SafeFood™ Fighting Hunger

November 28th, 2015

As most of us recover from the offerings at the bountiful Thanksgiving celebrations we enjoyed on Thursday, it is important to keep in that not everyone was so lucky. A successful harvest season recently came to a close – here in Iowa it is hard to miss, and Farmers Markets provide a showcase for much of the bounty even for those living in the city. Yet even with this seemingly abundance and easy access to nutritious safe food and drinkable water, hunger and malnutrition continue to be a major concern in Iowa as well as throughout our nation and the world. Diane recently attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE®) and listened to some informative and thought provoking sessions on hunger and wasted food. Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joes, shared his innovative solution to hunger in which he opened a grocery store called Daily Table in a low income Philadelphia neighborhood. The pricing structure for the food sold in the store is based on a family’s weekly SNAP allocation. Other speakers addressed topics such as strategies for reducing food waste in foodservice operations – such as batch cooking, which is really a win-win as operator controls food cost and avoids excessive holding. Many events surrounding the World Food Prize were held in Des Moines mid October 14-16. This award recognizes achievements of individuals who have “advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.” “The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people.” The forecast is pretty clear that we still need farmers to provide food for an increasing world population. The issues of hunger, poverty, food access and availability, sustainability, environment, and malnutrition are complex. While there is no one fix, there are actions each of us can take. One step is to practice controls in amounts of food purchased and prepared – food waste can be prevented! When you were children, most of you prolly had moms tell you to clean your plate because there were children starving in other countries. The connection between consuming the lima beans on my plate (which were not a fave food) and helping some hungry child in some third world country was not clear. Fast forward a few decades and it becomes more obvious that each of us can make a difference.
Diane and Cathy

hunger blog


SafeFood™ and Aprons

November 22nd, 2015

The biggest food day of the year is almost here! Hurrah! Being in the food safety biz, I could prolly repeat some of the advice you are likely to hear about cleaning practices and time/temperature controls but will let others do that (plus you can check out great resources on our web site at
No, what occurred to me yesterday as I was making banana bread for church coffee this AM (good thing too as every time I opened the freezer over ripe bananas were falling out so it was time) was apron use. Because I had not donned an apron prior to work I began to wonder about the purpose of the apron. Is it to protect my clothes from the food ingredients and work surfaces OR to protect food and clean work surfaces from becoming contaminated by my clothes? I was in clean clothes but I do know that sometimes I am not – maybe I had stopped to gas up the car or carried in some packages. In foodservices, it is expected those in food prep wear a CLEAN uniform or apron or chef coat. (And staff are supposed to take off as they leave the work area – not to wear when taking out garbage or worse, going into the restroom!). Some work sites (the good ones) have SOP about linens and aprons and even launder these for staff or have locker rooms where they can change in and out of uniforms; others leave it to the employee to define clean. That might lead to some interesting conclusions! Anyway, as you prepare the big meal, or something to take as a side, go ahead and wear a clean apron (and change the dish towel too). Use of clean linens is one way to minimize risks of cross contamination. Enjoy your day with family and friends.
A Happy and SafeFood™ Thanksgiving to All!

apron photo


SafeFood™ – Animals on Drugs?

November 15th, 2015

Prescriptions for cattle? A new action plan called, not surprising, the National Action Plan (NAP), strives to fight the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria over the next five years and accelerate research and development of new antibiotics. The NAP is consistent with steps taken by FDA recently through Guidance 213 which phases out anti-microbial use for growth promotion purposes through voluntary cooperation of farm pharm companies and vets’ oversight of all other uses of antibiotics. No, I haven’t read the 63 page NAP (you can if you wish but I understand it outlines steps to increase monitoring and improve collaborative efforts by government agencies. This all sounds well and good and certainly indiscriminate use of antibiotics is not good. The FDA Guidance is about producers working with their vets to use the right medicine (aka anti-microbial treatment) for the right bacteria AND to have management plans that prevent illnesses needing the medicine. I would guess most of you don’t take an aspirin or ibuprofen every day just in case you are going to get a head ache; you use the medicine as needed for treatment. So, in a sense, the FDA Guide is advocating a more pro-active preventative approach (which many producers already use as use of medicines is expensive, so why waste inputs if not needed?). It is clear, based on the declared war against antibiotics by CDC, FDA, USDA, and now the White House, that use of antibiotics for livestock will become more scrutinized in the coming years. Often I hear from consumers and others unfamiliar with food production that “animals are fed antibiotics – that is why medicines don’t work anymore”. Perhaps because of this confusion, some restaurant chains have made the decision to procure only proteins from animals that have not received any anti-biotics ever. Subway is one of these, and as a result, received a full page appeal in Wall Street Journal last week from Pork Producers requesting reconsideration on the basis of animal welfare. Maybe I am getting outside of my scope of expertise, but reasonable use of anti-biotics seems to me to be a tool that livestock producers can and should use. Imagine life without ever taking any medicines. Restaurants respond to consumers’ desires – that is the basis of effective sales. But clearly there is a need for the public to better understand when and how anti-biotics are used, and recognize safeguards such as withdrawal periods before processing are in place. Will this ban on any drug use result in higher sandwich prices? I like Subway because I can get a quality product without spending a lot of money. Hopefully, these new initiatives will help improve judicious use of anti-biotics with greater involvement of veterinarians and increase knowledge about the role of these in food production.



SafeFood© ‘Tis the Season Old & New

November 5th, 2015

I sometimes feel inundated with emails, especially trying to keep up with both work and personal messages. However, as I quickly scanned one of the Daily News emails I receive from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics the following headline caught my eye “’Tis the Season for Crock-Pots, But First Make Sure Yours is Safe”. Because the crockpot I have begun to embrace and use far more frequently came into our marriage 31 years ago, I thought this would be one of those news stories I needed to read. While our crockpot passed the good condition and proper temperature check points (even my husband had asked if proper temperatures were being reached), it did not pass the removable insert feature, so I do believe I now have at least 1 item on my holiday gift wish list. I then began to think about the other “old” items I still use. For instance there is the egg cooker we used from my childhood which still makes perfect hardboiled eggs and the hand rotary beater which yes, while it takes time, will whip perfect whipping cream and egg whites. There is my collection of McCoy mixing bowls of various sizes which are always used when baking and cooking. And of course, this time of year, when thinking about family gatherings, there will be the family recipes such as my Grandmother’s rice pudding or my Mother’s sweet potatoes or the apple-raisin stuffing recipe, handed down from her Mother. While I love the old family recipes, over time I’ve added my own touches and ingredient adjustments. So as favorite recipes and perhaps “older” equipment is dusted off to use for the holiday season always follow the “Holiday Food Safety” practices listed on the ISU Food Safety website:! It “tis the season”.



SafeFood: Hand Sanitizers

October 25th, 2015

AARP is wrong! In the recent edition of their monthly magazine, a short blurb was titled Germ Alert! The gist was that findings from a new study out of Auburn University found some germs lingered on cabin surfaces in airplanes for up to a week and the caution was given to use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. OK, maybe they aren’t completely wrong but there are some viral pathogens (think norovirus, aka the cruise ship virus) that aren’t destroyed with alcohol at these levels. And there are some pretty hardy viruses that can survive outside the human body for 7 days or so, like Hepatitis B, even though most viruses need a host to survive. Hand sanitizers are better than no action, but the best way to remove harmful disease causing microorganisms from hands (along with just cleaning hands from dirt and grime) is with soap and water (proper lathering time of 10 to 15 seconds of course – go ahead, sing the ABC or Happy Birthday song to track). Because most OTC hand sanitizers aren’t effective in killing norovirus and some other foodborne pathogens of concern, places that prepare and serve food to others can’t use them as a substitute for hand washing. Should you? I was excited to see our Iowa State Athletic Facilities Department install portable hand washing sinks in football tailgate arenas next to the portable toilets. Go State!

Catherine Strohbehn
Hand Washing Advocate!



SafeFood© Gastroenteritis Hits Home

October 18th, 2015

I recently had the unfortunate opportunity to accompany a family member to the hospital emergency room since flu-like, gastro-intestinal symptoms had increasingly worsened over the course of the day, and no appointments were available with the physician, so off we went. After several hours of waiting for test results and receiving fluids and some meds, we were sent home. Once home, I started more closely reading the paperwork and read with interest the instructions on page 2 for “Gastroenteritis: After Your Visit”. After reading through the “what to do now you are home” section, the next paragraph highlighted the “How to prevent gastroenteritis” guidelines. Some of the highlights were as follows: “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold; use a thermometer to check your refrigerator, it should be between 34°F and 40°F; defrost meats in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the kitchen counter; and keep your hands and your kitchen clean; wash hands, cutting boards, and countertops with hot soapy water frequently”. Sound familiar? I thought so. I am not certain what I thought I was going to be reading, however reading home food safety guidelines was an unexpected and rewarding surprise. As you know, the ISU Extension and Outreach Food Safety website has many resources to help families prevent foodborne illness. Clearly, no one wants to take a family member to the hospital when gastroenteritis hits home!


Oct 2015 something I ate blog photo


SafeFood™ and Linens and Things

October 10th, 2015

My sister called the other day wondering whether she should be concerned. At her work out club, she observed a staff member transferring used towels out of a container and then placing clean linens into the same. No disinfecting of the soiled container or handwashing or even glove change. So, the question was – how clean are those towels? Great question! It is true that fabrics generally don’t provide a good habitat for microorganisms to survive (hence the cough into your sleeve, not your hands campaign) BUT there are some pretty hardy bacteria and viruses, that can go from soiled towel, to container, to clean towel to a new living host (a human using the towel) pretty easily. We recommend separate linens be used within departments if a larger organization. Say, a school might have towels used by athletic department and the foodservice; if there is a shared washer/dryer in the school, let’s hope there is separation! When my son played high school basketball, I used to worry about this as the towels were all over the place (face kid 1, back of chair, face kid 2, floor, face kid 3 etc etc etc) repeatedly throughout the game. I was reassured by a trainer at the college level who told me a clean towel is given to each athlete as they came out of the game each time. Yes that piles up the laundry loads but does prevent cross contamination. What I didn’t ask was how clean towels were handled – hopefully separation of clean and soiled was maintained, unlike my sister’s club. This isn’t rocket science – simply have two containers labeled Clean and Soiled, and train staff to wash hands in between use. Even hospitals have been the site of infections – not surprising when you think about all places staff move through during a shift. Interesting that many animal production units have more strict biosecurity controls; staff shower in and out, wear protective clothing and shoes, face masks and hair restraints. Bottom line is that reasonable measures should be taken. The adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, makes a lot of sense.

Cathyphotolinens 2
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SafeFood™ Let it Flow

September 21st, 2015

Let it Flow – That is the theme of National Food Safety Month sponsored by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Food Safety Month is in September and the theme addresses the critical points in the path food takes from farm to fork, pasture to plate, hen to home, etc., etc., etc. The focus for NRA is steps at the retail outlet – when food arrives on the receiving dock to when it is served to you, the customer. What goes on behind the doors that say Employees Only? Some of you might recall your own previous work experience in the glamorous world of foodservice, say that high school gig at the local burger shack. One estimate is 25% of the U.S. population has had a stint working at a place where food is prepared and sold to others. If we include all places where food is served (not necessarily sold, such as class parties at schools or volunteer shifts at booster club concession stands), that estimate would be higher. So attention to food flow really isn’t someone else’s concern – all of us own it. Points in the flow of food: are purchasing, receiving, storage, preparation (which includes assembly and/or cooking), holding until served, service, and then handling remaining foods (storage or reheating). Most of these steps are followed at home too.
At each of the steps, attention should be paid to the health and hygiene practices of the person handling the food (don’t cough ON the food), time and temperature controls (don’t run errands after hitting the grocery store), and cleaning and sanitizing practices (use that soap!). Sounds easy, but it does take mindfulness to become a habit. Once these practices become a habit, it becomes SOP (standard operating procedure). Practices like ALWAYS washing hands before handling food and eating; ALWAYS coughing and sneezing into your sleeve; ALWAYS putting cold foods away immediately after grocery shopping; ALWAYS cooking food thoroughly (check by using a thermometer); and ALWAYS cleaning and sanitizing places with detergent where food comes in contact before use and not causing cross contamination.
Habits are good things – let’s call these the Five Habits of Highly SafeFood™ People!



SafeFood™ National Food Safety Education Month!

September 16th, 2015

September 2015 is National Food Safety Education Month. A month dedicated to food safety was created in 1994 by the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) ServSafe® program team in order to increase awareness about the importance food safety education. This year’s theme is “Let It Flow”. Activities during the month are intended to focus on food safety precautions within the food industry and within American homes. Many educational resources have been developed to use for education and training by the ServSafe® program and other organizations. For example, The Partnership for Food Safety Education has numerous resources focusing on such timely topics as myths and facts for home food safety and a campaign dedicated to getting consumers to keep home refrigerators at 40°F or below. A month focused on food safety education is a perfect fit for the role Iowa State University’s Extension and Outreach Field Specialists play when it comes to providing food safety education and easily accessed food safety resources. While working on a bulletin board layout, I wanted to focus on the various “communities” served by ISU Extension and Outreach food safety efforts. The list included every group and everyone from consumers and business and industry to healthcare, restaurants and schools. Obviously the ISU team has created a learning environment in which food safety information flows into every Iowa community. So check out the many food safety resources found at the Food Safety website, and keep food safety education flowing!

foodsafetyeducation month brochure


SafeFood™ at State Fairs

September 6th, 2015

Are all state fairs the same? From my sample of two, I would say no. The Minnesota Fair didn’t have presidential candidates for one wandering around giving helicopter rides etc, but it did have plenty of fair food and many food items presented on a stick (Walleye on a Stick!) and some booths defiantly not going that route (see photo). I was enjoying this fair because my daughter, Marketing Director for the Minnesota Beef Council (see our photo at their display), had invited me to stroll the grounds with her (and a whole lot of other people!) It was hot and crowded (that seems to be a common trait) – but boy was there food! And some interesting beef choices – The Blue Barn featured a “Cluck and Moo” entrée served in a waffle cone. We enjoyed St. Paul Tacos for lunch (beer-braised shredded beef with cole slaw topping) – yum! And of course a malt from the Dairy Barn. We watched little kids (and their parents) witness the miracle of birth in the learning barns and experience how food is grown and taken to market at a “little hands on the farm engagement exhibit”. We strolled the cattle barns and watched the Open Angus Show (throw-back to Kaye’s youth as a 4-Her). What was impressive was that handwashing stations (completely supplied – multiple sinks, counter tops, hand towels and SOAP) were located by these animal exhibit areas! And they were being used! Way to go neighbors to the north!