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Released: Aug. 22, 2000

At the Kansas State Fair:
Enjoy Food, But Consider Food Safety, Too

HUTCHINSON, Kan.– Fair goers will not be able to sample the hefty, all-butter buffalo on display in the cooler in the Pride of Kansas building, but they will be able to enjoy a multitude of other tasty goodies during the Kansas State Fair, Sept. 8-17. Many Fair visitors list food as one of the main attractions at the annual funfest.

More than a hundred different foods are expected to be on the menu at the Kansas State Fair this year. The sheer number of choices, which includes corn dogs; barbecued beef sandwiches; giant cinnamon rolls and apple dumplings with – or without – ice cream, can make choosing foods difficult.

Efforts to keep foods served at the Fair safe to eat aren’t listed on the menus, but the efforts are uppermost in the minds of vendors and organizers. Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment inspectors will monitor food vendors during the event.

Fair goers are, however, encouraged to be safety-conscious consumers, said Karen Penner, K-State Research and Extension food safety specialist, who offered these food safety tips:

TCheck a food vendor’s cleanliness. Does the work space appear clean? Is there a place for food service providers to wash their hands? Are workers wearing aprons and head coverings, such as a hat or hairnet? And, are food storage facilities within view? Is the area screened? Are insects sampling the food?

TDoes food look wholesome and good-to-eat? Foods that have an off color, texture or aroma should not be eaten, she said.

TAre vendors who touch ready-to-eat food wearing gloves?

T Has the food been prepared as you wait or is it ready-to-go? Has it been refrigerated? Kept piping hot on a burner or grill? Or has it been sitting out on a counter or table on the sunny side of the food booth for an unknown period of time?

"Temperature is an important consideration. When foods that should be served hot are allowed to cool to an unsafe temperature, potentially harmful bacteria that may be present on the food can grow and may cause foodborne illness, which often is mistaken for the flu. Symptoms can occur within hours after eating, but may not appear for several weeks. Children, the elderly, and others who may have immune systems that can be compromised by chronic illnesses or medical treatments, such as chemo therapy, can be more susceptible.

If foodborne illness is suspected, it should be reported immediately to the health department. Seeking medical treatment is encouraged," Penner said.

"Foods that should be refrigerated also need to be well chilled. This is especially important for salads and sandwich filling mixtures that may contain meat or eggs," she said.

Planning to pack a picnic for the Fair?

Fair visitors who prefer to pack a lunch or picnic are advised to be especially cautious in warm weather, which can cause harmful organisms on food to grow and multiply quickly, said Penner, who offered these guidelines:

P Use a thermal-insulated cooler; a bag of ice or an additional frozen cold-pack that can increase food safety. Freezing juice boxes also can help keep foods chilled.

P Prepare lunch or other picnic foods with well-chilled ingredients.

P Choose foods that travel well and are less likely to spoil; for example, peanut butter can be less perishable than a mixed sandwich filling. Plain raw vegetables and/or fresh fruit are likely to travel and retain food quality and safety better than a tossed salad with dressing or slice of cream pie.

P Pack condiments in separate containers.

P Travel with the cooler in the air-conditioned passenger area of the car or truck. Covering it with a blanket adds a layer of protection; coolers should not be allowed to stand in the sun. Once at the Fair, transfer the cooler to a protected (inside or shady) spot, rather than allow it to stand in a hot vehicle.

P Open a cooler only as needed; if extra beverages are packed, consider placing beverages in a separate cooler. If a cooler is accidentally left open or in an unprotected area, food may need to be discarded, Penner said.

P If picking up ready-to-eat foods at a drive-thru or deli, plan to eat them soon after pick-up, or place them in a cooler to protect food quality.

P Pack moist-towelettes or a hand-sanitizing solution to clean hands before eating.

P Discard, rather than eat, any foods that appear to be spoiled. Look for an unusual texture, color, aroma or other change in appearance. For example, if a luncheon meat has started to sweat, it should not be eaten. Remember, however, that organisms that cause foodborne illness generally don’t cause off flavors or colors.

Familiar advice is still good advice: When in doubt, throw it out, the food safety specialist said.

For more information on packing a lunch or other food safety tips, contact the local Extension office 

or visit the K-State Research and Extension website at .


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Nancy B. Peterson
Communications Specialist

K-State Research & Extension News

Karen Penner is at 785-532-1672