Q: My son is attending a college that is only a four-hour drive from home. How can I safely pack leftovers for him to take back to school?
A: For a four-hour drive, food must be handled properly to keep it safe from spoilage and food-borne bacteria. Leftover foods should be divided into small, shallow containers and cooled to 41 F or below in the refrigerator prior to the trip.
To transport the food, pack a cooler with ice or a frozen gel-pack. Add the cold containers of food from the refrigerator just before departure. Freezing foods prior to the return trip also is an option.
During the drive, the cooler should be kept in the passenger area of the car, which is cooler than the trunk. Advise your son to refrigerate the food immediately upon arrival.
Q: Is irradiation used to sterilize other things besides food?
A: Yes. In many areas where there's a requirement that a product be sterile, irradiation usually is the technology used. It sterilizes more than half of all medical disposable materials, such as sutures, bandages and surgical drapes. Additional consumer products sterilized with irradiation include baby bottle nipples, liners for baby bottles, teething rings and cosmetics. It is also used to purify wool. In addition, irradiation crosslinks polymer in automobile tires to make them last longer. Irradiation is used to help produce wire insulation, printing inks and packaging films. It's also what performs the security check on your hand luggage at the airport.
Q: Is it cost effective?
A: It's extremely cost effective. The cost varies depending on the system employed, but at the most, it would cost just pennies per pound.
Susan Krumm is an extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.