For most students, going out to eat is a treat, especially if it means a night off from the dining hall or cooking.
But with some of the recent food safety scandals, that treat seems a little riskier. Most recently, Chipotle in Bellis Fair Mall closed its doors after several people in the Portland and Seattle areas reported feeling ill after eating at Chipotle restaurants.
While the thought of contaminated food is disturbing, this isn’t a subject students should turn away from. The outbreak has grown throughout Washington and Oregon and students have a responsibility to themselves to be aware.
Food safety concerns are serious, and can lead to hospitalization, even death. No deaths have been reported in this outbreak, however, The Seattle Times reported that at least 25 people in Washington became sick, as well as 12 in Oregon.
Unfortunately, food contamination is not an uncommon occurrence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated food every year.
The risk of catching a food-borne illness is relatively low, but it’s higher than it should be. Safety standards are always being improved but there’s only so much they can do.
Students should make sure that the restaurants they eat at have passed their safety and cleanliness tests. Usually there’s signage by the entrance that says the restaurant has been cleared, or a quick Google search might tell you important information to keep yourself healthy.
Though the Chipotle outbreak hasn’t hit Bellingham, it is a good opportunity for students to get informed about food safety standards. Restaurants, including our on-campus dining, are held to high standards of food safety to avoid situations like this one, though obviously things sometimes fall through the cracks.
These food safety standards can be useful for students cooking off-campus as well, as uncooked food can be dangerous.
Suggestions are simple: clean fresh fruits, vegetables and food preparation areas carefully; separate raw meat from ready-to-eat foods; cook all meat to the proper temperatures; and refrigerate food quickly to keep harmful bacteria from multiplying.
Ultimately, the best way for students to protect themselves is to get informed and take precautions when preparing food.