Now is the time of year we send our students off to college after loading them up with microwaves, tabletop grills and mini-fridges.
Many don't know what it takes to protect themselves from “stomach flu” – in reality, foodborne illness. Whether one is a kitchen-clueless freshman or a grill-savvy senior, – here are a few basic guidelines.
Before moving into new lodgings, students need to know the rules about cooking in rooms. Some schools allow students to cook with a variety of appliances while others limit equipment. Some schools ban the practice. Regardless, students need to be concerned about fire safety and food safety.
The grocery store is exciting for the newly emancipated student, but there are a couple of things to remember. Place meats as well as produce in bags separate from other food items to lower risk of cross-contamination. Purchase cold items last and take your groceries directly from the story to home. Be sure to wash shopping bags at least monthly to diminish bacteria growth.
Here are rules to eat and cook safely:
b Clean. Wash your hands, cooking surfaces and utensils often with hot, soapy water.
b Separate. Separate raw meat, poultry and egg products from cooked foods and from raw vegetables to avoid cross contamination.
b Chill. Refrigerate food promptly. Keep cold items below 40 degrees F. If food is left out for more than two hours, throw it away. Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 F and 135 F. and double in number every 20 minutes. Leftovers stored in the refrigerator generally keep for three to four days.
b Cook. Raw meat, poultry and egg products need to be thoroughly cooked. An instant-read food thermometer is handy for making sure foods have reached the recommended temperature.
Different kinds of meat require different minimum internal temperatures. Food thermometers determine internal temperatures. Beef, veal and lamb need to be cooked to 145 F; ground meat and all cuts of pork should be 160 F; and poultry requires 165 F. Taking the internal temperature is especially important when grilling meat, because the grill can cause the meat to brown prematurely. Limit the risk of cross-contamination by using one plate for raw meat and a clean plate for cooked meat.
When defrosting meat, poultry, egg products and fish in a microwave, it's important to immediately cook the food once thawed. Allow the food to stand for two minutes after microwave cooking so all parts of the food reach the right temperature.
Vicki Hayman, University of Wyoming Extension educator of Nutrition and Food Safety, said aside from cooking, students need to clean up food in their dorm rooms
Dorm often are in older buildings susceptible to roaches, mice and other pests; therefore, clean up crumbs or other residue of dorm cooking and get into the habit of washing dishes immediately in warm, soapy water. Throw away unused food or store in a refrigerator in an airtight container. Store other food that doesn't require refrigeration.
Finally, throw out food when in doubt. If any food shows signs of spoilage such as discoloration, mold, or bad odor, toss it out. Even if it looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.