Searching for a summer camp, add food safety questions to parental checklist

The 16-year-old daughter has been going to a summer camp in Muskoka (that’s in Ontario, Canada) for years and loves it.

This year she gets to be a councilor for the summer so I’ve been reviewing crucial scenes from Bill Murray’s 1979 cinematic debut, Meatballs.

Yesterday’s USA Today noted that camp fair season (January-March) is in full swing: information and marketing fests are setting up shop in schools, malls and libraries across the country.

Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, which represents 2,400 accredited camps, said about 10 million kids attend camp each year, the camp association says. Of 12,000 day and resident camps nationwide, 4,000 are privately owned for-profits and 8,000 are non-profit.

Among specialty camps and themed sessions, cooking instruction — inspired by such TV shows as Top Chef— is "hot, hot, hot," says Jill Tipograph, founder of, an independent camp consulting firm and author of Your Everything Summer Guide & Planner.

Wonder if they’ll learn any food safety.

To help families search, the camp association offers a database at, and there are a bunch of questions parents should ask. But few seem to ask about or promote microbiologically safe food. There are outbreaks of foodborne illness every year at camps across North America, including one at a hockey camp a couple of my daughters went to years ago; fortunately my kids weren’t there during the outbreak.

But parents shouldn’t have to rely on fortune or faith. Ask questions about a camp’s commitment to food that doesn’t make kids barf. For some areas, food service inspection results may be available on-line. Those responsible for our
 children for a week or month of parental relief should be promoting safe food along with camp virtues.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time