I’ve been at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) annual show in Chicago for the last few days. Of course, ServSafe®, an NRA brand, has a large prominent booth. Part of the booth was dedicated to the newly launched ServSafe Home Food Safety Website, http://www.homefoodsafety.com/
I checked out the site and was impressed. I was thinking it would be a great resource to refer my family and friends to when they call with their food safety questions. The news release states, “The information on the site brings the same high food safety standards of the NRA’s ServSafe program for foodservice professionals to home kitchens. “ I’m all for that.
Then the question was asked of me: Why would NRA do a website for home consumers? It doesn’t seem to fit with its brand as the “recognized industry leader” of food safety training and information for the food service industry.
So I walked over to the ServSafe booth and asked. Jennifer Swan, VP of business operations for Hospitality On Point, answered my question. Most people think of the last restaurant they ate at when they think they may have a foodborne illness. Few consider they may have gotten sick from something they ate at home. She also mentioned the desire to get the ServSafe® brand in the minds of children. When they grow up, they’ll already be familiar with the brand. The site does have many children friendly components.
The website is free and available to anyone interested in learning more about good food safety habits. Even if NRA has its motives and branding goals, I still think it will be a good source of accurate information for those who are familiar with ServSafe® and those who are new to it.
Submitted by Janell Meyer
Jennifer Swan at the NRA show ServSafe booth May 2013
I just completed a long North to South drive on I-35 without satellite radio, so ended up listening to a lot of talk radio. You can guess the topics – gay marriage, gun control, and immigration reform – but NOTHING about food safety. Hmmm. Why have gun control measures inspired more discussion than safe food handling or food terrorism? Certainly the high profile mass shootings and the Boston Marathon have brought attention to these risks. Do we have to wait for an event to happen related to food safety? To date, there has been one confirmed case of food terrorism in the U.S. – the deliberate contamination of salad bar restaurants by a cult in Oregon back in 1984. The group tried to sabotage food in school and nursing homes, but because the regular food workers had such good oversight, they were not successful with that tampering. Just goes to show how important it is to have local eyes on the watch! That is certainly food for thought. I am still waiting for the talk guys to raise the issue – hopefully in a proactive manner rather than reactive.
Recently an Associated Press story written by W. Wayt Gibbs encouraged the use of heat-shocking for fresh produce. The article stated: “Food scientists have discovered a remarkably effective way to extend the life of fresh cut fruits and vegetables by days or even a week. This method, called heat-shocking, is 100 percent organic and uses just one ingredient that every cook has handy — hot water.”
The story goes on to give optimal time and temperature for heat-shocking certain produce items. For example, asparagus takes 2 to 3 minutes at 131 degrees Fahrenheit and peaches (whole) take 40 minutes at 104 F. The word “researchers” was used several times in the article, but no researcher was named or study cited.
I was skeptical. So I asked Angela Shaw for her opinion.
Dr. Shaw is a food microbiologist, an ISU Extension and Outreach food safety specialist and ISU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. She said she would not recommend this treatment for fresh produce. She was unsure how this would affect the quality of the produce and she was concerned about leaching of nutrients.
As a follow up, Dr. Shaw offered this: “I looked into the research behind this article and this technique is common for ripening fruits and vegetables such as tomato and papaya, but I was unable to find any research related to more delicate fruits and veggies. In the research articles I was able to find (I found 6), this practice occurred on the farm immediately after harvest. So the application to consumers was not established. These high temperatures for the long times will provide cooked conditions in most of our delicate fruits and vegetables. Just be cautious.”
I agree with Dr. Shaw. It doesn’t sound like this is a consumer friendly practice. If you have your thermometer and stop watch handy, you could try your own experiment.
Submitted by Janell Meyer
This weekend I read the following post on Facebook from a blogger who specializes in crock pot recipes in offering weekly ideas for menu plans:
“Help! I think I just had a major crockpot fail. I cooked a very large bone-in pork roast over night for bbq at the graduation party next weekend. The roast barely fit in the pot and overnight, it expanded and lifted the lid a bit. This morning, the middle part is not cooked through. It’ still running red juice Do you think I could put it in the oven and finish it? Or will I risk food poisoning our guests next weekend?”
The post received nearly 40 comments in about two hours. The comments ran adamantly both ways. The blogger did post this update later: “I decided to start over with a new roast. Live and learn!”
When I saw this message, I felt relieved for both her and her guests. Who wants to spend the next week worrying if you are going to poison your family and friends? Why run the risk?
I have followed this blogger for a while and had started to worry about some of her crock pot habits. This post confirmed my suspicion. She needs a better understanding of food safety and slow cookers. “Live and learn” should be her motto, or rather “Learn and live.”
Reader beware. Be careful who you “like.” For food blogging, it is a jungle out there.
Submitted by Janell
I just finished reading an article which cited research showing it took 66 days to get into an exercise habit. Wow! That is a lot more than the few weeks I would have suspected. Maybe it is the same way with good health and safe food handling habits. Think about establishing a new family protocol of everyone washing their hands when they come into the kitchen – how hard would that be? Or a habit of putting food away immediately after dinner rather than after favorite TV shows are watched (bonus is the kitchen gets cleaned up right away and there is not the demolition to face!). Or a routine of using a clean kitchen towel each day? Or taking the time to put things back in their place? Many parents, including yours truly, encouraged their young children to pick up toys each day as a form of self-protection – it only takes one false step on a GI Joe or lego piece to bring this point home! Routines are a good thing (think teeth brushing and flossing or car keys kept in a set place) that help give our day structure. SafeFood© Routines come about with mindfulness and keeping one’s head in the game. End result is a win- win!
Submitted by Cathy Strohbehn
Food handling, Food preparation
What’s the connection between golf and safe food? Well, there is no direct connection. But, as the question of whether TV viewers should be allowed to report observed violations of the rules of golf (surely you heard about the Tiger Woods incident) it made me wonder about having Call Lines for retail foodservices. I’ve seen similar approaches on the back of trucks tooling down the Interstate – “How’s my driving? Call 1-800-etc if anything to report”. And I know some state agencies have call in numbers for citizens to report observed wrong doing. But what about foodservice organizations initiating a similar type of hot line? While ideally there is a face behind any legitimate complaint, the reality is most people won’t put themselves out there, or don’t feel it will make any difference. In today’s world, likely something more technologically evolved than a phone hot line number would be received better – a text or an app perhaps. Organizations that are willing to initiate this would be saying to their customers “We have expectations about how food served to you is handled and we want to know if those are not met”. This would tell me and other customers that the business cares about the quality and safety of the food, and aren’t just giving lip service. BTW – wasn’t that an exciting ending to tournament?
Submitted by Cathy Strohbehn, Extension Specialist
Recently my husband consulted me about something he had read that surprised him. He was reading the article “101 secrets from our experts – The insider’s guide to practically everything” in the May 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. One of the 101 secrets in this article was this advice: “Never wash or rinse raw chicken in the sink. You’ll splash germs around the kitchen and risk food poisoning.”
I assured him this is indeed the recommendation from the USDA. He then asked, “Well, where are you supposed to wash the chicken if you can’t do it in the kitchen sink?” Visions of whole raw chickens in our utility sink in the basement popped into my mind. The answer is that the experts don’t recommend you wash the chicken at all before cooking it. Washing probably won’t remove harmful bacteria and will likely spread them around your kitchen. Cooking poultry to 165°F will destroy the most common culprits behind foodborne illness.
I know why he was so confused. Confession time: I wash all poultry before I cook it and a good share of other raw meat, too. Old habits die hard and I must not be the only one as Consumer Reports still considered it a “secret.” A quick Google search showed articles recommending not washing poultry written back in 2007. Six years ago: What’s taken me so long? Of course, I have known of the recommendation plus the science behind it and have felt guilty with each poultry bath I perform. At the same time, I also remember how appalled my mother was when she found out her sister didn’t wash chicken before cooking it. Back then (early 1970s), we chalked it up to her hippie ways, which also included taking the rack out of the oven to throw over the fire pit to make a grill.
They say if you say something out loud you are more likely to do it. So starting today, “I will not wash my raw meat and poultry before cooking it.” I will continue to wash my hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry. I also will continue to never put cooked meat back on the platter I had the raw meat on.
As part of some ongoing medical fixes, I spent some time in a few exam rooms of a multi-specialty practice this past week. You know the drill: hop up on exam table and then wait for the physician. While waiting (one day in an ob-gyn room and another in adult medicine), I perused the educational information available – either posters on the walls or tri-fold brochures. Interestingly, given both rooms serviced sectors of the population considered at greater risk of experiencing foodborne illness, there was NO mention of diet or food handling recommendations. For example, FDA recommends both groups (pregnant women and the elderly) avoid consumption of unheated deli meats as these foods pose risks of contamination from the Listeria bacteria which can result in miscarriage or long term harm to the baby as well as other health risks. See http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/listeria/index.html
There is a handy Checklist of Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy – http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/risk/pregnant/chklist_pregnancy.html
Making either or both of these available to patients may save a lot of heartache.
I know there are only so many walls in the exam rooms and perhaps physicians are discussing these points directly with their patients. I hope so! Awareness about problems and education on what to do are effective prevention strategies for foodborne and other illnesses – the “more you know” approach can only help.
I had wondered if contacting the state poison control center with foodborne illness concerns is okay. According to an article in the EPI Update for Friday, March 22, 2013 sent out by the Center for Acute Disease Epidemiology (CADE) and Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) they do cover food poisoning. Here is the article:
Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center available 24 hours a day
This week is National Poison Prevention Week, a great time to acknowledge the important, life-saving work done every day by the experts at America’s poison centers. The Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center, serving all 99 counties in Iowa, managed over 54,000 inbound calls last year.
The Center is staffed by registered nurses and medical toxicologists, and provides treatment recommendations for people who have been exposed to pharmaceuticals, household products, chemicals, plants, mushrooms, vaccines, pesticides, heavy metals, snake bites, and food poisoning. About 90 percent of poison emergency calls from the public are treated safely and appropriately at home following the advice of poison center experts.
Iowa’s poison experts are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-222-1222.
Good to know and thanks to the staff at the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center for their important work.
Coming soon (March 19th actually) is a day to celebrate American Agriculture, the second oldest profession. Here in the US of A we take for granted the plentiful supply of food. Ran out of some important staple (i.e. chocolate chips) at 2 AM? No problem – any number of retail outlets will be open. Maybe we don’t always understand where and how food is produced but we sure do like the round the clock availability, at least in some parts of the country (sadly there are food deserts). There does seem to be a growing awareness about food production with the Know your Farmer, Know your Food campaign and with all the culinary TV shows. With changing demographics of our country and fewer folks living in rural areas and more in cities, you may not know a farmer. But with increasing numbers of farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture programs, you have plenty of opportunities to chat one up. I encourage you to do so. Not everyone is meant to be a farmer. The most talked about Super Bowl commercial this year (God Made a Farmer, narrated by Paul Harvey) gave a glimpse into what it means. Many farmers and former farm kids have a strong sense of community, maybe because many farms have been in families for multiple generations. Family members serve on school boards and church committees, contribute acres for FFA projects and donate heifer calves for 4-H shows. People I know who were raised on a farm and were part of a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year operation seem to have a strong sense of community responsibility and understand the concept of delayed gratification. Granted, I am somewhat biased living in a rural community and married to a farm kid. Ask someone you know who was raised on a farm – likely they will nostalgically tell tales about not getting dinner until cattle had been fed, twice a day milking’s with one at crack of dawn, walking beans, baling hay, weeding mom’s garden, plucking feathers from chickens, getting pecked by the rooster, walking to school five miles in knee high snow uphill both ways, and other experiences which sound like child abuse. And, surprisingly, it is likely they will have fond memories of these experiences. Agriculture is a strong foundation of many communities – socially and economically. Farmers are stewards of the land. Our agriculture producers keep us fed and clothed. Thank you!