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Students need to study food safety

Students need to study food safety
25 February 2008

Thousands of students from around the country are starting their studies this week and for many it will be the first time they will live in a flat and be in charge of preparing their own food, says New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) microbiologist Roger Cook.

"It is important that first time flatters realise that they need to be careful in the kitchen, to ensure they don't end up having to take time off from their studies to recover from illness caused by poor food handling.

"Student favourites can all cause stomach upsets if not correctly handled. Meat needs to be properly handled and cooked, and take a few minutes to give some thought to good kitchen and hand hygiene.

"One food that can be a problem is rice. If you eat cooked rice contaminated with Bacillus cereus toxin you are likely to experience symptoms of nausea and vomiting within 1 to 6 hours, occasionally followed by diarrhoea within 10-12 hours. The illness is short lived with recovery within 12-24 hours."

To ensure that cooked rice is safe for eating:
• Only cook as much as you need for one meal.
• Either keep cooked rice hot (>60ºC) or cool rice as quickly as possible. Rice will cool more quickly if you transfer it to shallow containers. Alternatively, cool in a colander under cold running water.
• Cover cooked rice and store in a refrigerator (<4ºC)

Takeaway foods also need to be treated with caution. Keep the pizza, chicken and sushi in the fridge and if you reheat any food take the following steps:
• stir your food often so it heats through evenly, especially when using the microwave
• always leave microwaved food for the recommended stand time after heating so it finishes cooking
• ensure food is reheated thoroughly; it should be steaming hot right through to the middle
• reheat leftovers only once.
• buy food in small quantities so you can eat it all before it goes off. Buying lots when it's on sale doesn't pay off if you can't eat it before it spoils and makes you sick.

Roger Cook says students just need to follow some basic food hygiene principles to keep themselves and their flatmates safe.

"Keep your kitchen benches, hands and utensils clean when you're preparing food, and wash and dry any fruits and vegetables thoroughly. When buying fruit, don't be tempted to pick up damaged items.

"Following the 4Cs – Clean, Cook, Cover, Chill – and the 20+20 hand wash rule (20 seconds wash plus 20 seconds dry = clean hands) are among the most effective ways to ensure you keep your food safe, stay healthy and keep studying."


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