Colleges dumping cafeteria trays – what about cross-contamination?

The New York Times reports that scores of colleges and universities across the country are shelving cafeteria trays in hopes of conserving water, cutting food waste, softening the ambience and saving money.

The story has lots of the usual fuzzy stuff about sustainability but mentions nothing about sanitation. In the absence of trays, the silverware better stay on the plate because the accumulated microbiological mess on the cafeteria tables would cross-contaminate any forks, knives and spoons that were placed on the table.

Hope College in Michigan closed in light of Norovirous outbreak

Ottawa County Health Department officials closed Hope College on Friday after a four-day Norovirous outbreak that has left more than 400 staff and students sick.

“Earlier Sunday, the college said the number of reported cases of the flu-like illness causing vomiting and diarrhea for 24 to 48 hours climbed to 180, but many students felt those numbers self-reported to the health department are low.”

A Facebook page for the campus community called "Hope College: The Great Plague of 2008," was created by a freshman student to find out how many people have been affected by the sickness.  About a third of the campus community registered at the site, 14% of who said they are sick or had been.

Health officials strongly urged students to remain on campus, but not to congregate, to help stop the spread of infection.  However many students chose to leave campus once the closure was announced.  At the earliest, campus is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday.  During the closure, a campus cleaning crew will be sanitizing common surfaces.

Norovirous is highly contagious virus that is the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the United States.

No specific treatment is available for Norovirus. In most healthy people, the illness usually is self-limiting and resolves in a few days.

The CDC recommends
frequent handwashing, especially after using the bathroom or before preparing food.  Contaminated surfaces and materials should be thoroughly disinfected.  Infected individual should not prepare food while they have symptoms and for 3 days after they recover from their illness.

Stick it in: Use a thermometer to cook foods so your friends don’t barf at football

U.S. college football kicks off Saturday. Time to put on your favorite school’s colors and brush up on that fight song. Thousands of students and alumni will be heading out to the stadium, tailgating, and firing up those grills. Hamburgers, chicken, ribs, or beans, there will be plenty of food on hand.

Use a food thermometer to make sure you aren’t serving your friends and family undercooked meats. Make sure to cook ground beef to 160°F(1), while chicken needs to reach 165°F(2). That way when your team takes the field, you aren’t puking or stuck on the toilet. And using a thermometer will make you a better cook. People are impressed by this. Good food safety will allow you to fully enjoy the tailgating atmosphere, so you can cheer your school onto victory.

It’s all on video,


1: Ryan, Suzanne M., Mark Seyfert, Melvin C. Hunt, Richard A. Mancini. Influence of Cooking Rate, Endpoint Temperature, Post-cook Hold Time, and Myoglobin Redox State on Internal Color Development of Cooked Ground Beef Patties. Journal of Food Science. Volume 71 Issue 3 Page C216-C221, April 2006

2: Focus On: Chicken. Food Safety and Inspection Service. United States Department of Agriculture. April 4, 2006.

Villanova students have upset stomachs, basketball team gets upset

The Associated Press is reporting an outbreak of norovirus at Villanova University.  Health officials are saying the nasty virus sent 14 people to the emergency room and has sickened close to 100 others. Officials also say that they don’t think a common food vehicle is involved as ill students live both on campus and off.  Maybe noro was one of the reasons for the No. 18 team’s loss at home to Notre Dame yesterday: no fan support because everybody was on the toilet?