Food Safety at Festivals

Summer has arrived. The smell of fresh cut grass, a BBQ with friends and, of course, those festivals that we wait all year for!  Attending a festival can be a great time, but don’t spoil your fun by getting sick.  Foodborne illness peaks in the summer months. The reasons why are two-fold. First, bacteria multiply more quickly in warmer temperatures. Secondly, preparing food outdoors makes safe food handling more difficult.

To keep bacteria from growing you need to keep food cold or cook it thoroughly. The “danger zone’ for food is between 40 and 140 degrees.

That is when bacteria grow most rapidly. In this range, bacteria can double in as little as 20 minutes. When the temperature outside is in the upper 80s, it doesn’t take long for food to be in this danger zone. A good rule of thumb is never to leave food out of a refrigerator or cooler for more than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, food should not be left out for more than one hour.

One draw to festivals is the numerous types of food and drink you’ll find right at your fingertips, but when vendors travel sometimes the usual safety controls that exist in a commercial kitchen, things like handwashing facilities, large refrigerators, thermometers, and their usual trained staff, can’t come along. Knowing how to protect yourself and what to look for can make sure you can make the best of your visit to the festival, wherever it may be.

If you’re bringing a picnic or food of your own along,  bring a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or freezer gel packs. Perishable foods, like summertime favorites macaroni or potato salad, need to stay cool. Here are some tips to pack, transport, and enjoy food safely.

  • Organize cooler contents: Consider a separate container for beverages, that way as people open and close the cooler to grab a drink, the perishable foods won’t be exposed to the warm air and will stay cooler, longer.
  • Clean your produce: Rinse fresh fruit and vegetables under running tap water before putting them in the cooler. This is true even of produce with skins and rinds that you won’t eat.
  • Serve food separately: don’t use the same plate and utensils for cooked food that was used for raw food.

The single most important thing you can do to stay safe and healthy this summer is also fairly simple and cannot be stressed enough. Wash your hands often. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, don’t forget in-between your fingers, the top of your hands, and up your wrists and arms.

Always wash hands after using the restroom, going on a ride, playing in the water or touching animals. You should also wash your hands after removing dirty clothes or shoes, and don’t forget to wash your hands before eating or drinking.

Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands. If possible, washing with soap is best, but sanitizers are a good additional step or one to take if you can’t wash with water.

Our team of inspectors works to ensure food safety. If you do get sick, it’s important to report it, even if you’ve already recovered. You can call the Mesa County Public Health reporting line at (970) 254-4120 or fill out this form on our website.