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Posts Tagged ‘food safety’

This is the time of year when family and friends gather to enjoy outdoor activities and meals together.  Whether you are sitting on a blanket with a picnic basket or are the grill master in your backyard it is important that we all stay safe and healthy!

Each year millions of people contract and are hospitalized from a foodborne illness. The most common factors of foodborne illness are poor personal hygiene, cross contamination, cooking to the incorrect temperature, and time and temperature abuse. 

Anytime you prepare or handle food you want to wash your hands! Washing hands before and after any task and between handling different food items along cleaning and sanitizing cutting boards and countertops can prevent cross contamination.  Washing your hands can eliminate bacteria from being spread to other food items. 

The USDA temperature “Danger Zone” is between 40°F and 140°F this is when bacteria grows the most rapidly.  This means any cold food items that rise above 40°F and hot food items that drop below 140°F has entered the danger zone and can become hazardous.  Food should not be left at room temperature for more than a two-hour cumulative period. Any food that has been in the “danger zone” for more than two hours should be discarded. 

Another cause of foodborne illness is cooking foods at the incorrect internal cooking temperature.  Cooking meat at the correct internal temperature is an important step to preventing foodborne illness.

Internal Cooking temperature: 

Poultry- 165°F

Ground Meat- 160°F

Fish and Shellfish- 145°F

Steaks and Chops- 145°F

An inexpensive gadget to have to ensure you are staying out of the temperature “danger zone” and cooking to the correct internal temperature is a thermometer.  There are a variety of types so when buying a thermometer make sure you purchase the correct type for what you want to use it for. 

Following these simple rules can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and will keep your family and friends safe at all your meals together!

References:

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Retrieved May 17,2021 from  https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Retrieved May 17,2021 from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.  Retrieved May 18,2021 from https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/features/coronavirus/returning-to-work/protection/handwashing

Written by:  Kellie Lemly, MEd, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Laura Halladay,NDTR, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Greene County, Halladay.6@osu.edu

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Picture of a family holding hands and the 1943 USDA bulletin with the words National Wartime Nutrition Guide. U. S. Needs US Strong, Eat the Basic 7 Every Day.

In January, I wrote about the newly introduced Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, did you know that the United States Department of Agriculture has been providing dietary recommendations for well over 100 years? The first dietary advice by USDA was a Farmers Bulletin created in 1894, by W. O. Atwater. Atwater was the first person to publish tables of food composition and dietary standards. He recommended diets for American males based on protein, carbohydrate and fat content and their minerals. Interestingly, many minerals and vitamins were not even known back in 1894. The concept of eating a variety of foods, eating a well balanced diet, watching portion sizes and moderation for health and well being is the basis for today’s Dietary Guidelines, and its roots go way back to 1894.

If we look at dietary guidance over the years, some have certainly changed, however, many things still resonate today. In the 1920’s the government was concerned about food safety and foodborne Illness was prevalent in the USA. Our refrigeration technology was certainly not what it is today. For example, not all Americans had a refrigerator with a freezer. Therefore, perishable products such as milk and meat would go bad quickly. As we moved to the 1930’s there were more advancements in science and nutrition. We learned more about vitamins and minerals and their role in the body. In 1943, USDA released the Basic Seven Food Guide, a publication called the National Wartime Nutrition Guide. The Basic Seven advised choosing specific foods such as green/yellow vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, milk and milk products.

After World War II, USDA developed Food and Fitness- A Daily Food Guide. This publication focused on four groups; milk, vegetables and fruit, bread and cereal. It focused on eating with family, healthy meals and budgeting. This was the first time serving sizes were introduced. In 1977, the Dietary Goals of Americans was released. The focus was to address the issue of Americans consuming too much sugar, fat and salt. In 1980, the first Dietary Guidelines as we know it today was published “Nutrition and Your Health- Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Since then, USDA has published recommendations on Dietary Guidelines every five years, to the most recent Dietary Guidelines 2020 to 2025.

The format of these documents have evolved from  paper copy bulletins, websites, blogs, pictorial images such as My Pyramid and MyPlate. Yet, USDA has been providing dietary guidance for over a century. The research has certainly expanded over the years to keep up with todays lifestyles and food consumption. However, in spite of all these rapid changes, the more things change, the more they resemble the past.

Written by: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, Zies.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Smith, MFN, RD, LD, CDCES, Program Coordinator, OSU Extension, Wood County, Smith.11604@osu.edu

Sources:

  • History of the Dietary Guidelines | Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Dietaryguidelines.gov. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/about-dietary-guidelines/history-dietary-guidelines. Published 2021. Accessed March 1, 2021.
  • Jahns L, Davis-Shaw W, Lichtenstein A, Murphy S, Conrad Z, Nielsen F. The History and Future of Dietary Guidance in America. Advances in Nutrition. 2018;9(2):136-147. doi:10.1093/advances/nmx025
  • https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/42215/5831_aib750b_1_.pdf
  • Schneeman B. Evolution of dietary guidelines. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103(12):5-9. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2003.09.030
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

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The pandemic prompted many more people to plant vegetable gardens this year. Both seed companies and Extension Master Gardener programs have noticed this increase between purchases and visits to online courses and resources.  Some people had the time to plant because they were off work or working at home, others planted as a way to relieve their stress, and many planted to ensure they would have fresh produce for the summer (and maybe longer if they preserved by canning, drying, or freezing). In Ohio, these gardens are now yielding green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, fresh herbs, cucumbers, onions, sweet corn, and much more. When the first vegetables ripen everyone is excited to fix them for lunch or dinner, but after a few weeks you may be wondering “Why did I plant so much?” or “What can I do with the rest of this, because my kids won’t eat corn again this week?” If this is you – Ohio State University Extension (and other Land Grant Universities, the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and the USDA) are here to help.home canned foods

There are several key points to keep in mind when you decide you want to preserve produce for the future, here are the top three:

  1. Always use reliable, approved guidelines from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, or Cooperative Extension. You may ask “Why can’t I just use anything I see on the Internet or make my pepper relish the way my Great Grandma did?” The main reason is because especially low-acid foods (vegetables, meats, or seafood) have to be pressure canned to prevent botulism, which is serious stuff. By using resources from the above sources, you ensure that you are using safe, tested procedures that will provide high quality results. Check the date too, are you using a source from the last couple years? New research and procedures come out all the time. Make sure you are using materials dated in the last 5 years (even though it may be fun to look at a cookbook from 50 years ago, canning isn’t when you want to follow that recipe). Remember that canning is a science, not an art.
  2. Decide if are you are canning, freezing, or drying the produce based on your plans for future use and the foods your family will eat. It does not benefit your family to spend lots of time and purchase the supplies needed if they will not eat the final product you preserve. For example, there are many things you can do with tomatoes – salsa, canned whole tomatoes, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, dried vegetable leather, and even spiced tomato jam. Consider the foods your family enjoys before you can 50 jars something that only one person likes.
  3. Ensure you have the proper supplies to make the product. Do you need a pressure canner, or can you use a hot water bath canner? Do you have enough Mason style canning jars or freezer quality containers? Do you need a food dehydrator, or can you use your oven or other drying racks? Here is a quick reference chart if you aren’t sure if you need to use a hot water bath or pressure canner.

In addition to the sources listed about for food preservation here are a few others:

Enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long by using safe preservation methods.

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

Reviewer: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County.

Sources:

The National Center for Home Food Preservation, https://nchfp.uga.edu/

University of Minnesota Extension, https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/canning-quick-reference-chart

Utah State University Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/news_sections/home_family_and_food/food-preservation-tips.

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An important seasonal topic that can continue during the COVID-19 pandemic is growing and eating fresh local produce. Good news: whether you grow a garden or not, local Ohio farmers are committed to supplying us with fresh produce during the growing season.

Vegetable gardening offers easy access to fresh, in-season produce for all ages and abilities. Ohio State University Extension suggests:

  • It’s OK to dream big and start small. Whether you grow in containers on a patio, in a school or community garden plot or in your front or back yard, make the best choices for your growing space, interest and goals.
  • Learn about the plants you would like to grow.
  • Know your local resources like your county Extension office.
  • Be familiar with potential challenges and possible solutions. Your county Extension office might have a Horticulture Hotline. If not, there’s a state-wide Ask A Master Gardener site.
  • Use food safe practices in the garden, from the garden to the kitchen and in the kitchen.
  • Enjoy yourself and your fresh produce.
  • Share your success stories and share your extra produce.   
Bee in Nasturtium

While vegetable gardening is a timeless topic, we will note a few things special to the 2020 growing season:

  • Please respect social distancing and other recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health. This is especially important at community places such as stores to purchase supplies and also when visiting and working at community garden sites.
  • Follow all previous recommendations for food safety. Although Covid-19 transmission from food has not been shown, everyone should continue to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods. 
  • Most likely, different local services as well as national and international ones will be disrupted due to COVID-19. For example, we encourage gardeners to do a soil test but sites like University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory share the following message: “All onsite work at the Soil & Plant Nutrient Testing Lab has been temporarily suspended due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.  We are not accepting new samples for analysis at this time.  Current turnaround time is not known.”  The OSU Extension FactSheet on Soil Testing includes a list of both private and public labs and some of the labs are accepting soil samples. Please reach out directly to the labs for their current hours and services provided. Reach out to local stores and greenhouses to know their current shopping and sale practices as well.
  • Gardening offers many benefits. In 2020, we hope that your garden can offer some stress-reduction, fresh air and tasty treats!

Writer: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County.

Links from post:

Beam, B. (2020). Directory of Lucas Food Producers. Ohio State University. Retrieved 05/08/2020 from  https://u.osu.edu/localfoodproducers/

Boggs, J.. Meyer, C., Gao, G. and Chatfield, J. (2017). Soil Testing for Ohio Lawns, Landscapes, Fruit Crops, and Vegetable Gardens. Retrieved 05/08/2020  https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1132

Darnton, J., and McGuire, L. (2014). What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening? Michigan State University Extension. Retrieved 05/08/20 from

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/what_are_the_physical_and_mental_benefits_of_gardening

Food Safety for Consumers, Specialty Crop Producers and Marketers during Covid-19 (2020). Retrieved 05/08/2020 from

https://fcs.osu.edu/news/covid-19-updates-and-resources/food-safety-consumers-specialty-crop-producers-and-marketers

Hill, M., (5 May 2020). Considerations for vegetable gardening. Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved 05/08/2020 from https://wayne.osu.edu/news/considerations-vegetable-gardening

North Carolina State University, (2020) Handling Covid-19, Guidance for Community Gardens. Retrieved 05/08/20 from https://fcs.osu.edu/sites/fcs/files/imce/PDFs/COVID/OSU_Community%20Gardens_COVID-19_042120.pdf

Powers-Barker, P. (2018). Fresh, Safe Garden Produce, Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved 05/08/2020 from  https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/food/powers-barker-1osu-edu/fresh-safe-garden-produce/

Photos: pixabay and Lawrence, E. (2020)

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Holiday baking is in full force, and it wouldn’t be the same without the occasional licking of the spoon from the raw cookie dough that so many of us do without thinking! I remember as a child waiting anxiously for my grandma to give me the beater off her kitchen mixer so I could taste her amazing chocolate chip cookie dough. Although many share fond baking memories, there are serious warnings from the CDC and FDA to not eat any kind of raw dough, and for good reasons!

Most people know that the raw eggs used in doughs can contaminate foods with salmonella, but it may come as a surprise that consuming raw flour is associated with E. coli, a serious foodborne illness that can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. 

Why flour?

Flour is a raw, agricultural product that has not been treated to kill bacteria, germs or other contaminates. According to Leslie Smoot, a senior FDA advisor, “if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.” 

If raw dough is not baked to kill off bacteria or germs, then… bingo…we may consume contaminated food and can get sick. The CDC and FDA have issued many warnings against eating items with raw flour because raw ingredients are meant to be cooked before eating.

It is also important to remember that any dough, not just cookie dough, made with raw flour has the potential to be harmful. Other raw doughs may include breads, pizza, tortillas and even play dough and papier-mâché or ornaments made with flour. 

The risk is real, especially for children under the age of five. Their immune systems may be more sensitive or not yet fully developed, putting them at higher risk for illness. To keep kids safe, the CDC instructs parents to always bake cookies according to directions and keep flour out of kids’ crafts.

During this holiday season remember that there is a reason for cooking raw dough beside the obvious baking that takes place.  If you are one that likes to nibble on raw cookie dough and don’t think you’ll be able to resist, you can heat-treat your flour before baking and try a recipe for edible cookie dough.

Happy baking…and enjoy!

Author: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Say No to Raw Dough! https://www.cdc.gov/features/no-raw-dough/index.html

Tane, S. (2016). How you can safely eat raw cookie dough despite recent recalls. Cooking Light. https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/safe-to-eat-cookie-dough

Turner, T. (2017). Chow Line: Don’t Eat Uncooked Flour. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-don%E2%80%99t-eat-uncooked-flour

Turner, T. (2018). Chow Line: With Holiday Baking Season in Full Swing, a Reminder from the CDC to Just Say No to Eating Raw Dough. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-with-holiday-baking-season-in-full-swing-reminder-from-cdc-just-say-no

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017). Raw Dough’s a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/raw-doughs-raw-deal-and-could-make-you-sick

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Pressure-cooking is a food preparation method that uses trapped steam. The food is sealed inside of a vessel with liquid, heat is used to create steam, and this increases pressure inside the vessel. The appliance traps or releases steam to control the level of pressure within the unit. With the added pressure, the boiling point rises and allows the food to cook faster at a higher temperature. Pressure-cooking retains the flavor and nutrients of your food while saving you energy in the process. Pressure-cooking is not a new technique and has been around for over 350 years. Home pressure-cooking became popular in 1938 when it debuted at a Trade Show in New York.

Electric pressure cookers have increased in popularity over the last several years. There are currently several brands of electric pressure cookers available. Some of the most popular brands include: Instant Pot, Crock-Pot, Breville, Black & Decker, Cuisinart, GoWISE, Power Pressure Cooker, and the most recent Ninja Foodi. You can find a comparison of a few brands by Utah State Extension. Did you find yourself with one of these as a Christmas present? Intimidated by the appliance and don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as you begin to use your electric pressure-cooker.adding water to electric pressure cooker

  1. Use ½ to 1 cup liquid in the inner pot when pressure-cooking.

When you pressure cook you need to have at least ½ to 1 cup of liquid in the inner pot. The liquid is needed to pressurize the unit. Too much liquid will cause the unit to take longer to get up to pressure and to release the pressure when cooking is finished.

  1. Use multiple buttons in a cooking session.

Cooking for the whole meal can be done in the same inner pot. You can use the Sauté button to brown the meat or cook onions or garlic. Then, add your ingredients and set to pressure cook. Once it’s done, use the Keep Warm button to keep the food warm until the whole family is ready to eat.

  1. Add about 10-20 minutes to listed cooking time.

When you are pressure cooking the unit takes about 10 minutes to come to pressure. Therefore, if your recipe calls for 30 minutes at High Pressure cooking time, then your total time will be 40 minutes. You may even need to add time to the end of cooking to de-pressurizing the unit.  Depending on the unit and the item you are cooking, de-pressurizing could take anywhere from 5-20 additional minutes.

  1. Perform regular safety checks.

The lid of the pressure cooker contains a silicone-sealing ring and it can deform over time. Get into the habit to check it every time. It is recommended to replace the sealing ring every 18-24 months or when you notice cracks or other deformations. Don’t forget to check your vents to make sure they are clean and clear of food clogs.

Please keep in mind that an electric pressure cooker is different from a pressure canner. A pressure cooker is not a pressure canner and should NEVER be used for canning.

Geiger, M. (2016, November 21). Electric Pressure Cookers. Retrieved from https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline/2016/11/21/electric-pressure-cookers/

Kendle, C. (2018, January 30). Electric Multi Cooker Tips and Tricks.

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

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photo of clouds

When the lights go out do Not open your refrigerator or freezer. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Plan ahead; keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer, which can help you determine the safe zones! Make sure to look in at the zones of being safe for the freezer which is 0 °F or below and the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below before the power goes off. Freeze containers of water ahead of time for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out. Place refrigerated items such a leftovers, milk and meats immediately into the freezer when the power goes out. Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.

 Steps to follow after power is restored to keep you SAFE!

  • The refrigerator will keep food safe for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.
  • Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.
  • Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below when checked with a food thermometer. Partial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.
  • If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe to refreeze. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
  • Never taste a food to determine it’s safety!

Be prepared and create a back up plan today!

Resources:

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/emergency-preparedness/keeping-food-safe-during-an-emergency/CT_Index

Ohioline: What To Do When Your Freezer Stops.

https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5357

Author: Marie Economos, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Trumbull County

Review: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Mahoning County

 

 

 

 

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dinnerTomorrow is Thanksgiving and many of us will be preparing traditional celebrations which usually include generous amounts of food.  I think that besides the time spent with family and friends, my favorite part of the Thanksgiving feast are the leftovers that can be enjoyed for the next day or two.

This is a good time to think about the potential leftovers you will have and how to handle them safely to prevent food borne illness.

The first step to ensuring safe leftovers is to make sure that you are handling the food safely from the time you purchase it until you have prepared it.  Keep the four basic food safety guidelines in mind:

  1. Clean. Begin by washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food. Be sure that counter-tops are clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food, and keep cutting boards and utensils bacteria free by washing with hot soapy water or running through the dishwasher. Rinse fruits and vegetables that are not being cooked under cool running water.
  2. Separate. Help prevent cross contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry and seafood away from ready to eat foods in your shopping cart and your refrigerator. Use one cutting board for these raw foods and another for salads and ready to eat food.
  3. Cook. Use a food thermometer to tell if food is cooked to a safe temperature – just going by color is not sufficient. Always bring sauces, soups, etc. to a rolling boil when re-heating. If using a microwave oven, cover, stir and rotate the food to ensure even cooking.
  4. Chill. Remember the “danger zone” where bacteria can grow rapidly, 40° – 140°F. Keep the refrigerator below 40°, use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature. Chill leftover foods within 2 hours and put food into shallow containers to allow for quick cooling. Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

When you have prepared your dinner and are ready to serve, keep the time and temperature in mind for keeping the food safe for everyone. If an item that should be refrigerated inadvertently gets left out over two hours, throw it out!  No one likes to waste food but it is better than getting ill or even worse, making someone else ill.

Another thing to consider is how long you can safely keep leftovers.  Our colleagues at Illinois State University Extension have put together a list of safe times for keeping many holiday leftovers safely.

You might also be interested in trying some new recipes using your leftovers. The Illinois site lists several including this one for Turkey Posole (stew) that sounds great!

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with your family and use good food safety practices to keep everyone healthy and happy!turkey-966496__480

Writer: Marilyn Rabe, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Franklin County, Heart of Ohio EERA, rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, OSU Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, Treber.1@osu.edu

Resources:

University of Illinois Extension. Turkey for the Holidays. Turkey Leftovers. http://extension.illinois.edu/turkey/leftovers.cfm

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service . Leftovers and food safety. (Rev. ed.). Washington, DC: Author. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/leftovers-and-food-safety/ct_index

Michigan State University Extension. There are Limits to Leftovers http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/there_are_limits_to_leftovers

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Check Your Steps: Food Safe Families   https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/teach-others/fsis-educational-campaigns/check-your-steps/check-your-steps

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refrigerator

Did you know that November 15th is National Clean out Your Refrigerator Day?  Seems like there is a day for almost everything anymore, but this one does come at a good time! Many of us will soon be filling our refrigerators and freezers with more food than usual as the holidays approach so it is the perfect time to take a good look inside.

The first step may be to decide what is safe to keep or what you should toss.  Here is a quiz that might help you get started.  Also, Ohio State University Extension provides information on safe refrigerator and freezer storage on Ohioline.  Many people do not realize the dangers involved in eating food that has been kept too long or stored in a refrigerator or freezer that is not kept at a safe temperature – under 40⁰ for the refrigerator and under 0⁰ for the freezer.

strawberryRemember, when in doubt, throw it out!  Never taste food that looks or smells strange. There could be bacteria that are not visible to the human eye, but they could cause food poisoning.

Once you have decided what needs to be thrown out, you can start cleaning!

Follow the steps below to thoroughly clean the refrigerator:

  • Remove everything – place perishable food in a cooler while you are working
  • Any old or spoiled food should be discarded.
  • Take out shelves, drawers, etc. and wash with hot soapy water, rinse, and dry.
  • Wipe out the inside of the refrigerator – don’t forget the door seals. Some recommend using a mixture of 2 TBS. baking soda/1 qt. hot water.
  • Replace shelves and drawers.
  • Wipe off jars and containers as you return them to the refrigerator.
  • Check the interior temperature to be sure that it is below 40⁰.
  • Dust and wipe the exterior of the refrigerator.

Now that your refrigerator is sparkling clean, make it a habit to wipe up any spills as they occur to keep it fresh and clean. This might be a good time to invest in new refrigerator and freezer thermometers. Keep it in the body of the refrigerator – not on the door.

Get into the habit of storing your food and leftovers properly. Securely wrap foods or store in airtight containers. Check expiration dates on products – remember that once you open them, the expiration date on the item is no longer effective! In that case, follow the safe food storage charts mentioned above.

Author:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Perry County

References:

http://food.unl.edu/november-food-calendar#pb_love

http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/clean-refrigerator

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/features/spring-clean-your-fridge-and-freezer#1

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Do you follow the “5-second rule” when you drop food on the floor?  If you do, you may want to rethink your actions.

Different factors affect how quickly bacteria will be transferred.  These
include moisture, type of surface, and contact time.  It was found in some instances the bacteria began to transfer in less than one second.  Time to rethink the idea that you can pick up any food off the floor quickly, and it is safe to eat.koli-bacteria-123081__180

Researchers at Rutgers University tested four surfaces:

  • stainless steel
  • ceramic
  • tile
  • wood

Each of the surfaces were contaminated an Enterobacter aerogenes, “cousin” of Salmonella.  The bacteria were allowed to dry before food was dropped.

They used four different types of foods:watermelon-on-tile

  • watermelon
  • bread
  • bread and butter
  • gummy candy

The researchers replicated the scenarios 20 times each checking the bacteria transfer to food samples at less than one second, five, 30 and 300 seconds.  Each food sample was then analyzed for contamination.

Moisture seemed to increase the transfer of bacteria to food the most.  Watermelon contained the most contamination while gummy candy contained the least.  The longer the food was on the contaminated surface the more bacteria it contained. However, contamination from bacteria can occur instantly. 

Surprisingly, carpet had low transfer rates. Tile and stainless steel bread-on-carpethad higher transfer rates than wood which was variable.  Another study with tile found E. coli was transferred to gummy candy in less than 5 seconds with more bacteria transferred from smooth tile than rough tile. 

Next time, you drop some food on the floor you may want to think twice before you put it in your mouth.  Any food that has been on the floor may contain bacteria which may make you sick.  Is the food that important or expensive?   Would you be better off throwing it away?   It is always better to avoid infection or being sick.

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

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

References:

Aston University. (2014). Researchers Prove the Five Second Rule is Real. Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences.  Available at http://www.aston.ac.uk/news/releases/2014/march/five-second-food-rule-does-exist/

Schaffner, D. (2016). Rutgers Researchers Debunk ‘Five-Second Rule’: Eating Food off the Floor Isn’t Safe.  Rutgers Today.  Available at http://news.rutgers.edu/research-news/rutgers-researchers-debunk-%E2%80%98five-second-rule%E2%80%99-eating-food-floor-isn%E2%80%99t-safe/20160908#.V_ZUJvkrKUk

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2003). If You Drop It, Should You Eat It?  Scientists Weigh In on the 5-Second Rule.  College News.   Available at http://news.aces.illinois.edu/news/If-you-drop-it-should-you-eat-it-scientists-weigh-5-second-rule

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