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Food Safety Tips for College Students
Edited by: Stephanie Wallner, M.S., Mary Schroeder, M.S., R.D, Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Colorado State - Fall 2005
When students arrive on college campuses for the first time, food safety may be the last thing on their minds. Classes, assignments, exams, sports, activities, and social life consume much of their time and energy, and meals and snacks are often eaten on the run. Proper food handling and preparation practices may go ignored, or students may not even be aware of them at all. Food safety issues can become especially important for students living with multiple roommates or in dormitories and sharing kitchen areas. Cross-contamination can easily occur when several roommates share a small kitchen space and prepare different foods at the same time. Another concern is improper or incomplete cooking of frozen convenience foods with popular appliances such as microwaves, indoor grills, and toaster ovens - busy students may not take the time to measure food temperatures with a food thermometer or check labels for specific instructions. However, there are some basic precautions students can take to help them avoid foodborne illness while at college.
Food safety begins at the grocery store. Raw meats and poultry should be kept separate from other foods in carts and grocery bags. When returning home with fresh foods, students should also remember that perishable items need to be refrigerated within two hours of purchase. At home, meats and poultry that won't be used within a few (3-4) days should be stored in the freezer.
After preparing and consuming meals, students should remember to refrigerate leftovers within two hours. Bacteria on food grow best between 40 and 140 degrees F, and can multiply very quickly. Refrigerated leftovers are safe for about three days if kept below 40 degrees F and sealed tightly.
In addition to the four basic food safety guidelines for all consumers - clean, separate, cook, and chill - college students may find the following tips helpful in avoiding foodborne illness.
- Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after food preparation, and especially when handling raw meats. Surfaces used to prepare raw meats should also be cleaned with hot water and soap.
- When ordering take-out meals such as pizza or party trays, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Throw away uneaten food that has been left out for more than two hours.
- Use a clean plate for foods coming off the grill, not the one used during meal preparation.
- When using a microwave, cook foods for the maximum time suggested, stirring or rotating every few minutes to promote even heating. Make sure your containers are microwave-safe. Cover with glass or plastic lids, never aluminum foil.
- Clean the refrigerator on a regular basis; discard any food that appears moldy.
- If lunches packed to eat during the day contain perishable foods, pack in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack or other cold source.
By following these basic recommendations, food safety can become an everyday part of the routine of college students living on their own, and the risk of foodborne illnesses can be reduced.
- Food Safety Tips for College Students. Available at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Food_Safety_Tips_for_College_Students.pdf
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