Tips on Eating Safely at Fairs and Festivals

Picnic outside the Jimmy Buffet concert
Image by ShaneRobinson via Flickr

The last two posts have concentrated on the deep-fried indulging world of fair and festival food. Today I want to consider how to have safe eating and drinking experiences at those events.

Remember that food safety practices should be followed at fairs just as they are at home.

Practice cleanliness.

Keep raw food from contaminating other food.
Don’t cut fresh vegetables or fruits on the same cutting surface as you prepare raw meat.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

What should you consider before buying food from a food stand or other vendor?

Does the workstation look clean?
Is there a sink for employees to wash hands?
Do the workers look clean? Are they wearing hair nets and gloves?
Is there refrigeration on-site?
How are they keeping insects away from the food?

What are healthy food alternatives to consider at fairs and festivals?

* Fresh fruits — Apples and bananas are great choices, but they are often dipped in chocolate or caramel. Any pineapple or kiwi fruit? Do they have any fruit drinks, even some “exotic” fruit drinks? These would be a better choice than any of the regular or diet pop or sodas.

* Fresh vegetables — you probably won’t find any of these except for French fried potatoes, potato chips, and other high-fat items.

* Calcium-rich foods — Are there any low-fat yogurts without added sugars? You will probably find lots of ice cream combinations – all with a high sugar content. Other foods rich in calcium include cheese, whole fish, leafy green vegetables and broccoli, which you probably won’t find available.

* There will be lots of protein foods – hot-dogs, hamburgers, turkey legs, fried chicken, and other variations. Here again you should keep in mind  sanitation and the way it is prepared. Does it look like a healthy choice?

Are you bringing food from home?

You can prepare foods to bring from home which will be healthier and cheaper than any at the fair. Here again keep in mind food handling and storage times. Wash hands before handling any food. Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there isn’t any place to wash hands. All perishable foods should be in a cooler or insulated bag. Food should not be set out of the cooler for longer than two hours. If it is a very hot day, cut this time down to one hour or less. You can still enjoy the festive atmosphere while eating with your family.

However you choose to eat at these events, make sure you have a food-safe summer by reducing your risk of foodborne illnesses.

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Lee Jackson
Home and Family Living Coach

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