Two recent events remind us all of the importance of correct sanitation practices when camping:
In Virginia Goshen Scout Reservation closed early due to an outbreak of E. Coli illnesses traced to contaminated, undercooked ground beef (reportedly in foil dinners).
In Pennsylvania Horseshoe Scout Reservation closed early due to an outbreak of the Norwalk virus. Norovirus causes acute gastrointestinal illness and is sometimes called the ‘cruise ship virus’.
Both camps have great programs, conscientious, professional staff and excellent health and safety records. Events such as these can have tragic results on the health of Scouts and the reputation of a Camp or Troop.
E. coli from tainted meat is avoidable if proper food handling and cooking practices are followed. Norovirus related illnesses are a bit more difficult to avoid once an outbreak begins as the virus is very difficult to eliminate from the environment. Food handling is a definite concern with norovirus but proper sanitation is paramount to avoiding infection.
Three simple practices insure avoiding food-borne illness:
1. Protect food from time and temperature abuse:
The key to keeping food safe during storage is to keep it out of the
temperature danger zone. The danger zone is when the temperature falls
between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In this
range, microorganisms that may be present on food can grow and
reproduce, making it unsafe. Remember – refrigerating or freezing food
does not kill microorganisms! However, it does slow their growth.
From the NSF website.
2. Avoid Cross Contamination
Don’t allow raw meats or poultry to contact other foods by using separate surfaces and utensils in preparing meals.
3. Keep it clean
Properly clean and disinfect hands, surfaces and utensils
Similarly three practices will keep one safe from viral infections;
- Wash your hands
- Avoid sharing clothing or other body contact items like water bottles, etc.
- Clean and disinfect common surfaces and gear.
Related posts at Scoutmaster
Hygiene and Gastrointestinal Illness in the Wilderness