College Students' Food Safety Tips

Marshalee Valentine

Thursday, September 05, 2019

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Congratulations on getting into college! It can be very overwhelming getting prepared to live away from home, whether it's in your home country or abroad. Between making your list of essential items and packing your entire life into boxes, it's so easy to forget about food safety, especially when your main focus will be studying. Not to worry; here are a few things to be mindful of to ensure you reduce the likelihood of food-borne illnesses while away at college or boarding school.


1. Before stocking up on food for your dorm, do your pre-inspection of the facilities to ensure there is adequate space for storage of foods. Try to avoid stocking too much high-risk foods such as dairy products, eggs, meat, fish and seafood.


2. Those long nights burning the midnight oil will sometimes force you to grab a quick bite at nearby fast-food outlets. However, if you are purchasing perishable meals such as chicken or pizza, ensure that you have a refrigerator to store your leftovers, and a microwave to reheat your meal. Never leave your food outside the refrigerator overnight, as you want to keep your foods outside the “temperature danger zone” (5°C- 63°C) where bacteria can proliferate and double in numbers every 20 minutes. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.


3. If you're taking a freshly cooked meal from home back to campus, ensure that it is transported in insulated containers to keep food warm, especially if the drive is over two hours.


4. If you decide to cook frozen meat in your dorm, remember to thaw in the refrigerator, inside a container that will prevent the juices from draining on other items, especially if you are using a communal refrigerator.


5. On the topic of communal items, some of us will be using shared kitchen facilities and food storage areas. If you have special dietary restrictions or allergies, please make this known to all in your space and take special care to label and separate your items from others' to prevent cross-contamination. It's best you avoid sharing storage containers, but if you have to use a communal refrigerator, store your items in labelled airtight containers and place them on the top shelves. It is recommended that you also try to avoid sharing utensils such as pots and containers if you have allergies.


6. Always have sanitiser on hand, whether it's to keep your hands free of bacteria after washing, or to use on your utensils, especially if you have food allergies or sensitivities.


7. Never keep food waste, or any waste for that matter, in your dorm room as this can harbour pests. If you use a communal kitchen area ensure the general garbage bin is labelled, lined with plastic and emptied daily once it contains food waste.


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