First years and foodborne illness

Julie, my youngest sister, started her first year at Fanshawe College in London (Ontario) this fall. Like many first years she’s staying in residence, and like many first years she’s having a great drunken time – likely followed by painful mornings hovered over the toilet.

Although many a pukey morning could be attributed to alcohol overconsumption, Courier-Journal reports ways to avoid foodborne illness while living in dorms (or residence halls).

Food-related illnesses, such as E. coli and salmonella infection, can creep into a dorm — or any setting where people gather. But students aren’t always alert to the risks…

The article identifies a few problem areas for this demographic.

Eating pizza that’s been left out all night: In general, perishable food shouldn’t be left out more than two hours at room temperature or no more than one hour in 90-degree weather, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But as Doug explains, there are exceptions,

“If it’s the kind of pizza that most people usually get, which is like cardboard and completely dry, it’s probably going to be all right. But when in doubt, throw it out.”

Relying solely on a food’s color or smell to tell whether it’s safe to eat:

“If something smells gross, toss it,” said Doug Powell.

But while your nose and eyes may lead you right sometimes, they’re not foolproof. For example, that hamburger or chicken you just cooked may look done, but you won’t know for sure whether it’s safe to eat unless you stick a food thermometer in it to check the temperature. You can pick one up at the nearest big-box store.

Your tongue can mislead you, too. A product can be contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella, without tasting or looking odd.

That’s Julie, right, with the college staple food pizza.