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Tips to Keep Food Safe for Traveling College Students

September 17, 1987|TONI TIPTON

After reading last week's column on packing safe lunches for school-age children, it was obvious that college students--who are also returning to study halls this month--had been omitted. Yet keeping food safe and healthful is an important issue for this age group, too.

Whether your scholar likes to take back leftovers after a weekend at home, or is storing food in his or her dorm or apartment, here are some helpful safety guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline, a toll-free consumer service that can answer questions on safe handling and storage of meat and poultry.

Traveling with food takes careful planning, says the USDA. During a long, often hot drive back to campus, food poisoning bacteria can multiply.

It is not practical to try keeping foods hot for a long trip home. Instead, plan to completely cool cooked foods in the refrigerator before leaving. For fast cooling, divide quantities into smaller, shallow containers. Then, pack a cooler with an ice source and the thoroughly cooled foods. Freezing foods before travel is also an option, the hot line suggests.

A Greater Challenge

Storing food in the dorm presents a bigger challenge. A community refrigerator in the dorm may be overloaded with food items and, therefore, may not keep foods cold enough to be safe. The colder the food is kept, says the hot line, the less chance bacteria has to grow. So make sure the refrigerator is providing good protection against bacterial growth by checking an appliance thermometer, which should register 40 degrees or lower.

To reheat the food, many dorm dwellers use a hot plate. To be absolutely safe, raw food should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees (180 degrees for poultry) to ensure that any bacteria in the food is killed. Even cooked food that is being warmed on a hot plate should reach 160 degrees.

For answers to other questions on meat and poultry safety, call the hot line at (800) 535-4555.

The recipes suggested here are terrific late-night study snacks, which are usually prepared with a minimum of fuss at the last minute or can be made ahead, frozen and popped into the microwave for enjoyment later.

To Satisfy the Munchies

To appease midnight munchies quickly and easily make Late-Night Ham and Cheese Rolls. These light and easy pinwheel sandwiches are high in protein and they get a boost of Vitamin E from the addition of crunchy almonds. Crisp lettuce, creamy herbed cheese, thinly sliced ham and the almonds are wrapped in extra large flour tortillas. Wrap each sandwich in foil in the refrigerator until needed and cut in thick or thin slices depending upon your appetite. Chewy cracker bread rounds can be substituted for tortillas.

The remaining recipes, especially those that call for a sauce or meat base that is heated and served on a bun, can be prepared entirely in advance (possibly at home) and then reheated and served in the dorm later.


1 cup chopped almonds

2 (8-ounce) packages Neufchatel cheese, softened

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon fresh dill weed

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2 cup sliced green onions

6 large flour tortillas

1 pound thinly sliced ham

8 red leaf lettuce leaves

Spread almonds in shallow pan or on baking sheet. Toast at 350 degrees 10 minutes, stirring once or twice until lightly browned. Cool.

Blend cheese with mustard, garlic, dill, basil, almonds and green onions. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Spread cheese mixture on 1 side of tortillas, then top with ham and lettuce. Roll tightly, sealing edges. Roll in foil and chill until ready to use. Cut in long diagonal slices, placing cut-side down on serving plate. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Two large cracker bread rounds may be substituted for tortillas.

PER SERVING: 570 calories; 33 gm protein; 42 gm carbohydrate; 31 gm fat; 901 mg sodium; 509 mg potassium.


Protein 50% Riboflavin 37% Vitamin A 16% Niacin 32% Vitamin C 07% Calcium 19% Thiamine 36% Iron 35%


4 slices whole-wheat toast

2 teaspoons butter

4 (1-ounce) slices sharp Cheddar cheese

4 slices tomato

1/4 teaspoon salt


4 (1-ounce) slices cooked turkey

1 (10 1/2-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup turkey broth

Cayenne pepper



Spread toast with butter and place in shallow baking pan. Top each with 1 slice cheese, 1 slice tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper and 1 slice turkey.

Mix soup with broth and season to taste with cayenne. Top each sandwich with 1/4 cup soup mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 425 degrees about 15 minutes until cheese begins to melt and top is slightly browned. Lift sandwiches carefully onto warm individual plates and garnish with watercress sprig. Makes 4 servings.

PER SERVING: 322 calories; 21 gm protein; 20 gm carbohydrate; 19 gm fat; 1,196 mg sodium; 354 mg potassium.


Protein 33% Riboflavin 17% Vitamin A 19% Niacin 23% Vitamin C 15% Calcium 28% Thiamine 07% Iron 11%


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