Posts Tagged ‘food safety’

As the weather cools down the type of meals we often cook in slow cookers start to sound wonderful. Think warm, hearty, time saving, and one-dish meals. Slow cookers can help you to save both money and time – and maybe even your sanity. Instead of walking in the door at the end of the day to “What’s for dinner?” you can hear “Wow! That smells good. I’m going to wash up for dinner.” Because slow cookers use a low temperature to cook foods over a longer than usual time, there are a few safety and preparation tips to keep in mind:

  • As always, start with clean hands and a clean surface as you prep your meal.
  • To avoid sticking and provide a speedy clean-up, spray the inside of the crock with non-stick spray before adding ingredients.
  • Thaw frozen meats before adding to the crock either in the microwave or refrigerator.
  • If you decide to cut up foods ahead of time, store meats and vegetables separate before placing them in the pot to avoid growth of bacteria.
  • To shorten the time that foods are in the danger zone, between 40 and 140 degrees, either pre-heat the cooker or use the high setting for the first hour. I often add one of my liquid ingredients and turn my pot on high as I prep the other ingredients to add.
  • Surprisingly vegetables cook slower than meats, so add them first. slow cooker
  • Newer research states that larger cuts of meat can be now cooked in a slow cooker, but check manufacturer directions to see how many pounds your machine will hold safely. Check large cuts of meat with a meat thermometer to ensure safe temperature, 165 degrees for poultry and ground meats; and 145 to 160 degrees for beef, pork and lamb.
  • When cooking meats and poultry water, broth, or vegetable juices should almost cover the meat. This liquid provides more even heat transfer and creates the steam to ensure safe cooking.
  • While it is tempting, do not over-fill slow cookers. A pot one-half to two-thirds full is a full pot for cooking.
  • Do not remove the lid unnecessarily. When you lift the lid the inside temperature drops and can add 30 minutes or more to the cooking time.
  • After serving foods do not leave them to cool down in the crock. Store slow cooker foods safely as other left-overs – separate into shallow containers within short time and store in refrigerator or freezer. Left-overs should be reheated to 165 degrees before eating.

Are you looking for a low cost slow cooker meal idea? Try one from our Ohio State University Extension, Wayne County http://go.osu.edu/slowcooker. What is your favorite slow cooker recipe? I love my mother’s baked beans, white chicken chili, and anything for a tail-gate. Comment on your favorite.


USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Slow Cookers and Food Safety”, http://www.fsis.usda.gov.

University of Minnesota Extension, “Slow Cookers and Food Safety”, http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/slow-cooker-safety/.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County.

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picnicFor many people, the 4th of July is the official kickoff for summer picnics. Whether you are planning a backyard picnic or packing for a day at the park or beach, there are important steps to take to ensure the safety of the food you are bringing.

As temperatures outside heat up, you should remember that bacteria loves the heat and multiplies quickly. The “Danger Zone” for food is between 40⁰ and 140⁰. To prevent food-borne illness, it is very important to follow the four basic rules of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, & Chill.

• Pack foods that should be kept cold in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or freezer packs. Cold foods should be kept below 40⁰ to keep them food safe.
• Consider packing two coolers – one for foods that will be cooked such as hamburgers or chicken and the other for foods that will not be cooked – salads, drinks, etc. This will eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination from the meat’s juices.
• Before packing fruits and vegetables, clean by running under cool water. For hard skinned produce such as melons, use a vegetable brush to clean the outer surface while rinsing them.
• Bring a meat thermometer with you so that you can be sure that the food you are cooking has been cooked to a safe temperature. You can’t always tell that meat is “done” just by its appearance. Here is a link to a chart of safe temperatures for cooked meats. http://www.befoodsafe.org/temperature
• Don’t reuse a plate that has held raw meats for the cooked product. Always use a clean plate so that you don’t transfer julybacbacteria.
• Once you have served foods that should be kept cold, do not allow them to sit out for over 2 hours, 1 hour if the temperature outside is in the 90’s.
• The same rule applies for hot foods. Wrap them securely and place in an insulated container until it is time to serve.
• Often leftovers have been sitting out over the safe time – it may be best to throw them away.
If they have been left out for 2+ hours (or one hour if it is hot and over 90 degrees), throw them out.

One very important item to remember is to wash your hands when you arrive at your picnic site before you begin preparing food. If running water is not available, you can use disposable wipes or hand sanitizer. If you handle raw meat be sure and wash again before doing any other food preparation.
Another suggestion is to clean the tables or picnic area before serving food. Use disposable wipes and consider covering the table surface with a tablecloth.

What will you do to make your picnic food safe?

Written by: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu


Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu


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Ever walk through the neighborhood and catch a whiff of that wonderful grilled food smell? Mmmmm… makes my mouth water just thinking of that sizzle. Grilling can be a healthy, low fat, tasty way to prepare food. Let’s look at a few tips…

Safety Tips

  • Start with a clean grill to avoid flare ups and potential contaminants. Scrub the grill with hot soapy water and a brush.
  • Use clean hands and cooking utensils.
  • If you’re using frozen food, be sure to thaw it safely in the refrigerator, microwave or cold-water-sink-method (changing cold water every 30 minutes).
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. After using dishes or grill utensils on raw meat, be sure to wash them in hot soapy water before using them again on cooked meat or other ready-to-eat food.
  • Marinating is a great way to add flavor and tenderize meat. Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Don’t re-use meat marinades that have touched raw meat on cooked meats or other foods. If you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce on cooked food, reserve a portion before placing raw meat and poultry in it.
  • Don’t leave the grill unattended.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure high enough cooking temperature to kill bacteria.

Steak, porkchops: 145°F (Allow to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming)
Hamburgers, ground meat: 160°F
Chicken: 165°F


Healthy and Yummy Tips
Grilling allows any fat to drip off the food, making it a healthy way to prepare food. Here are some healthy suggestions from http://www.eatright.org:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat for less chance of flare-ups from fat drippings.
  • Add color and flavor with fresh vegetables. Vegies such as sweet peppers, onions and tomatoes add flavor, color, vitamins and nutrients to any meal. Some of the best vegetables to grill are onions, cabbage, mushrooms, bell peppers, asparagus, and corn. You can sprinkle herbs on each cob of corn and then wrap it in foil to grill it. You won’t even need butter!
  • To grill a veggie kabob, brush the vegetables with olive oil and your favorite spices and grill over medium heat, turning until marked and tender (about 12 to 15 minutes, and 8 to 10 minutes for cherry tomatoes and pre-boiled potatoes).
  • How about a grilled, marinated Portobello mushroom? Marinate then grill mushrooms, gill sides up, over medium-low heat with the grill covered until they are marked and softened (about 15 minutes). Flip and grill until cooked through, being careful not to char the gills (1 to 2 minutes).
  • You can even grill a tasty dessert like fruit kabobs. Try pineapple slices or peach halves. Grill on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. Serve them on top of low-fat frozen yogurt or angel food cake.
  • Every try grilled watermelon? When grilled, the water evaporates, leaving an intense watermelon flavor. Grill watermelon slices for about 30 seconds on each side.

Click here for more great grilling ideas.
Click here for a link for more information on grilling safety and tips.
I hope you find a tasty way to celebrate national grilling month in July and all summer long!

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=10958
North Dakota State University Extension http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn658.pdf

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith, NE Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension, smith.3993@osu.edu

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Safe, high quality home canned foods begin with the right equipment, used properly.  Why risk losing your time and food dollar through spoilage?  Check and assemble good equipment before the season begins, then maintain it well.

Check jars and bands.  Discard chipped jars and rusted or distorted bands.

Have pressure gauges checked.  Check with your local Extension office for Food Preservation Workshop or pressure canner gauge testing dates/times.

Check seals on last summer’s produce. canned foods

Make plans to use up last summer’s produce (both frozen and canned) to make room for new products and to prevent waste of food.

Check files to make sure your food preservation information is complete and up-to-date.


  1. I have several peanut butter, pickle and quart-sized mayonnaise jars which I would like to be able to use for canning. Is it safe to use these jars in a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner?
  2. NO! Use only standard canning jars for home canning as these jars have been specially annealed to withstand the heat necessary in the home canning process. However, these make good refrigerator storage jars, are a perfect solution for your picnic packaging  needs, or can be recycled at your local recycling center.
  3. How long is it safe to store canned food?
  4. For optimum quality of food, plan to use home-canned food within one year. After 1 year, quality of food goes down, but is still safe as long as the seal is still intact and there is no sign of spoilage.  Whatever the age, ALWAYS boil low-acid, pressure canned food a full 10 minutes.  Twenty (20) minutes for corn, spinach and meats) to destroy any botulism toxins.  DO NOT taste prior to boiling.
  5. Which pressure canner is more accurate– the kind with a dial or the one with a weight control?
  6. Both are accurate if used and cared for according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some people like numbers on a dial; others prefer the sight and sound (“jiggling” noise) of the weight control.
  7. Do I have to use a pressure canner to can low acid foods such as green beans, corn, potatoes, etc.?
  8. YES, YES, YES!!! Low-acid foods must be canned in a pressure canner. Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods contain enough acid to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated. The term “pH” is a measure of acidity; the lower its value, the more acid the food. The acidity level in foods can be increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar.

Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes.  For more information – check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu/.


OSU Extension’s page on food safety:  http://fcs.osu.edu/food-safety.

National Center for Home Food Preservation – www.http://nchfp.uga.edu/.

Written by:  Cynthia R. Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA.

Reviewed by:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Fayette County, Miami Valley EERA.

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easter egg huntNothing welcomes spring more than the annual egg hunt. Whether it’s a community, neighborhood or family hunt, food safety is of utmost importance. Follow these food safety guidelines to ensure your egg hunt is fun AND food safe.

Before the hunt . . .

• Wash your hands thoroughly before handling eggs at every step of preparation, including cooking, dyeing and hiding.
• Only use eggs that have been refrigerated and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty.
• When cooking, place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan. Add water to at least one inch above the eggs. Cover the pan, bring the water to a boil, and carefully remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand (18 minutes for extra-large eggs, 15 for large, 12 for medium.) Immediately run cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator where they can air-dry.
• When decorating, be sure to use food grade dyes. Be careful not to crack the eggs, as bacteria can enter through those cracks into the egg itself.
• Keep hard-cooked Easter eggs refrigerated until just before the hunt. Keep them on a shelf inside the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door.
• Consider buying one set of eggs for decorating and another set just for eating.

During the hunt . . .
• Hide the eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets, and other potential sources of bacteria.
• To prevent bacterial growth, don’t let eggs sit in hiding places for more than two hours.

After the hunt . . .
• Discard any eggs that were cracked, dirty or that children didn’t find within two hours.
• Place the eggs back in the refrigerator until it’s time to eat them.

Happy Spring!


Food Safety Notebook, The Ohio State University Extension.

Written by: Cynthia R. Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Reviewed by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA

Reviewed by: Jennifer Lindimore, Office Associate, OSU Extension, Morgan County, Buckeye Hills EERA

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information: go.osu.edu/cfaesdiversity

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Lentil Soup - 2What better way to comfort yourself on a chilly day than with the wonderful aroma of soup simmering on the stove?  From hearty vegetable soups to creamy bisques to refreshing chilled soups; soup can be used for appetizers, main dishes, side dishes or desserts and are an economic staple in many diets.

Soup-based meals can help stretch your food dollar while offering a hearty, nutritious, quick and easy meal option.  Soup can be a tasty way to add healthy beans, legumes, grains and vegetables to your diet and a convenient, yet inexpensive way to add protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

And after you’ve enjoyed your delicious “bowl of bountiful comfort,” take care to store leftovers properly. According to the United States Department of Agriculture it would take an 8-inch stock pot of steaming chicken soup 24 HOURS to cool to a safe temperature in your refrigerator.  To be safe:

  • Place the pot of soup into a sink full of ice water. Stir frequently – every 10 minutes to help disperse the heat.  Divide large amounts of hot leftover soup into shallow containers – less than 2 inches deep – for quick cooling in the refrigerator.  Once cooled, refrigerate promptly, covering when chilled.  Use within 2 days.
  • Freeze soup for longer storage. Leave ½-inch space at top of container.  Use within 2-3 months.
  • To reheat soup, heat to steaming hot throughout, at least 165 degrees F.

Here are a couple of my favorite soup recipes for you to enjoy!

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup

1 (2 oz.) envelope of Onion, Beefy Onion, or Beefy Mushroom Recipe Soup Mix

1 (14 ½ oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, un-drained and coarsely chopped

4 c. water

¾ c. lentils, rinsed and drained

½ c. uncooked brown rice or regular rice

1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped

1 large stalk of celery, coarsely chopped

½ tsp. basil leaves

½ tsp. oregano

¼ tsp. thyme leaves (optional)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

¼ tsp. pepper

In large saucepan or stockpot, combine soup mix, water, lentils, uncooked rice, tomatoes, carrot, celery, basil, oregano and thyme.  Bring to a boil, then simmer covered, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until lentils and rice are tender.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Makes about 3 – 2 c. servings.

Tired of getting your fingers burned when removing a piping hot bowl of soup from the microwave?  Learn how to make a microwave cozy.

Chilled Strawberry Soup

1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed

1 c. low-fat sour cream

2 T. cornstarch dissolved in ½ c. cold water

2 c. whole milk

2 to 4 T. strawberry liqueur

whipping cream for garnish

Boil strawberries in medium saucepan; stir in cornstarch mixture.  Stir and simmer for 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.  Whisk in sour cream, milk, and strawberry liqueur.  Cover and chill.


The Food Safety Educator, http://www.aamp.com/foodsafety/documents/FSE-Volume6- No2.pdf, Volume 6, No. 2, 2001, retrieved January 21, 2014.

Seven Simple Soups and Stews, Alice Henneman, MS, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

Soup: What You Need to Know & Favorite Recipes, Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service.

Written by:  Cynthia R. Shuster, CFLE, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA

Reviewed by:  Jennifer Lindimore, Office Associate, OSU Extension, Morgan County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Kimberly Barnhart, Office Associate, OSU Extension, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clients on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information: go.osu.edu/cfaesdiversity

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Time to Coffee Makerclean your coffee maker? Using it each morning many of us forget to take the time to clean it. If you just heat water in it why do you have to clean it?

Mold and bacteria love a moist environment. Not drying it out between uses can cause growth. If there is still a little water or moisture in the coffee maker during the morning, bacteria can start to grow. In a study from the NSF International on coffee makers half of them had mold and yeast growing in their reservoirs. About ten percent had dangerous bacteria growing. In fact, some coffee makers had higher germ counts than bathroom door handles and toilet seats. If you think with a single-cup coffee maker you can avoid the problem think again. Any moist environment at room-temperature will allow bacteria to grow.

Cleaning Take out the white vinegar as it will help clean and “decalcify” or remove mineral buildup. You can get mineral buildup from regular tap water.

Pod-type or Single-use.

If you have a single-use or pod-type machine pour vinegar into the machine and run it through a few cycles. Then run water through a few cycles to avoid vinegar taste. You need to do this every month. This will also help to prevent any clogs in many nooks and crannies of the machine. Check your machine instruction book for what parts could be put in the dishwasher. YouTube has some videos on cleaning some machines. Make sure you use a clean drinking cup each time to avoid bacteria growth in your cup.

Classic Coffee Maker

If you have the classic coffee maker, pour half water and half vinegar into the brewing chamber and run through the machine until the chamber is half empty. Then stop the machine and let the mixture sit in the machine a half hour before finishing the brewing cycle. Use a paper filter in the brewing chamber. Fill the machine with water and a new paper filter and run through a cycle. Do this twice to avoid vinegar tasting coffee. Run this mixture through every month.

Daily you should make sure you clean your carafe with warm soapy water and soft scrubbie to remove any build-up in the carafe.  If it is dishwasher safe you can use the dishwasher. Clean the lid and filter basket daily, too. Leaving the brewing chamber open to air out or dry can help prevent some bacteria growth.

Cleaning will help your coffee taste better, as bacteria can add a bitter taste. Enjoy a safe cup of coffee or tea.

Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Cheryl Barber Spires, Program Specialist Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program Education, Ohio State University Extension


Cohen, S., {2014]. Are you drinking mold with your coffee? Available at http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/are-you-drinking-mold-with-your-coffee-120214.html

Strutner, S. [2014). Your coffee maker is full of mold. Here’s how to clean it. The Huffington Post, Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/29/how-to-clean-coffee-maker_n_5861026.html

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