Food Safety

The last thing you want is to be sick while bushwalking. Any food which contains some water can support bacteria - some of which are hostile. For this reason we normally do use small sealed packages of each food to limit the chance of it going off. Meat p

The last thing you want is to be sick while bushwalking. Any food which contains some water can support bacteria - some of which are hostile. For this reason we normally do use small sealed packages of each food to limit the chance of it going off. Meat products are especially risky - we won't bore you with the stories. But dried foods like oats, muesli, rice, biscuits and sweet spreads are pretty safe. Jams and honey are safe because they have so much sugar in them: the sugar concentration kills the bacteria by osmosis. But then, they are also quite heavy.

Sometimes you will find that a food such as cheese develops a bit of mould after some time, especially in hot weather. It is a moot question what to do with such food. If the mould is only the normal green penicillium it should be harmless, but can you discriminate reliably? Sometimes it is possible to shave the affected surface off the block of cheese - provided you don't transfer the spores to the new surface. This is a risky area, so be warned. Let it be added that most bushwalkers are probably familiar with this problem, and have chosen to scrape and eat. Hard cheeses do not suffer from this problem nearly as much as do sift cheeses: Mozzarella seems rather susceptible.

The other aspect of food safety is personal hygiene. Would you accept food from a chef who had not washed his hands between the toilet and the kitchen? A quick wash is so easy before any meal, and so much safer. In fact, while some very popular camping spots have a reputation as having ""bad water"", the author is willing to bet a lot of this is false, having been derived from diarrhoea experienced by parties of kids who didn't wash enough. (Actually, I will stick my neck out and say that 99.9% if such cases are due to a lack of personal hygiene. Mummy wasn't there.) The kids wouldn't want to blame themselves, would they? We now have a practice of giving our hands at least a quick rinse and a wipe with a damp washer before dinner, even when we are short on water at a dry camp. It takes all of a few tablespoons of water.

Finally, the quality of the water itself ... sadly isn't what it used to be. Several bugs and wogs are now endemic in most of our mountains: brought in by humans and spread by animals such as foxes. See the section on water filters. Run-off from semi-urban areas and farm areas is especially suspect - or extremely.