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.


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 ( 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.
spring in air phot


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


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