Cold pizza: friend or foe? Food safety in your residence hall
Have you wondered if the cold pizza from last night (in a box on your floor) is really safe to eat? Are you not sure how long that Chinese take-out container has been in your refrigerator? Then it is time to learn more about food safety. Knowing the answers to these questions can keep you healthy.
Food safety is an important and serious issue on college campuses and in kitchens around the country. Seventy-six million Americans get sick with a food-borne illness each year and about 5,000 people die each year from complications after eating unsafe food. Fortunately, food-borne illnesses can be preventable. Here is how you can prevent them in your residence hall.
Promptly Refrigerate Foods
It is important to keep perishable and cooked foods in the refrigerator. If a food has been out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, then it is considered unsafe and should be thrown out.
Set Your Refrigerator to the Proper Temperature
Keeping your refrigerator and freezer at the right temperature will prevent and inhibit bacterial growth and will help your food to last longer. Refrigerators should stay at 40 ˚F or lower and freezers should be set at 0 ˚F. It is important to check your refrigerator and freezer regularly to ensure that they stay at the proper temperatures.
Cook Foods Thoroughly
Leftovers should always be heated completely. If you don’t have a food thermometer handy, then it is best to be sure that the food is hot and heated evenly throughout. If you are using a microwave without a turntable, rotate the food during cooking and reheat if you notice any cool spots. Do not eat leftovers if you notice any cold areas and do not eat directly from the container.
Eat leftovers in a Timely Manner
Remember to write the date on your leftover or take-out containers. Leftovers should be consumed within 2-3 days. If they remain uneaten after five days, throw them out.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out
Don’t taste-test. Even a small amount of contaminated food can cause illness. Contaminated food may not look or smell any different than safe food. If you are not sure if a food is safe to eat, then be smart and simply toss it in the garbage.
Practice Safe Cooking Techniques
If you have access to a full kitchen, it is important to follow some additional guidelines. First, be sure to wash hands often with warm, soapy water and keep all of your utensils and countertops clean. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping all raw meats separate from other food. Designate surfaces, plates and cutting boards for raw meat. Be sure to wash these surfaces frequently. In addition, store raw meat on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator (or use a drawer designated for meat). Lastly, thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, microwave oven, or during cooking. Do not thaw food by leaving it out.
Food Safety Resources
US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition - www.cfsan.fda.gov
Gateway to Government Food Safety Information – www.foodsafety.gov
Food Safety and Inspection Service – www.fsis.usda.gov
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