DPHHS Home       About Us       Contact Us       News & Events       Programs & Services       Health Data & Statistics

A - Z Index

NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

For Immediate Release
July 29, 2011

Food Safe Families Enjoy More Summer Fun

Eat Right Montana LogoA new national campaign developed by the Ad Council and several federal agencies has some great advice for Montana families who are headed outdoors this summer. Food Safe Families aims to raise awareness about the risks of foodborne illness and to help consumers, especially parents, to take specific actions to reduce the risks to themselves and their children. "Let’s all take care to keep our families food safe while enjoying the great outdoors here in Montana" said Anna Whiting Sorrell, Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

"Food Safe Families is a perfect fit for ongoing food safety work at MSU Extension," says Dr.. Lynn Paul, RD (registered dietitian), Food and Nutrition Specialist at Montana State University in Bozeman. "In the US, approximately 1 in 6 Americans suffer a food-related illness, sometimes called food poisoning, every year. Here in Montana, Extension promotes many programs to reduce foodborne illness, including ServSafe for restaurant and school workers, Safe Aid for food banks and pantries, and Celebrating Food Safety at Pow Wows. Through these programs, MSU Extension is committed to reducing food-related illness in our state."

Food-related illnesses tend to increase during the summer months for several reasons. Family vacations and hot weather are both contributing factors. More families eat outdoors - everywhere from backyard picnics and national park campgrounds to hiking trails and motorboats. Special effort is also necessary to keep cold foods cold in summer weather. Unfortunately, many Americans do not take enough personal responsibility for keeping food safe to eat after they buy it at a supermarket or grocery store.

"Every one of us can take simple steps to be food safe every day," explains Paul. "Preventing foodborne illness is a farm-to-table process. It begins where food is produced and continues through everywhere it is processed and marketed. Consumers also play a critical role in food safety by properly handling, preparing, and storing food everywhere they eat."

Here are four basic steps that Food Safe Families can follow anytime, anywhere they shop, cook, or eat:

CLEAN: It’s always important to clean kitchen surfaces, dishes, and utensils while preparing food. One of the most basic, easiest ways to prevent illness is to wash hands thoroughly before, during, and after eating.

SEPARATE: Cross contamination can occur from bacteria on raw foods to ready-to-eat items. Separate raw meat, poultry, and fish from other foods - in grocery bags, the refrigerator, and camping coolers.

COOK: A small digital thermometer is essential for safely cooking inside and outdoors, especially when grilling meat and poultry. A $10 to $15 investment in a kitchen thermometer can prevent expensive illnesses.

CHILL: Special attention is necessary to keep foods cold in summer’s heat. All perishable items must be kept in a fridge or cooler until time to cook or eat. Cooked foods should be kept out no longer than 2 hours.

"Montanans can find all the most current food safety information online," notes Paul. "FoodSafety.gov and our MSU Extension site (www.msuextension.org/nutrition/) have tips, guidelines, and even videos."

Take MyPlate Camping

The new USDA healthy eating icon, ChooseMyPlate.gov, is a simple guide to enjoying smart meals anywhere. You can use MyPlate to quickly and easily plan healthful meals at home and on the go. Use MyPlate to help your family enjoy high energy, great tasting meals on all your camping adventures.


Preparation at home makes things much easier around the campfire. By pre-cooking and packing at home, you’ll have more time for hiking, fishing, canoeing, and relaxing. Planning ahead also means you won’t have to haul lots of kitchen equipment around.

Slice, dice, spice and FREEZE: Meat and poultry are easier and safer when the prep work is done at home. Cut into suitable serving sizes – and trim away excess fat and skin. Add herbs, spices, or marinades – and freeze in leak-proof bags or plastic containers. Frozen meat will also help your cooler stay cold.
PRE-MIX as many ingredients as possible: Pre-mixing saves time and reduces messy camp cleanups (reducing hungry animal visitors too!). For example, mix all dry ingredients for pancakes or cornbread (baked in a Dutch oven) together and store in a plastic bag. Add water, milk, or eggs when it’s time to cook and throw the bag away.


Get colorful with fruits and veggies: Fresh or dried fruit makes perfect snacks, with no refrigeration needed. Fill baggies with your family’s favorite flavors and make sure they always have one handy in a pocket or pack. For MyPlate veggies, bring pre-mixed salads and plenty of ready-to-eat options like baby carrots and sliced peppers.

Go hearty with whole grains: MyPlate suggests making half your grains whole, which is easy to do at any camping meal. Oatmeal is a wonderful way to start the day, with lots of energy for hiking and boating. Whole grain breads make delicious wraps and sandwiches at lunchtime. Toasted whole grain buns are just right with burgers!

Pump up camp dinners with lean protein:
Hot dogs are high in sodium and low in protein. To get plenty of MyPlate lean protein, grill lean beef, poultry, fresh fish, or wild game. Quesadillas are easy to create in a heavy pan with whole grain tortillas, low-fat cheese, grilled veggies, and sliced chicken or pork (pre-cooked at home).


Treat your family to some new flavors in your camping meals this season. And always remember to be food safe by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold! 

Go Take a Hike!

Hiking can offer hours of enjoyment and a lifetime of personal fitness. A family hike can build wonderful memories and strong bodies at the same time. The key to successful hiking with kids is choosing the right trail for their abilities and interests. Montana and other states have helpful online lists of local trail systems. Look for a trail to fit your family at TrailLink.com or Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (http://fwp.mt.gov/recreation/activities/hikingTrails.html).


Make a hike fit your family: When choosing a trail, carefully think about the length (shorter is better for kids) and elevation change (start flat, gradually go steeper).

Make a hike fun for kids: To reduce whining along the way, make a scavenger list of things to see or collect. Tell stories, sing songs, and stop to play in a stream. 
Make a hike sun safe for everyone: Remember hats, sunglasses, and plenty of safe drinking water. Use a sunscreen of at least 30-45 SPF and reapply every 2 hours.


So many trails, so many miles of family fun! Montana has over 15,000 trail miles with something for every family to enjoy at their own pace. Here are ten great options.

  1. Lewis and Clark Cavern Trails: 10 miles of trails, all levels, near Whitehall
  2. Swan River Natural Trail: 4-mile, easy family walk starting in Bigfork Village
  3. Lone Pine State Park: 5 miles of nature trails and a visitor center near Kalispell
  4. Headwaters Trail System: 6 miles from Headwaters State park to Three Forks
  5. River’s Edge Trails: 25 miles (11 are paved) around Great Falls
  6. Heritage Trail System: Expanding network of trails in and round Billings
  7. Bozeman Trails: 45 miles of city trails, connecting to many others outside town
  8. Mt. Helena City Park: Multiple trails, many miles on Helena’s own mountain
  9. Missoula Parks and Recreation: 22 miles, with many newly improved trails
  10. Glacier National Park: Many miles of trails for all levels and interests


Two more tips to make hiking safe and FUN: (1) Sturdy, well fitting shoes keep feet happy and injury-free. (2) Trail snacks provide fuel to keep everyone going strong.

Camping Food Safety
While food safety is important any time of year, proper food handling is essential for summer meals, especially when away from your home kitchen. Since any food-related illness can spoil a camping trip or family vacation, it is worth being extra careful with food in the summer. Fortunately, you can help keep food safe with four simple steps.

What we know

Food-related illness is under-reported and misunderstood: One in six Americans get sick from a food-related illness every year. Many of them blame it on the flu or other "bug."
Looking, smelling, and tasting are not accurate ways to check if food is safe to eat: Food can look, smell, and taste fine - and be full of bacteria that make you very sick.

Food safety involves four key steps: Any perishable food can be a place for disease-causing bacteria to grow. Visit FoodSafety.gov to learn about Food Safe Families.

What you can do

1: CLEAN - Wash your hands often.
When water is available, use biodegradable soap. Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all parts thoroughly. Rinse with water and dry with paper towels.   
If water is not readily available, carry plenty of hand sanitizer and disposable wipes for cleaning hands carefully and often (before/after eating, touching animals, etc.).

2: SEPARATE - Keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate.
Cross contamination can occur in coolers, especially when juices from raw meat or poultry drip onto other foods. Double-wrap all meat products in sealable plastic bags.
When preparing meat/poultry/fish for grilling, use separate dishes and utensils. Wash carefully before using the same items for cooked meats or other foods.      

3: COOK - Cook to proper temperatures.
Always use a digital or dial food thermometer in your camp kitchen. Ensure all that ground meat is safe to eat by cooking patties to an internal temperature of 160 °F.
Cook all other beef/veal/pork/lamb/wild game to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F. Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

4: CHILL - Refrigerate all perishables promptly to 40 °F or below.
Take plenty of cold power (ice blocks, water frozen in plastic milk jugs, or gel packs) to keep cold foods COLD. In camp, keep the cooler in shade or covered with a tarp.
Put ALL perishable and cooked foods into a cooler after 2 hours. For more tips, visit www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/food_safety_while_hiking_camping_&_boating/index.asp#9.

Campfire Stew

All 2011 recipes will meet the following criteria:

  • Require minimal ingredients that are easy to find and affordable
  • Involve minimal preparation time and use common kitchen equipment
  • Include a complete nutritional analysis and lots of delicious flavors


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped potatoes
  • 2 cups whole kernel corn (fresh, frozen, or canned and rinsed)
  • 1 cup fresh carrots, diced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas  
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste 


  • Lay 4 large squares of aluminum foil on the counter. 
  • Spray with non-stick spray.
  • Divide ground beef into 4 equal balls. Flatten into the center of the tin foil.  
  • Cover with potatoes and other veggies, using ¼ cup of each on the 4 patties.     Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Fold foil to the center and seal the sides
  • Place foil packets on the campfire grill, or into a pre-heated 375 °F oven.
  • Cook until the beef reaches an internal temperature of 160 °F, approximately

      25-30 minutes in oven, 30-45 minutes on a moderate grill.

Yield: 4 individual servings

Getting kids cooking:

  • Kids can help to wash and chop veggies.
  • Kids can make their own special ‘stew’ by choosing their favorite veggies.
  • Talk with children about how to be food safe, with washing hands and measuring temperatures.
  • Serve directly out of foil packets for a camping meal - with a fruit salad and whole grain roll or cornbread.
  • Sprinkle with reduced-fat, grated cheese or hot low-fat beef gravy before serving.

 Nutrition Analysis: 1/4 serving

  • Calories: 373
  • Total Carb: 38.9 g
  • Protein: 28.4 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5.6 g
  • Total Fat: 12.2 g
  • Calories from Fat: 29.4%        
  • Saturated Fat: 290 g                 
  • Trans Fat: 0 g    
  • Sodium: 290 mg
  • Calcium: 42.7 mg
  • Iron: 3.7 mg

Source: Julie Leister, Missoula, Montana

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD (EatRightMT2000@gmail.com) developed this information for Eat Right Montana, a coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles. Past and current issues of Eat Right Montana’s monthly nutrition and physical activity tips can be downloaded free at www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm.)

Page last updated: 07/29/2011