Proper food handling and sanitation techniques are necessary to prevent the spread of communicable diseases among the members of your trip. Gastrointestinal illnesses are of primary concern. The usual source of gastrointestinal organisms is the human intestinal tract. Some organisms found in the nose or in infected skin lesions can produce a powerful toxin which cannot be destroyed by heat, and which can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. In addition to human sources, meat and poultry may be contaminated. If these foods are inadequately cooked, the result will be the contamination of utensils, preparation surfaces, and the hands of handlers.
Following contamination of a food, it is usually necessary for the bacteria to reproduce before an infective dose is developed. Three factors are required for reproduction: time, temperature, and a nutrient source.
It usually takes no more than 3 to 4 hours after food has been contaminated to produce enough bacterial growth to cause illness in a large number of people. Most of the organisms of concern will grow well between 77 F and 114 F.
In order to prevent contamination of food during its preparation along the river, personal and environmental cleanliness are vitally important. No one with symptoms of a communicable disease, especially diarrhea, should be allowed to prepare food or handle utensils for others. Neither should anyone with infected wounds or boils be permitted to handle food. As disease causing organisms often get into food from hands of a person preparing food, scrupulous personal cleanliness is important. Washing the hands with soap and water is essential after going to the toilet, handling raw meat and poultry, putting fingers in the nose, eating, smoking, or handling objects that may be contaminated.
All surfaces with which food comes into contact during preparation, including knives, utensils, cutting boards, and table tops, must be clean and sanitary. Tables and equipment used for preparing raw meats and poultry should not be used for preparing other foods until they have been cleaned and sanitized thoroughly. Use a sanitizing solution with a chlorine concentration of 100 200 ppm for these surfaces. A test kit is recommended to monitor the concentration of the sanitizing solution.
The means by which foods become contaminated with disease organisms, and the subsequent processes through which these organisms pass in order to become dangerous to human health, dictate the procedures necessary to interrupt the chain of events leading to an outbreak of human illness. Briefly stated, these procedures are:
- After going to the toilet or handling raw meat or poultry, wash hands with soap and water before handling utensils and preparing foods. Wash hands whenever they become contaminated while preparing food. It is suggested that an antibacterial soap be used for hand washing. Allow the hands to air dry.
- Cooked, prepared foods, or foods served raw (e.g., vegetables) should come in contact only with clean and sanitized surfaces, equipment, and utensils. Equipment used for raw foods should be washed and sanitized before being used with cooked foods.
- Persons with communicable diseases, diarrhea, infected wounds on the hands and arms, or boils should not be allowed to prepare food. It is suggested that food handlers not eat while preparing food to prevent cross contamination.
- Stored perishable food should be kept at temperatures below 41 F or below.
- All produce should be washed in potable water.
- Foods such as meat and poultry products should be well cooked (165 F) to destroy disease organisms.
- After preparation and prior to serving, keep hot foods hot (above 140 F) and cold foods cold (41 F or below).
- Leftover perishable food should be discarded or refrigerated immediately in clean, protected, labeled containers. Leftover perishable food should be thoroughly reheated before use (to 165 F). It is suggested that leftovers only be used for emergencies.
- All chemicals should be properly labeled and should be stored separately from food and food equipment.
- It is recommended that tarps be placed in the kitchen area and under the dishwashing set up in order to reduce the amount of food particles left on beaches.
It is recommended to sanitize dishes and utensils using the 3 bucket system. Dish wash buckets should be constructed of non corrosive material so they are smooth and easy to wash. Place 3 buckets of water below the high water mark to leave the beach free of soap and spilled food. The system is as follows:
- Use 3 buckets large enough to immerse the largest plates and utensils. All 3 buckets must contain visually clear water. If the river is muddy, allow dishwater to settle and remove sediment before use. The use of alum is recommended for settling (2 tablespoons per 5 gallons for dishwater). Decant the clear water. Heat 2 buckets of water to near boiling.
- Add detergent to 1 heated bucket of water, leaving the second bucket of hot water clear for rinsing. The third bucket of water (~75 F to 120 F) should contain a chlorine concentration of 50-100 ppm for sanitizing.
- Wash dishes and utensils in the first bucket of hot, soapy water to remove grease and food particles. Water temperature should be 120 F to 140 F.
- Dip rinse in the second bucket of hot rinse water.
- Immerse articles in the third bucket of chlorine solution for 60 seconds. The effectiveness of chlorine for disinfecting is directly related to time of exposure. Be sure to allow time for the chlorine to sanitize.
- Place dishes on a rack for air drying. Store the articles in a clean, dry location to be ready for the next meal. If dishes did not air dry before being packed or dishes become contaminated by river water or other sources, use a sanitizing solution on the dishes before using.