we’re packing? Are some foods riskier than others if you’re spending an entire day out? And is there an ideal way of packing your esky to avoid contamination of raw foods, cooked foods and drinks?
We have the answers to all of your questions, thanks to Queensland Health’s Feel Good Facts resource.
Are some foods riskier than others if you’re spending an entire day out?
The answer to this question is yes, harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning can grow more easily in and on some foods than it can on others. These ‘potentially hazardous’ foods support the growth of bacteria that might cause you to become sick.
These foods include:
- Raw and cooked meat (including hams, salamis, chicken and turkey) or foods containing meat, such as casseroles, curries and lasagne;
- Dairy products, for example, milk, custard and dairy-based desserts;
- Seafood (excluding live seafood);
- Processed fruits and vegetables, for example, prepared salads, coleslaws and rice salads;
- Cooked rice and pasta;
- Foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein rich foods, such as quiche and soy products;
- Foods that contain these foods, such as sandwiches and rolls.
How should we pack hot and cold foods for the beach?
There are two factors that are the most important when packing hot or cold food: the temperature of the food at the time you packed it and the time it stays at that temperature. If food remains in the temperature "danger zone" of between 5°C and 60°C for a total of:
- Less than two hours, it must be chilled or used immediately;
- Longer than two hours but less than four hours, it must be used immediately;
- Four hours or longer, it must be thrown out.
You should steer clear of potentially hazardous foods unless you can keep them cold (5°C or lower) or hot (60°C or higher). At the beach this is unlikely so if you're unsure, it's safest not to eat it.