SafeFood© – Grillin’ Time!

July 4th, 2015

Here it is – the 4th of July and the celebrations are on! Lots of us have some type of backyard BBQ – and hopefully know enough to keep raw meats separate from cooked by using a different plate and know enough to cook the meats thoroughly. Oh, and wash hands before handling food (of course!) Enough said – right?
But what’s this about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding a $15,000 project by University of California Riverside to limit emissions that result from backyard barbecues. The projects’ stated aim is to “research and develop preventative technology that will reduce fine particulate emissions from residential barbecues”. Does that mean the aroma of grilling steaks and burgers may soon be a thing of the past? OR that firing up the backyard grill will be more complicated with regulated bells and whistles technology to prevent the fine particulate emissions? Here is link to award info if want to see for yourself details of the proposed project.

This particular award seemed to hit a nerve – a google search showed LOTS of articles/blogs/tweets etc. reacting to the info, and not in a good way. In fact State Senator Eric Schmitt of Missouri has started a “rebellion” on Twitter (see #porksteakrebellion).

Whether particulate emissions are a risk remains to be seen (yes I am aware of some research that indicates this but there are a lot of conditions), but what we do know is cross contamination between raw and cooked foods and clean and unclean surfaces are leading causes of food borne illness. So, be a SafeFood© Griller as you enjoy the birthday bash of this great country!
Happy 4th!

Steaks on Grill


SafeFood© Taking Care of Leftovers

June 28th, 2015

Not too long ago, my husband had a family birthday lunch celebration for one of his “0” birthdays (although he claims he is holding at 39). His mother had brought him a serving of meatloaf. When we talked later in the day, he asked me what I thought he should do with the meatloaf. Since he has been well educated in food safety, he knew it should have been kept cold during its travels from her home (she lives about 30 miles away) and while they all enjoyed a leisurely birthday lunch. Since it appeared the serving had not had any type of temperature control, the decision was made to throw away the meatloaf. I wonder how many consumers are aware of safe food handling guidelines for leftovers. The first heading on the ISU Food Safety web page link for consumers is “Leftovers” featuring the “4 Day Throw Away” guidance. In addition, there is great information on tips for what to do with leftovers One of these days it will hopefully stop raining and families can begin enjoying picnics with family and friends. These celebrations often include needing to safely transport food to the event and then addressing leftovers. The many consumer friendly Extension resources focusing on safe handling of leftover food will help everyone safely take care of leftovers.



SafeFood©: View from a Visitor

June 21st, 2015

My name is Allysa Ballantini, and I’m a dietetic intern in the Iowa State University Dietetics Internship. I’ve had the opportunity to complete a one-week community rotation with the Iowa State University Human Sciences Extension and Outreach and Dr. Catherine Strohbehn. Prior to my week here, I was unfamiliar with the projects and work conducted by extension specialists. The only experience I have in food service is the course I completed last fall, Quantity Food Production and Service Management Experience class (AKA the Joann Bice Underwood Tearoom). I graduated from Ankeny High School in May 2010, and school nutrition programs have changed since I was a student. Dr. Strohbehn provided a great overview of what my week with her would entail , but I did not realize the amount of information I would gain from this experience.
Throughout the week, Dr. Strohbehn along with consultants from the Iowa Bureau of Nutrition conducted the Summer Workshop Series for school nutrition program managers and employees. This series included Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), Manager’s Update: Allergens, and ServSafe® Certification. Dr. Strohbehn and consultants from the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI) and the state agency facilitated these workshops. I was granted the opportunity to present part of the ServSafe® presentation to school nutrition program employees, which was a valuable lesson.
Individuals who attended this workshop were from community school districts all across Iowa, and each brought their own experiences and work environment cultures to the workshop. During the week, I observed and participated with many school nutrition program managers and employees while learning about the various topics. I found it fascinating to see how dedicated the school nutrition program employees are to their students. Countless stories were shared among school nutrition program employees and there were differing opinions as to how to implement certain programs; however, the passion and drive portrayed by these individuals regarding nutrition and health of their students was inspiring. These individuals deserve appreciation for their dedication to the health and wellbeing of students in Iowa! I am appreciative of the opportunity to explore ISU Extension and Outreach in Human Sciences and learn more about school nutrition programs this past week!

Allysa photo(18)


SafeFood: Strawberry Fields Forever

June 14th, 2015

It’s strawberry season! And time to hit the U-Pick. Judy Henry and her family have owned The Berry Patch for many years. In addition to growing apples and tomatoes, and of course berries, the family operates a Pick Your Own segment of the business. With heavy rains and other items on the schedule, I didn’t get out there until yesterday – a Saturday morning. Me and everyone else! Even with a detour of a few miles on gravel roads (muddy roads is more like it) the place was packed – with just about every demographic represented. The Henry’s have a routine down and the place operates smoothly with the help of many student age helpers. Cars are greeted as they drive in and directed where to park, another person provides a harvest flat if needed, and another tells which rows to pick. They use hay to mulch around the plants and I didn’t see any dogs, thankfully, which increased my trust good agricultural practices were followed. That is not to see I didn’t sample a few on the way home – unwashed (gasp!). But if it is just for me, I am a risk taker!

Judy, who has the heart of a teacher and helps those new to the experience connect with food at its roots, patiently provides instruction on “how to” pick and what to look for (full color, etc). I can only take a guess at the number of times she has given her spiel – but clearly she enjoys it. Many families were hard at it albeit some family members not quite as into it as mom and dad. I picked in a row next to a mom with two early teen daughters, who just weren’t enjoying the experience (“It’s hot”, “The weeds are scratching me”, and “It’s dirty”). While most moms can relate to the scene, this mom did get points for trying, but the chance to have a better understanding where and how food is produced was ignored. But other kids were having a great time and on a mission to fill their flat. Me too – I came home with roughly 10 pounds of strawberries. We tried a strawberry bruschetta last night and it was great! You can guess what’s on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Strohbehn house in the near future! I hope you have a strawberry field close to you with opportunities for folks to connect with farmers. Happy Berry Picking!




SafeFood© The Humorous Side of Hair Restraints

June 6th, 2015

My husband has always enjoyed listening to the Bob and Tom radio show, me not so much. However, we were out running errands the other day and of course the radio was tuned to Bob and Tom. My ears perked up when the topic turned into a somewhat humorous discussion about hair and beard restraints, with a focus on beard restraints. While the conversation was quite funny, I thought the point of needing to cover facial hair was well made. As a former foodservice director, I lost count of the number of times I would need to remind employees all hair needed to be covered, leaving bangs unrestrained was not an option. Some staff members took a more stylish approach choosing to wear colorful scarves to secure their hair. Nevertheless, it was everyone’s responsibility to make certain hair and beard restraints were correctly being worn. During employee training, the importance of hair restraints was reinforced by reminding everyone how gross it is to find a hair in a meal when dining at a restaurant. This technique did seem to hit home. While chefs in most cooking shows never seem to properly secure their hair, I always chuckle when a distinguished judge finds a hair in her or his dish. The chef responsible for this faux pas always seems to be duly embarrassed. The Food Code is very clear regarding proper restraint of hair and beards, so I wonder if a bit of humor really does help to emphasis the importance of keeping hair out of everyone’s food.
June6hair restarins


SafeFood© Food Trends – Opportunities for Extension Specialists

May 31st, 2015

I read with interest an article in the Newsroom link on the Institute of Food Technologists’ website which highlighted an April 15 story written by Contributing Editor A. Elizabeth Sloan called “Top Ten Food Trends for 2015”. As I read through the list, I thought of the many opportunities being created for Extension Specialists to have a positive impact on countless numbers of consumers. The article stated studies showed almost 9 in 10 adults believe fresh foods are healthier. In addition, shoppers are buying more fresh ingredients. This is wonderful, however, my question is, do consumers know how to safely prepare fresh ingredients, such as fresh produce? In addition, are they aware of the best preparation techniques needed to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, preserve quality, and nutrition; such as rinse don’t soak fresh produce and steam, do not boil fresh vegetables. Another trend listed was the impact of food allergies on food purchases. Do consumers understand the importance of and how to read ingredient labels? Do consumers know about and how to prevent cross-contamination not only as a measure of food safety but also as a way to prevent allergic reactions when preparing foods for someone with a food allergy? There were a variety of different food preparation techniques trends mentioned such as pickling, fermenting, and smoking foods. Do these techniques have any food safety concerns of which consumers need to be made aware? “Rethinking Nature” was another trend mentioned which focused on the increased numbers of local and organic purchases. Are there opportunities to provide the public information about local, sustainable foods? Two other trends, “Reasonable Snacking” and “Diet Watching” create opportunities to provide science based nutrition information. As I reviewed the ISU Food Safety website I found numerous resources which offer valuable food safety and food preparation information for consumers. Of the 10 trends discussed in the article, each one certainly provided opportunities for Extension Specialists to positively impact all Iowa families.

Top 10 Food Trends

top ten foodtrends


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
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?


033115_30 Day Challenge_FINAL_ARMS-082214-04


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 website ( 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 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.


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 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!
Local is saferphotos


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