While snake bites, crocodile attacks, bushfires, flash floods, road trains, and wandering camels may all present headline-worthy threats to our health and wellbeing, a far less spectacular peril is laying many more grey nomads low.
While it may sound preferable to a high-speed collision with a camel, food poisoning is certainly no laughing matter and it has the potential to turn the adventure of a lifetime into nightmare. Obviously life on the open road presents its own unique food preparation challenges whatever sort of rig you are travelling in. In general, cooking is done outdoors or in relatively cramped kitchenettes; fridges are smaller and may be shut down when travelling, and clean running water may not be available.
It all adds up to a giant warning signal. And it’s not just a case of a day or two of feeling a little bit sick either. Every year about 5.4 million Australians get food poisoning, and a staggering 120 people die as a result. Of course, not all of these are grey nomads but I bet a fair share of them are grey.
Luckily the Food Safety Information Council has released a fact sheet On the Road, aimed at older travellers. And here’s what it tells us to do:
Cooking in caravans, motor-homes, or campervans is not always easy. The bench space is usually limited, there is probably less equipment, fridge space is small and a good supply of fresh running water is not always available. To cope with all of this:
Make sure that you have access to enough safe water to rehydrate any dried food e.g. powdered milk, which will not be thoroughly cooked before you eat it (see tips on safe water below). Once opened, dried foods should be kept in airtight containers.
Cook poultry, minced meats, sausages and boned roasts right through. No pink should be left visible and the juices should run clear. Steaks and other solid pieces of meat can be cooked to taste. Have a clean plate and clean utensils ready to receive the cooked meat – don’t use the same ones that were used for the raw meat as the uncooked juices will contaminate the cooked food. Cooking only enough meat for one meal is the safest option. Food left out of the fridge for two hours or longer could be unsafe and should be thrown out.
SAFE WATER SUPPLY
If you are using an unserviced site, remember, water, even in remote and pristine wilderness is not necessarily safe. If the water tank in your caravan or motor-home is unsealed or if the water has not been regularly changed, it may have picked up contaminants and should be treated if used for drinking or washing ready to eat food. A couple of things you can do to make sure your water is safe:
These are simple precautions that we should all follow. Food poisoning is a genuine danger and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Let’s do the right thing and enjoy our time on the road.