Road Rules for Food Safety

By Kristina Beaugh, MPH, Food Safety Education Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

Planning for Your Summer Road Trip

summer-road-trip-foodSchool’s out, bags are packed, and the car is fueled up. You’ve turned off the coffee pot, left a key for the cat sitter, and taken out the trash. Time to hit the road for a family vacation! But are you forgetting anything? Like many families, you are probably taking along food to save money and time on the road. But make sure this food is stored properly. Otherwise, your family vacation could be ruined by an unwanted case of food poisoning. Use these guidelines to be sure you and your family are food safe for the next road trip.

Plan Ahead

Before you start packing lunches and snacks, be sure you have plenty of ice or frozen gel packs on hand. Some foods need to stay refrigerated during your trip while others are safe at room temperature.

Foods That Need to Chill

  • Deli and lunch meat sandwiches
  • Summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, seafood)
  • Cut-up fruits and vegetables
  • Perishable dairy products like milk and yogurt
  • Raw meat and poultry to be cooked later

Foods That Can Be Left Out

  • Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Whole fruit
  • Crackers, chips, pretzels, nuts, popcorn, candy
  • Bread

Pack It Safely

Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator to the cooler. Use an insulated cooler or lunch box to help maintain food at a safe temperature throughout your trip. And remember, a full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled.

Clean Hands Only

Multiple people may be digging into the same bag of chips or trail mix throughout your trip. Protect your family from other disease-causing bacteria by keeping hands clean. Soap and water may not always be available so be sure to pack some moist towelettes and hand sanitizer.

If you have any questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or visit to chat with a Food Safety Specialist. Follow @USDAFoodSafety Exit disclaimer on Twitter to receive daily tips and information on recalled food.

Road Rules for Food Safety

by Editor time to read: 2 min