How to transport food safely
Whether you're camping, heading for a holiday cottage or taking food to a party, follow our basic rules for getting it there safely.
If you're planning to travel with food this summer, whether it's a sunny picnic or camping, it's worth taking a look at our top 10 tips for transporting it safely.
1. Prepare for your journey
Plan ahead – if you're travelling long distances, it may be safer to visit a supermarket nearer your destination to buy perishable items. Make sure you have enough cool bags, cool boxes and ice packs as well as sealed food containers. If there's a fridge at your destination, transfer the food immediately before unpacking the rest of your stuff. If there isn't a fridge, plan to eat any perishable items when you arrive.
Consider taking foods that don't need refrigerating to bulk out your meals e.g. muffins, cakes (without butter icing), bread, trail mix and bars. Canned, jarred and UHT foods can be surprisingly good. Vegetarian meals are a great option, if you want to cook up a storm on a campsite – a vegetarian casserole made with seasonal veg, spices, canned tomatoes and chickpeas makes for a filling meal. Buy pre-cooked grains in pouches for a quick and simple salad or add them to soups and stews for a more sustaining main.
2. Travelling with cooked food
Make sure all food is thoroughly sealed before travelling so there's no cross-contamination. You don't want raw and ready-to-eat food in contact with each other. Check out the best food storage containers for this.
If you're travelling by car in hot weather, open the doors before you set off to let the heat out, put the food in the coolest place in the car, and if you have it, put the air con on.
If you're taking a cooked dish, cook it, cool it as quickly as possible and refrigerate. Transfer it to a cool box with ice packs just before setting off.
Think about freezing meat or ready-cooked dishes and transporting them frozen – that way you know they won't get too hot on the journey. You can't refreeze them at your destination though, so you'll need to plan how you will keep them cold when you get there.
3. On arrival
Food safety rules are the same as they would be at home so wash your hands before you prepare food outside. Equipment and utensils all need to be thoroughly cleaned too.
All perishable food should be kept at the correct temperature. Keep food that belongs in the fridge cold and serve hot food, piping hot throughout. Heat kills most bacteria so this is really important.
Think about taking a food thermometer, cold food should be kept at 8C or below and hot food needs to be at 63C or above throughout.
Bear in mind that cold food shouldn't be above 8C for more than four hours, and hot food shouldn't be below 63C for more than two hours. Once it has reached this threshold, you need to throw it away.
Now you know the basics, take a look at our camping recipes for great recipes to make or take al fresco.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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