Serve Safe Meals in the Field

Food Safety, Ag Safety and Health October 11, 2012|Print

Released October 2, 2012

URBANA, Ill. – For farmers and their helpers, fall harvest means long days in the confinements of a tractor or a combine. Staying alert and attentive is important when operating heavy equipment and machinery. Being well nourished will influence how alert a farmer will be. It's important to eat foods that will provide optimum energy without causing drowsiness and to never skip meals, no matter how busy it gets in the field. But as Jenna Smith, University of Illinois Extension Educator indicates, "it's also important to assure that the meals are safe."

Hand washing is the first thing to plan for when out in the field.

Take liquid soap, a jug of hot water and paper towels to the field for hand washing, and use before eating anything. Packaged hand wipes will also help remove any chemicals and bacteria that are commonly found on the farm.

When planning menus for the field, food safety principles must be followed very closely.

Often, meals will have to sit in a hot vehicle for several hours before they are eaten. Some of these foods may reach the danger point where bacteria begin to grow very rapidly. Food held in the danger zone, between 40º F and 140º F is a potential hazard. Avoid leaving perishable foods in the danger zone by carrying already chilled foods in an insulated lunch box or bag with an ice pack or gel freezer pack. These insulated containers with ice packs will keep foods much colder than a paper bag. You can also pack a sandwich the night before, and put it in the freezer. Grab it the next morning and it will help keep the rest of the meal cool while thawing in time for lunch or supper. Sandwich spreads or fillings made with mayonnaise, mayonnaise-type dressings, or hard cooked eggs should not be frozen. Pack lettuce and tomatoes separately as they do not freeze well.

When packing hot foods, such as soups, casseroles stews and vegetables, Smith reminds us that it's important to keep them hot: above 140º F at all times. Use a stainless steel or insulated thermos rather than a plastic lined one for hotter and safer food at meal time. For foods that are cooked at home and transported directly to the field, use about 15 to 20 layers of newspaper or heavy towels to wrap around and insulate the food. Also, preheat the container that the food sits in by filling it with clean hot water and letting it stand for a minute or two. Then, empty the water and fill promptly with hot food.

Serving safe meals in the field is important to remember this harvest. No farmer or helper wants to get behind in their work due to foodborne illness!

Lunch Bag Burritos (makes 4 burritos)

1 cup nonfat refried beans

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

4 oz can chopped green chili peppers, drained

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

4 lettuce leaves

4 8-inch flour tortillas

¼ cup salsa

1. In a medium bowl, stir together beans, chilies, garlic powder and cumin.

2. Arrange lettuce over tortillas. Spoon about ½ cup bean mixture near one edge of each tortilla.

3. Top each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of salsa.

4. Roll tortilla around filling. Place in a covered container or airtight plastic bag and pack in an insulated lunchbox with a chilled freezer gel pack. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Analysis per Serving: 269 Calories, 4 grams total fat, 12 grams protein, 50 grams total carbohydrate, 3 milligrams cholesterol, 565 milligrams sodium


University of Illinois,

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