Stay Safe in Your Camp Kitchen


When I’m not writing about Scouting, I often write about health. Recently, however, I’ve been writing about sickness–specifically the sickness caused by antimicrobial resistance, a huge (and hugely under-reported) problem around the world. According to one report, drug-resistant bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites kill 700,000 deaths each year around the world.

This week, as I was reading about all the many places bacteria like Acinetobacter baumannii can hide, I had a flashback to my time as a Scout and the plywood patrol box surface on which we cut up raw chicken and formed hamburger patties. Between doing that and having a sketchy mastery of hand-washing, I’m surprised we didn’t all get violently ill on every outing.

I trust that your troop is a little more conscious of sanitation and food safety than we were back in the day. If not, now’s a good time to get smart.

The BSA’s summer 2017 Health and Safety newsletter offers some helpful information. Among the key reminders you’ll find there:

  • Keep it cold (below 40 degrees), which could mean freezing meat at home or using it all at a campout’s first couple of meals.
  • Keep it clean, which means washing your hands thoroughly before, during, and after cooking and avoiding cross-contamination.
  • Cook it thoroughly, not until you think it’s done (or you’re too hungry to wait any longer). That really means using a digital food thermometer instead of relying on meat color. (You can find these online for $10 or so, although my favorite thermometer, the ThermoPro ChefAlarm, runs a little over $50.)

And while you’re shopping for a digital food thermometer, toss a cutting board in your shopping cart. After all, you don’t know what has been on that patrol box lid–and what might still be there!

For more food safety tips, visit and

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


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