The Random College Safety Concern You’re Ignoring

We’re going to talk about something that never really seems to get brought up except in very specific college circles. And by very specific, we mean extremely exclusive instances, as even fellow college students that have experienced this don’t talk about it.

We’re talking about food poisoning. And as much as it seems like a laughable topic (go ahead, we know you scoffed as soon as you read it), the fact is it happens quite often. And why wouldn’t it? Take a high school student that has never learned to cook and put them in a situation where they are starving and clueless about cooking appliances and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster (haha…recipe…pun…nice). So here are a few tips to making sure you don’t fall victim to the ever too common instance of self-inflicted food poison.

1.) Know the right temperatures. Your refrigerator should have a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and anything that is taken out of the refrigerator needs to be consumed within 24 hours, or put back in the fridge. Cooking temperatures, on the other hand, vary by product. Vegetables, for example, don’t even need to be cooked (yes, some people don’t know that), while meats vary depending on what kind of meat it is. As a general rule, any kind of poultry should be heated to an internal temp (buy a meat thermometer, they’re cheap and super useful) of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Think, “Bacteria don’t thrive at 165.”

2.) Don’t leave stuff out. Once you are done, put the leftovers away! Leaving things out for grazing is one of the fastest ways to invite food poisoning. Wrap everything up and put it in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. We shouldn’t even have to go into the amount of bugs (flies, ants, cockroaches) that could get into exposed food…right?

3.) Know expiration dates. Yes, things expire, whether they are well packaged or not. If you’re buying a package of chicken breasts, for example, and you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll eat it within the week, put it in the freezer instead of the fridge, where it will last much longer (months compared to days). Anything that is packaged should have an expiration date on it. As a general rule, if it’s past the expiration date, don’t eat it, and if it looks bad, in any way, don’t eat it. There are some exceptions, but now is not the time to get to know them.

4.) Avoid cross-contamination. Don’t use the same cutting board to cut your veggies as you do to cut your meat unless you wash it in between choppings. And your hands need to be washed anytime you handle meat before they touch anything else! If you had a plate full of raw food, don’t put the cooked food back onto it. Simple things like this will help keep you safe from cross-contamination.

5.) Clean up. A clean kitchen is one of the most essential parts of protecting yourself from food poisoning. That means doing your dishes the day of, and cleaning out the microwave if your food splatters. And besides, if you made the mess, clean it up. You don’t live with your mother anymore.

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