If you are traveling longer than 30 minutes with perishable food, place it in
a cooler with ice or freezer packs. When carrying drinks, consider packing
them in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently. Have
plenty of ice or frozen gel-packs on hand before starting to pack food. If
you take perishable foods along (for example, meat, poultry, eggs, and
salads) for eating on the road or to cook at your vacation spot, plan to keep
everything on ice in your cooler. Are there refrigerators at the beach house
or other vacation home?


Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the
cooler. Meat and poultry may be packed while it is still frozen; in that way
it stays colder longer. Also, a full cooler will maintain its cold
temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. Be sure to keep raw
meat and poultry wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be
eaten raw such as fruits.

If the cooler is only partially filled, pack the remaining space with more
ice or with fruit and some non-perishable foods such as peanut butter and
jelly and perhaps some hard-like Cheddar cheeses. For long trips to the shore
or the mountains, take along two coolers -- one for the day's immediate food
needs, such as lunch, drinks or snacks, and the other for perishable foods to
be used later in the vacation.

Keep the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car,
rather than in a hot trunk. Limit the times the cooler is opened. Open and
close the lid quickly.

Now, follow these food safety tips:


Remember to keep the cooler in a shady spot. Keep it covered with a blanket,
tarp or poncho, preferably one that is light in color to reflect heat.

Bring along bottled water or other canned or bottled drinks. Always assume
that streams and rivers are not safe for drinking. If camping in a remote
area, bring along water purification tablets or equipment. These are
available at camping supply stores.

Keep hands and all utensils clean when preparing food. Use disposable
towelettes to clean hands. When planning meals, think about buying and using
shelf-stable food to ensure food safety.


If boating on vacation, or out for the day, make sure the all-important
cooler is along.

Don't let perishable food sit out while swimming or fishing. Remember, food
sitting out for more than two hours is not safe. Further, for food safety,
the time frame is reduced to just one hour if the outside temperature is
above 90F.

Now, about that "catch" of fish -- assuming the big one did not get away. For
fin fish: scale, gut and clean the fish as soon as they are caught. Wrap both
whole and cleaned fish in water-tight plastic and store on ice. Keep 3-4
inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler. Alternate layers of fish and ice.
Cook the fish in 1-2 days, or freeze and use it within 6 months. After
cooking, eat within 3-4 days. Make sure the raw fish stays separate from
cooked foods.

Crabs, lobsters and other shellfish must be kept alive until cooked. Store in
a bushel or laundry basket under wet burlap. Crabs and lobsters are best
eaten the day they are caught. Live oysters can keep 7-10 days; mussels and
clams, 4-5 days.

Caution: Be aware of the potential dangers of eating raw shellfish. This is
especially true for persons with liver disorders or weakened immune systems.
However, no one should do so!


Plan ahead. Take along only the amount of food that can be eaten to avoid
having leftovers. If grilling, make sure local ordinances allow it.

Bring the cooler! Partially bury it in the sand, cover with blankets, and
shade with a beach umbrella.

Bring along moist towelettes for cleaning hands.

If dining along the boardwalk, make sure the food stands frequented look
clean, and that hot foods are served hot and cold foods cold. Don't eat
anything that has been sitting out in the hot sun -- a real invitation for
foodborne illness and a spoiled vacation.


If a vacation home or a recreational vehicle has not been used for a while,
check leftover canned food from last year. The Meat and Poultry Hotline
recommends that canned foods which may have been exposed to freezing and
thawing temperatures over the winter be discarded.

Also, check the refrigerator. If unplugged from last year, thoroughly clean
it before using. Make sure all food preparation areas in the vacation home or
in the recreational vehicle are thoroughly cleaned.

For additional food safety information about meat, poultry, or egg products,
call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1 (800) 535-4555;
Washington, DC area, (202) 720-3333; for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1 (800)
256-7072. The Hotline is staffed by food safety experts weekdays from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. Eastern time. Food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day
using a touch-tone phone.