College students’ lifestyles may not be the most hygienic regarding bacteria and germs on food and food handling. Even if you have a mini fridge, there is a chance for food borne contamination to occur. Take some common sense steps to assure food safety, eliminate food contamination and create a college dorm checklist for basic food safety rules.
In college I grabbed food whenever and wherever I could find it. I brought extra food home from the cafeteria, mooched pizza leftovers from friends, and cleaned out the mini fridge twice all semester. How many mornings did I eat pizza that that been left out over night? (Lots!)
Here are some food safety tips:
- Refrigeration works wonders. Yes, cold and bacteria are enemies, and the mini fridge is your friend. “Perishable food should never be left out of refrigeration for more than two hours. This is true even if there are no meat products on the pizza. Foodborne bacteria that may be present on these foods grow fastest at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F and can double every 20 minutes. Other take-out or delivered foods such as chicken, hamburgers, cut fruit, salads, and party platters, must also be kept at a safe temperature,” advised Gertie Hurley with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in “Podcast Script – Food Safety for College Students,” August 10, 2015.
- “Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Holding food at unsafe temperatures is the prime cause of foodborne illness. To avoid exposing your food to harmful bacteria, make sure to keep hot foods above 140° F and cold foods below 40° F when storing them for later consumption,” Zach Mallove posted in “Food Safety For College Students” for Food Safety News, October 14, 2009. Keep your fridge at a temperature below 40° F.
- Microwaving is very convenient but the oven could present some dangers. Always use a container that the manufacturer has labeled “microwave-safe.” If your container gets very hot after you’ve heated it, it is not microwave safe. Never reheat food stored in take-home containers, especially plastic cold-storage containers or polystyrene trays. Transfer the food to a microwave-safe container before heating. Also, “it is not safe to heat food in plastic bags, brown paper bags, on paper towel, paper napkins or a colored paper plate. All of these items can emit chemicals that can migrate into food,” wrote Diane Rellinger in “Beware—not all food containers should be used in microwave,” posted December 4, 2013, on the Michigan State University Extension website.
- Prevent cross-contamination by separating raw meat, dairy and eggs from other foods in the fridge. Don’t mix raw meat with cooked meat in the same container. When cooking raw meat, cook it through completely with no red or blood showing.
- Give all leftovers the sniff test and eyeball test. Watch out for bad smells, mold, discoloration and even critters crawling around. Leftover food in the fridge keeps for up to four days. And don’t eat food that’s fallen onto the floor. If food has been sitting out too long, throw it in the trash. It seems wasteful, true, but it’s better than food poisoning.
- After handling food (especially dairy and meat), wash your hands with hot water and soap. This actually removes and kills lots of germs and bacteria. Also wash surfaces where food has touched or been prepared.