Food Safety: Tips for College Students

From living on your own to studying for hours to cheering at football games with new friends, college is an experience unlike any other. Although this newfound independence is exciting, you may have to cook your own food—a task your mother won’t be there to help with.

Whether it’s grilling food at a tailgate party or knowing how long the late-night pizza can stay out on the counter, use the following food safety tips to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Food Safety Tips

  • Throw away perishable foods, such as pizza, burgers, and any leftovers, if they are not refrigerated within two hours or within one hour if temperatures are above 90°F.
  • When buying groceries, make sure raw meats and seafood are bagged separately from other items and try to refrigerate them as soon as possible.
  • Freeze ground meat, poultry, or fish within two days; and freeze beef, pork, veal, or lamb within three to five days.
  • Always wash your hands before and after preparing foods.
  • Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator or microwave—not on the counter.
  • When microwaving food, cover and stir it for a consistent temperature.
  • Never put plastic bags, newspapers or aluminum foil in the microwave. Instead, use microwave-safe items, such as glass, ceramic and certain plastics.
  • When bringing food to a BBQ or tailgate party, store it in a cooler that is 40°F with the raw meat separated from the ready-to-eat items. Before eating the cooked food, check it with a thermometer to ensure it is safe to eat. Store any leftovers back in the cooler, and throw away leftovers that are not ice cold.

Proper Internal Temperatures for Food

To make sure your home-cooked food is safe to consume, follow the recommended minimum internal temperatures.

  • Fish and raw beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, chops, and roasts): 145°F.
  • Raw ground beef, pork, lamb, veal, and eggs: 160°F.
  • All poultry, previously cooked and microwavable foods: 165°F.

Since college is a time to learn and grow, it’s important to understand how to cook and store foods correctly to prevent any foodborne illnesses.

Adapted and excerpted from:

C. L. Penuela, A. Simonne, and I. Valentin-Oquendo, Keeping Food Safe: Choosing and Using Food Thermometers in Homes(FCS1083), UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 07/2015).

Food Safety Tips for College Students,” USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (rev. 06/2013).