SafeFood© in 140 Characters

January 25th, 2015

In the time crunch world of today – easy ways to keep food safe are needed. Twenty second sound bites or 140 characters are the new parameters of communication – sometimes those of us in academia are challenged to explain “the details” in these short segments. Years of schooling taught us to question, review literature, develop methodologies germane to the question, and then analyze and interpret data. Hard to fit that in a tweet! But this is the new reality. Fundamental messages with key take-away actions are needed because most folks don’t have time for the back story.
Here are a few my predecessors developed:
• Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
• Don’t wait, refrigerate (you saw this on the cool bags earlier)
• If in doubt, throw it out.

Well about 4 times the length of a tweet – work is needed!
Stay tuned!


SafeFood© TV Cooking Shows – What Not to Do!

January 18th, 2015

I love watching the many and varied cooking shows which can fill an entire day as I flip between various channels. However, I do believe all these shows miss the boat by not spending more time focusing on safe food preparation and handling practices. Rarely is proper hand washing used or shown, often time “chefs” are touching ready to eat foods with bare hands prior to serving this tasty dish to an awaiting judge. There are a few shows where food safety is mentioned such as when a meat based dish is undercooked and still served or, if in the process of preparation, contestants cut themselves, contaminate the food, and yes, still serve this tasty dish. Most recently, I saw a show where one of the contestants had what looked to be half inch long meticulously sculpted and painted finger nails, not certain how this person even managed to cook. Recent information for the USDA Economic Research Service estimated in 2013 the yearly cost of foodborne illness caused by non-typhoidal Salmonella was 3.7 billion dollars. This cost is for only one of the 14 foodborne pathogens for which cost estimates are calculated. I’m wondering what the possible impact on foodborne illness would be if food safe preparation and handling practices became an integral part TV cooking shows?



SafeFood©:- When and Where?

January 9th, 2015

The holiday break allowed for several coffee mornings – sitting around the kitchen table, reading newspapers and sipping java. It was interesting to note new strategies identified by several of quick service restaurant chains in efforts to woo Millenials from competitors of casual dining and grocery retail-to-go outlets. Having spent a little time also at grocery stores, I had seen what groc stores had to offer. Navigating through one of the big chains’ “how to” demos (which cleverly cross-promoted sides and wine to serve with this easy-to-prepare dish if you only purchased the identified items) was quite an interesting experience. Plus, not only wide varieties of food options (for example, have you seen the range of salt choices?), types of production (local, organic, USA, or gluten-free, to name a few) but also levels of service. Today’s food providers are responding to the market demands for natural food (no chemicals please!) and convenience (banks, barbers, and dry cleaner outlets are quite common along with the ready-to-eat foods as well as traditional staples of milk, bread, and chocolate chips). Having made the mistake of hitting a store about normal work quitting time, was amazed at the 20-30-somethings selecting dinner! 2015 is looking to be an interesting year for retail foods – and grocery stores certainly seem to be broadening what they do. I hope food safety messaging tags along! Maybe the Food Safety Project grocery bags have a place????




SafeFood© New Year Resolution – Winnable Battles

December 31st, 2014

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Food Safety is listed as one of the Winnable Battles. As I look over the very long list of food safety educational training materials, on-line lessons, videos, tool kits, posters (such as the recent addition of the 9 handling of fresh leafy greens posters, targeted for retail foodservice operations), and of course ServSafe® courses taught by extension specialists, it certainly appears ISU Extension staff will play a key role in helping to win this battle. The resources found on the Extension and Outreach Food Safety website cover everything from leftovers to the FAT TOM rap song. As we think about our New Year’s Resolutions for 2015, continuing to do our part to inform, educate, and share information about food safety is a resolution in which we should all take part, I know I will! Wishing everyone continued success in 2015 as we continue to do our part to win the food safety battle.




SafeFood© – Oh you better watch out for Norovirus!

December 20th, 2014

I have a friend who recently posted a message warning folks who are not feeling well, to stay away from holiday parties and gatherings. Unfortunately, she had hosted a Thanksgiving event, someone attended who should not have, and she and several others ended up with flu like symptoms which were most likely caused by norovirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, almost 20 million people become ill from norovirus, typically the result of close contact with someone already infected or from eating contaminated food. As stated by CDC, “Norovirus is the leading cause of disease outbreaks from contaminated food in the US.” Following basic food safe handling guidelines does play a key role in preventing norovirus. So in order to STAY SAFE –

Start with clean and sanitized kitchen surfaces
ake care to wash hands carefully following the 20 second guideline
Always rinse fresh produce with running water prior to cutting
our refrigerator temperature should always be below 41° F

Stay home if you are ill (vomiting and diarrhea)
lways check temperatures of cooked food with a calibrated food temp thermometer
Frequently change dish and hand towels, or use disposable, single use paper towels
veryone can follow these guidelines to Stay Safe each and every day


SafeFood© and Dr. Mom

December 14th, 2014

At a recent national food safety conference, a new report from the Center for Food Integrity was shared entitled Moms, Millennials, and Foodies. Study was focused on finding out who is perceived as a trust worthy source – a peer reviewed model (developed by our own ISU Sociologist Dr. Stephen Sapp) was used. Millennial Moms trust scientists who are mothers – maybe that explains the TV advertising featuring moms in white coats hyping this or that health care product. The role of peers and social norms are important also. Most people tend to listen to those they perceive as most like themselves – someone who will “get” their particular issue. There were many other presentations at the conference also that emphasized the need to shift from a top down, DO IT THIS WAY approach to food safety behaviors to a coaching, peer influenced way of “TRY IT THIS WAY, I DID AND IT HELPED” yet the message of trust in the messenger was key. After all, we all know it makes sense to listen to our mothers!

Happy Holidays


SafeFood©: What this research thing is all about

December 7th, 2014

My name is Kelly Abdelmassih, and I’m a PhD candidate in Hopitality Management and dietitian working in long term care. I’ve had the opportunity to work as a graduate research assistant for a few months now, and my perspective on research has changed quite a bit in this short time. Going to school at a land grant institution where a lot of emphasis is placed on research, I am always reminded that research is important. When I think about it, the entire Iowa State University Extension and Outreach program is designed to provide research-based education to improve the lives of Iowans all across the state. But, what does that mean, really?

As a dietitian, I hear the term ‘evidence-based practice’ all the time. Essentially, this means that the decisions I make as a dietitian should align with what science says I should do. To me, these statements were similar to when I was young and my father would pass along his precious pearls of wisdom. I listened (sometimes half-heartedly), and believed the message for the time being because – well, why not? Most of the time, I’d even let that pearl of wisdom guide the decisions I made just because it was the right thing to do. But not until I went through an experience that proved that wisdom true did I understand the gravity of the message and internalize it. This has been my experience with research.

I’m currently assisting a group of researchers examining how leafy greens, like spinach and lettuce, are handled in various foodservice environments. The team visited several foodservice operations (hospitals, restaurants, assisted living, and long term care) and observed how leafy greens were handled. Based on the findings, food safety messages were developed and depicted on a series of posters. The posters were then hung in those same operations, and then researchers visited the operations to observe whether the posters made a difference in how leafy greens were handled. I’ve worked in foodservice for a long time, and have never really thought about what went into developing the food safety posters that hung in the operation. Hours of observation, days of development, weeks of analysis, and months of evaluation. This project has been going on since 2012 – and this important work is not yet completed!

So, only now am I beginning to realize the importance of research and the gravity of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach mission. The purpose here is not to develop materials and disseminate to the masses on things our professors think they know. The purpose is to conduct pertinent, timely, systematic, and rigorous research that can serve as the basis for educational materials that are useful to people across our state! I am privileged to be part of this project – and am looking forward to doing more important research in my future.




SafeFood© – Giving Thanks for Home Cooked Meals

November 27th, 2014

In an article written for the Health Behavior News, a news link on the Center for Advancing Health’s website, Valerie DeBenedette discussed a research article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which found one of the factors contributing to a healthy diet was the amount of time spent on meal preparation. I grew up in a family where my great-grandmothers; grand-mothers, and mother were all fabulous cooks and there was definitely a great deal of time spent on meal preparation, especially during the holidays or for that matter, for any family gathering. Whether it was Grandma’s rice pudding, Nana’ oyster dressing and apple stuffing; or Mom’s sweet potatoes, our family’s holiday meals left me with fond memories. As folks head to the grocery store to buy the final ingredients and supplies needed for preparation of this season’s holiday meals, it is reassuring to know spending time preparing, sharing, and enjoying meals with family and friends not only warms our hearts and souls, but can also help improve our health. So please pass the turkey, dressing, broccoli and carrots, and enjoy time with family and friends!



SafeFood© Countdown!

November 18th, 2014

My “most favorite time of the year” is fast approaching – the day that is all about food, family and friends. I can’t wait! One branch of Strohbehn cousins is hosting this year – so my part is easy: show up with a side and an appetite. That I can do. This gang knows SafeFood so I relish the day. After reading through women’s magazines with suggested menus and planning tips for the big day with few to none tips about food safety, beyond being sure to cook the turkey to 165º F, I hope all of you have the same situation. How hard would it be to include tips about encouraging hand washing before eating or not letting food sit on the counter through all four quarters of the football game? What about some guidance on proper handling of food for those with special dietary needs, say a food allergy? What gentle reminders can be offered by the host and others to be sure food is prepared and served safely? I get it is a holiday – but given the crazy busy days following Thanksgiving, maybe a little preemptive safe food action can keep you from becoming ill. I hope all in your group walks the talk and that you have a Happy SafeFood © Thanksgiving!



SafeFood© Technology to the Rescue

November 5th, 2014

Cathy’s post on the many issues surrounding food allergens certainly hit home regarding the steps foodservice operators can take in order to keep their customers safe. Awareness is obviously a key component. However, what about undeclared allergens? As reported by the FDA, from September 2009 to September 2012, about one-third of foods reported to FDA as serious health risks involved undeclared allergens, and related food recalls. For anyone receiving email recall updates and alerts from, it is clear many recalls are due to undeclared food allergens. As stated by FDA, the five food types most often involved in food allergen recalls are bakery products; snack foods; candy; dairy products and dressings (such as salad dressings, sauces and gravies). The allergens most frequently involved are milk, wheat, and soy. It appears use of an incorrect label is the most common reason for a product recall. As FDA looks for new ways to test for and identify allergens in foods, Mark Ross, PhD and FDA chemist and others are working on identifying allergens based on mass spectrometry. This technology appears to be more effective than the current enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay which Ross states can produce false positives. According to Ross, mass spectrometry is more effective at determining “the allergen protein content of a complex mixture of protein, fats, sugars, and chemicals in a food”. It is clear improved technology will help play a key role in providing an even safer food supply for those individuals with food allergies.