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Camping is a popular recreational pastime in West Virginia. But to have a really good time, you need to stay healthy. This information sheet will help you talk to your child about food safety at the campsite.

Acute gastroenteritis (‘stomach bug’) is the most common infectious disease encountered when camping. Symptoms of acute gastroenteritis include sudden onset of severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. The majority of these cases are transmitted from an ill person or through contaminated foods and water. Acute gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus called norovirus. Other causes of foodborne illness include bacteria, such as Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, and E. coli; or parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

Top 7 Food Safety Tips:

Following some basic food safety guidelines can help prevent foodborne illnesses. We have provided some basic tips for parents on food safety so you can talk to your child before they go to camp:

  1. Teach your child to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, before preparing food, and after handling foods like meat, poultry and eggs. Hand washing after using the bathroom prevents the spread of illness from one person to another. Hand washing before preparing or eating food prevents the food from getting contaminated before it goes in somebody’s mouth. Raw meat, poultry and eggs are sometimes contaminated with unsafe bacteria like Salmonella or E coli. Always wash your hands after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs. Washing with clean water and soap prevents the spread of disease. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer should be used.
  2. Tell your child not to drink water from rivers, lakes, creeks or streams. Surface water can easily get contaminated by human or animal waste. During wilderness camping if they can’t bring water with them, an adult or counselor should help them treat the water to make it safe to drink.
  3. Remind your camper not to share cups or utensils with others. Drinking or eating after another person could get your child sick. Colds, flu, and other viruses can spread through saliva. Some forms of meningitis also spread this way.
  4. Check with the camp before sending food, even snack food to camp. Most rural areas of West Virginia have a lot of wildlife, and children should never store food, even snack food in a tent. If you send food to camp, make sure there is a safe place to store it and send it in airtight and bug-tight containers.
  5. Instruct your child to clean their dishes and utensils properly with detergent and clean water. Do not use water from rivers, creeks or streams for cleaning as it may be contaminated.
  6. Tell your camper to wash raw vegetables and fruits in clean, treated water before eating.
  7. Camp staff should supervise campers in preparation of food at the campsite. Some easy rules to remember include:
    • Always use clean utensils and cutting boards for preparing food.
    • Clean utensils and cutting boards after they have been used for meat, poultry, and fish. Do not put cooked meat or poultry on the same surface as raw meat or poultry.
    • Store food in airtight, waterproof, bug proof containers.
    • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Take care with meat, poultry, and fish, because they are diffiicult to keep chilled in a camp setting.
    • Fresh caught fish should be kept chilled or alive until ready to cook.
    • Make sure food is cooked to the right internal temperature. The only way to do this is with food thermometer. Just because it "looks done" doesn't mean it's safe!

Please Use the Links Provided For Additional Information:

  1. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  3. National Institute of Health
  4. WV Bureau For Public Health
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West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
350 Capitol Street - Room 125 - Charleston, WV 25301 - (304) 558-5358 - Fax: (304) 558-6335