As college students across the country get ready to head to school, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offer tips for surviving without mom around to prepare home-cooked meals. Start this year off right by practicing proper food safety habits when attempting to re-create mom's best recipe in the dorm or apartment.
Wash Hands Often
Proper hand washing may eliminate a large percentage of food poisoning cases and significantly reduce the spread of the common cold and flu.
- Wash hands for 20 seconds in warm, soapy water before, during and after preparing a meal.
- When sharing a kitchen with roommates, always assume that surfaces such as appliances and counter tops should be cleaned before preparing food.
- Disinfect sponges in a chlorine bleach solution — two teaspoons of bleach in one quart of water.
Keep Raw Meats and Ready-to-Eat Foods Separate
When juices from raw meats or germs from unclean utensils touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods such as fruits or salads, cross-contamination occurs, and that can lead to food poisoning.
- Place raw meat that is ready to be cooked or frozen meat to be thawed on a covered plate on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator away from fruits, vegetables or lunch meats.
- When grilling at a tailgate party, make sure to pack extra or color-coded plates and utensils to help prevent cross-contamination; use one set for raw foods and another for cooked foods.
Cook to Proper Temperatures
Harmful bacteria are destroyed when food is cooked to proper temperatures. Buy a food thermometer and use it!
- Microwave frozen meals carefully according to package directions so that they reach the proper internal temperature.
- Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F.
Refrigerate Promptly Below 40° F
Refrigerate foods quickly and at a proper temperature to slow the growth of bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.
- Keep the refrigerator closed as much as possible and don't store perishable foods like milk and eggs in the door.
- Date leftovers so you know how long they've been in the refrigerator.
- Discard perishable foods like deli counter meats after five days, cooked pasta and leftover pizza after three to five days and cooked rice after one week.
- When tailgating, pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or icepacks to keep temperature below 40°F.