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 Yes, the outdated, fading, torn Employees Must Wash their Hands signs might go Bye-Bye, but it is not clear the market alone could establish a SafeFood© culture.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!



SafeFood© Sharing the Message

February 8th, 2015

I must admit it, I do like listening to Katy Perry. So when, as my husband was reading the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned the article about USDA taking advantage of the performer’s half time Super Bowl performance to highlight food safety, I was very excited. What a unique way to deliver a food safety message, thus the USDA blog “Hot N Cold”: A Katy Perry Guide for Food Safe Take-Out. The blog starts with a reference to when our stomachs “ROAR”, then goes on to build on the lyrics of Ms. Perry’s 2008 song “Hot n Cold”. The blog provides guidance on the basics of correct handling practices for take-out and delivery of both hot and cold foods in order to keep you and you guests food safe while watching the big game. We all know the Iowa State Extension and Outreach Food Safety website has many resources for both consumers and foodservices . We also know social media is everywhere. As I ride the bus each day, it seems as if almost everyone is posting or searching for something on an electronic devise. It will be interesting to see what creative ways all of us can use social media channels to share the food safety messages. I believe we can all be super stars when it comes to Sharing the Message.




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!