SafeFood: Where’s the Beef in the Proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines

May 8th, 2015

Many of you may recall the infamous advertising campaign from Wendy’s in the 1980’s with the little old lady asking “Where’s the Beef”? Well, all of us may be asking that question if proposed Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) are accepted. The DGA propose a diet lower in red and processed meat – a change from the DGA in 2010 that recommended consumption of nutrient dense foods, including lean meats because of the bang for the calorie buck.
As you know, I’ve been part of a family that raises beef cattle for a few decades – so of course am hearing (a LOT) about the proposed dietary guidelines which currently include recommendations to reduce consumption of lean and processed meats. And part of the uproar has been on inclusion of sustainability aspects of the food items with some arguing the Committee working on the DGA overstepped their charge. Of course the challenge is to find evidence that addresses all aspects of sustainability with inclusion of dimensions related to social, economic and environmental factors (a pretty common definition of sustainability).
So back to the reduction of meat in the diet – I wonder whether this is necessary. Why bash the beef, and other red meats? The DGA 2010 recommendations led to the My Plate approach of making half the plate fruits and vegetables, a fourth protein and a fourth grain, preferably whole grain. With the 2010 recommendations, the center of the plate entrée from days of yore was no more; that advice made sense as protein recommendations of about 5 ½ oz. a day would fit with this design. And Americans currently consume close to this recommendation (but unfortunately the other 3/4th of the plate advice is not being followed). Americans would benefit from greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains – and less consumption of fats and processed foods (note less consumption lean meat is not an issue). But check out the shopping carts of others at the grocery store on your next trip and assess how close there is a match between what should be there and what is there. (Full disclosure – my cart will include some convenience foods too!). I like beef – not just because we have a freezer full of it but because of the taste and the nutrients obtained from it. Beef has ZIP – Zinc, Iron, and Protein. As someone who has iron poor blood, I know beef is good for me. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 included consumption of meats because it is a fundamental part of the American diet as a protein source and a nutrient dense food – what research has been published in peer reviewed journals that shows it is unhealthy to consume lean beef? We now know that lean red meat can be part of a heart healthy diet and aid in weight management. Consider taking the Protein Challenge – a 30 day trial to help people consume an optimal amount of protein (see http://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/proteinchallenge.aspx
Historical dietary advice has been that all foods are ok in moderation; for example, what is life without a little chocolate? So, where’s the beef?

Cathy

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SafeFood© Food Recalls – Public Notification, What Works?

May 3rd, 2015

I admit it, I am not a news junkie. I typically rely on my husband for important news updates, and occasional I catch the 5:30 national news, usually waiting for the last story which often tends to be rather heart-warming and often inspiring. As I was thinking about a topic this week, I went to the Foodsafety.gov website (http://www.foodsafety.gov/) and found under the Recall & Alerts column the headline “Hy-Vee Recalls Summer Fresh Pasta…” dated April 29, 2015. The story provided detailed information about the recall of a fresh pasta salad due to a potential threat of Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Hy-Vee had been notified the frozen vegetables (produced in Georgia) used in the salad were potentially contaminated. Details were given along with a link to the Hy-Vee website for more information. Once on the Hy-Vee website, under the “top news” column, the link “Pasta Salad Recall” provided extensive information about the recall and stores involved. I then started to wonder how most consumers are made aware of food recalls. In this case, the salad recall affected product available in selected stores from April 9 – 27, 2015. A couple of years ago, when I was living in Kansas, I stopped at my favorite grocery store to make a few purchases and was surprised as a very long grocery store receipt began to print. The reason for its length was the fact there had been some recalls impacting deli salads sold at by this chain and apparently based on my customer loyalty card, I had previously purchased some of these items. This of course was the first time I had been made aware of the recalls. I imagine most consumers do not routinely check the Foodsaftey.gov or CDC websites, so unless a food recall makes national news, I do wonder what works when it comes to notifying the public of a recall.
Dianepasta

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SafeFood: Are Locally Grown Fruits and Vegetables Safer?

April 26th, 2015

Spring is in the air, gardens are being planted, and farmers markets are starting up again. Local foods are coming to town! Why the excitement? Well, you wouldn’t ask if you had tasted a recently picked vine-ripened tomato – the flavor and freshness are hard to beat. But, are these locally grown fruits and vegetables safer? There are those who think so, (see promo tag line for a Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter) but really, it depends. Safety of any food will depend on a lot of factors – characteristics of the food itself (such as acidity and water activity levels) and how the food was grown, harvested, cleaned, packed, transported and displayed. Fresh produce (and nuts) were identified as causing 46% of reported foodborne illnesses in a recent CDC report. And, at farmers markets, we see a lot of fresh produce. Many farmers market vendors and managers are interested in marketing their safe food practices. Some have completed day long workshops focused on Good Agricultural Practices – look for their certificates. And recently, the ISU Farm Food Safety Team just released four online modules to this audience – see http://www.safeproduce.cals.iastate.edu/training/ These were developed with a USDA Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Specialty Crops Grant – and because of this support, for now, are available free of charge to interested farmers market growers and managers. Enjoy the market!
Cathy
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SafeFood© Reaching Locally Owned Restaurants, is There a Way?

April 19th, 2015

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to eat at a couple of locally owned restaurants as a new customer. From what I knew about each business, one had been in the area for a while, while the other had just opened. I had lunch with my sister, at a cute little place where she had previously eaten, but I had not. Food was very good, however, from what I could see, there was room for improving some basic food safety practices. For instance, bowl of self-serve cut onions set out by the napkins and silverware table, so customers could garnish salads and sandwiches, was neither covered nor chilled. Also, properly securing hair of the prep staff may have simply been a suggestion rather than a requirement. My husband, some friends, and I had lunch at a newly opened restaurant, and guess who had a perfect view of the kitchen which was essentially part of the dining area, since it was on the other side of the bar seating area. In this case, it appeared the norm was for the prep staff to wear disposable gloves regardless of the task at hand, and seldom if ever, change gloves, wash hands, and re-glove. I commented to the chef as our food was brought to our table suggesting his staff could improve upon some of their food handling practices. However, when we returned home, I felt I could have been more tactful with my comments so I called and talked to the chef. I apologized for being so abrupt with my comments, then went on to explain what I had seen. He shared his philosophy of instilling a culture of food safety and was very adamant about providing staff training, in order for the end result to be safe and delicious food for his customers. He invited to come back for a meal, sit at the bar and critique the food safety practices of his staff, something I certainly plan on doing. Since there are so many small, locally owned restaurants across Iowa, hopefully we can all find creative ways to help share the numerous SafeFood resources and training materials which are found on the SafeFood website http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/.
Diane

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SafeFood© and Home Ec

April 6th, 2015

Where’s the Home Ec? Seems some schools are doing away with this curricula (aka family and consumer sciences), even my alma mater! I recently took my first trip back to the glory days (just kidding, far from it) since graduation in 1975 – and not surprisingly, things had changed. One change I didn’t get was the 86’ing of the Home Ec wing. Not sure why as the foods classes I took in high school reinforced my interest and encouraged me to pursue a food related career (thanks Mrs. Stumbo!). It is an all-girls school so wonder if administrators think this is too old fashioned in today’s world where girls can do anything. Maybe there is thought that the content of home economics should be covered in the home, but the reality is with working parents, this often does not happen. At a recent foodservice management educators’ conference, many of the speakers lamented the low technical skills and fundamental food knowledge of their dietetic and hospitality management students. I was fortunate in that my grandmother coached me through many cookie making sessions where I learned about mise en place and cooking clean (although I really didn’t know the concepts by these names). Further, my parents allowed me on occasion to be the family food shopper and menu planner (as well as allowed me and my sisters to experience the dishwasher role). To this day I still enjoy grocery shopping. (I am the first to admit I love to eat – maybe that is the driver!) My kids had exploratory units in family and consumer sciences – and fortunately that still seems pretty common for middle school in the Midwest. Home Ec covers fundamentals. If you look at what ails America – poor nutritional habits, unsafe food handling, financial woes, and unclear parenting – wouldn’t some basics in these areas at school help? I went to a school which to this day is still rated very highly for its academics. I get that taking away Home Ec allowed for increased offerings in science, math, athletics and the performing arts. And, certainly these are all useful in preparing young women for their futures. I am just not sure why Home Ec got the boot. Does it send a message that knowledge and skills in managing a home and family aren’t important? I have to say I am disappointed – girls can take Home Ec courses and still rule the world!
Cathy

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SafeFood© Celebrate ISU Extension and Outreach Week!

March 31st, 2015

As ISU Extension and Outreach Week is celebrated March 22-28, 2015, the positive influence the field specialists and those on campus whose work and focus is food safety is certainly cause for celebration. This group of dedicated individuals has worked to education, train, and provide a wide variety of food safety resources for countless numbers of Iowans, whether the focus be home, schools, daycare, restaurants, assisted living, or various other foodservice operations. All one needs to do is take a look at the ISU Extension and Outreach Food Safety website http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/ to realize the wide variety of resources and training opportunities which Extension staff make available to Iowans. Over the past few months, as updates were made to ensure food safety educational and training materials met Food Code 2009 requirements, it became evident as to how many “hits” the Food Safety website has had. I wonder if we truly have an idea of the wide reaching impact ISU Extension has throughout the country. I recently worked with a Foodservice Director of an institution in California on helping locate some applicable standard operating procedures for this facility which were needed to assist with the updating of the institution’s HACCP plan. This director had been told about the many excellent resources which could be found on the Food Safety website. Finally, as I reviewed the events calendar for March, not only was a GAP level 2 training listed, but of course multiple ServSafe classes were being offered throughout the state. Hats off to those working in ISU Extension and Outreach – Food Safety!
Diane

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SafeFood© and National Ag Day

March 18th, 2015

National Ag Day is TODAY March 18th! A big shout out to those involved in food production, processing, transit and service because you are ones that keep us with a safe and reliable food supply. But a particular THANKS to the farmers. You are the ones that meet the challenge of growing sufficient food ingredients to feed the world (literally) and you do it efficiently and safely, always with an eye to stewardship for the land and livestock. I have talked to enough former farm kids (not surprisingly now leaders in their respective fields) who recall not getting fed until their farm chores were done as taking care of the farm took precedence over their personal comforts; another way of saying the common good was placed above their own needs. If farmers didn’t do what they did, other links of the food chain wouldn’t exist. Our convenient access to a wide array of foods from around the world would not be possible. Farmers get bashed for ruining our environment – hopefully this day of recognition helps educate the consumer about food production and raises their appreciation of the work of food producers.
THANK YOU!
Cathy

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SafeFood© Spring is in the Air

March 15th, 2015

My husband is a retired USPS letter carrier. In the spring, I always thought it was funny when he came home with stories of the baby chicks arriving at the post office for delivery. I of course had no idea chicks were mailed to people. Thus, I read with interest a couple of reports discussing the health and economic impacts of Salmonella. In reviewing the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reports, in October 2014, the ERS indicated the 2013 estimated costs of foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella were approximately $3.7 billion per year. Then, a March 9 Food Safety News story (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/03/salmonella-warnings-preface-hatching-season-for-baby-birds/#.VP8eZvJ0zL8) discussed the annual Salmonella warning put out by state and local health departments since, with the arrival of spring, the hatching season for baby chicks and ducklings is upon us. When visiting one of those great stores which sells everything for the home and farm, including baby birds, it really never occurred to me to think about the possibility of Salmonella being a concern and I do not recall whether or not the store had posted any warnings about Salmonella, although I think there may have been information about washing hands after touching the birds. I also never gave foodborne illness a thought, when looking at the cage of cute baby chicks which one of our local banks sometimes had in the bank’s main lobby during the spring. Now, I wonder if bank staff were aware of the potential for Salmonella. While I think most people connect the risk of Salmonella with raw poultry products, obviously when Spring is in the Air, even those cute, fluffy little baby chicks can pose a threat.
Diane
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SafeFood©: The Thermometer

March 1st, 2015

As I was trying to pick this week’s topic I read an update from The Partnership for Food Safety Education which discussed findings from the Healthy People 2020 report. Data showed only 36.9% of consumers follow the key food safety practice of cooking to the proper temperature. With a target of 76% of the population meeting this criteria, Extension staff play a valuable role when it comes to teaching and reinforcing the importance of cooking food to the proper temperature. I had the opportunity to participate in the recent Professional & Scientific Staff Resource Fair on campus at Iowa State University. One of the folks with whom I spoke discussed cooking practices using a food thermometer to test temperatures. When I mentioned the need to insert the thermometer up to the dimple, or about 2”, this was clearly new information. With a variety of styles and prices of thermometers, I do wonder how many consumers are aware of the proper way to use thermometers to take food temperatures. I once observed someone checking the temperature of meatballs in tomato sauce with a digital stem thermometer who did not know the thermometer needed to be taken out of the plastic cover. Instead, cover and all went into the product. When I worked in schools, the only foodservice sector required to have a written food safety plan, recipes had specific end point temperatures which were checked and information recorded before food was served to students. How many recipes and cookbooks list temperatures, especially when using older cookbooks? Clearly The Thermometer and its proper use has a major role to play when it comes to safe food. Therefore, every opportunity must be used to share the message of “cook to the proper temperature” and know how to correctly use thermometers to ensure this proper temperature is reached.

DianeSpaghetti & MeatballsMarch1

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SafeFood© and Deregulation

February 15th, 2015

stuff on hands after changing a dirty  diaper  - proxy for ...

stuff on hands after changing a dirty diaper – proxy for …

This past week there were two political items related to food safety that made the news – one about a merge between USDA’s FSIS and the FDA to streamline oversight of food production, processing and service, and the other suggesting the market should determine hand washing practices at retail. Philosophically, I am not opposed to a reduction in regulations (who is in favor of more rules?) but I fail to see how a merge would result in less confusion. And can we really rely only on the market to establish safe practices? I don’t’ think so. Without defined regulations, based on science, regarding fundamental actions that will protect the public’s health, there could be a lot of chaos. Let’s consider if hand washing (at specific times using identified process) was no longer a defined expectation for those working around food sold to others. Yes, the outdated, fading, torn Employees Must Wash their Hands signs might go Bye-Bye, but it is not clear the market alone could establish a SafeFood© culture. If regulations aren’t in place, then what is the basis of training? Where is the framework or the infrastructure guidance? While we hope all employees wash their hands after using the restroom – we really don’t know. (See the Yuck photo of why we hope they do!) It appears this market driver would require people to get sick and tell their friends (likely via social media, so LOTS of friends) about their bad experience which would influence business. Wait, doesn’t that happen now? Some preliminary research has found food safety does sell – savvy operators get that there are some customers who consider this when making the dining decision. I know I do! It seems there are more and more restaurants and other foodservices posting certificates of staff who have become Certified Food Protection Managers. Look for these at your favorite food place!

Cathy

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