Car Travel and Keeping Bugs out of your Food

If your traveling with a family, as 47% of american families will do this summer, it is tempting to pack a cooler with foods. With three kids, now adults, we always did.

The challenge, however, is keeping that cooler cold. Open the lid, leave it open for a while, don’t secure it adequately and you have problems with time temperature abuse. Anything that needs refrigeration runs the risk of becoming a bacterial breeding ground. So keep that cooler cool!

Stop at a drive through, pick up some fast food and you have increased your risks of food-borne illness.

Take a look at an article on the 10 most notable fast food epidemics. The names are recognizable: Chipotle, McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Burger King, Sizzler, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Jimmy John’s, Federico’s Mexican Food. In this table CDC reports data from 1998 to 2014 on the breakdown of food-borne illness from fast food facilities.

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Let’s take a look at the risks of eating fast food.

  • Dirty hands: You loaded the car with luggage, put the little ones in a car seat, put the dog in that back and you have been traveling for a few hours. Use hand sanitizer if eating your own food. If stopping at a drive through fast food facility consider getting out and amongst other duties, wash your hands. It’s not the diners fault if the disease is on your hands.

  • Think twice about that lettuce, tomato, pickle, alfalfa sprouts, etc. These are high risk items anyway and fast food facilities tend to have a higher risk profile.

  • If it is not cooked appropriately, don’t eat it. Check it out before you drive away.

  • Dispose of left overs. If you haven’t eaten it in 4 hours and it has been at room temperature, throw it away.

Finally, demand quality in that fast food. Check out this you tube video experiment. Fast food advertisement versus reality.

We loved those family trips. You should too. Just keep an eye on food safety.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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