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Grill Food Safely

grilling vegetables meals summerThaw safely. Completely thaw meat, poultry, and seafood before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.

Marinate food in the refrigerator. If you use a marinade to enhance flavor, marinate the food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not reuse marinade on cooked meat that was used on raw meat. If you want to add more marinade after the meat is cooked, make up a fresh batch.

Cook to the correct temperature. Grilling browns the outside of meat, poultry, and seafood quickly, so you can’t rely on color as an indication of doneness. Always use a food thermometer to ensure that the food is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.

Keep hot food hot. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a slow cooker (135°F or higher), or on a warming tray.

Use a different plate for serving cooked meat. When taking food off the grill, don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Any harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

Source: www.fsis.usda.gov.

Home Food Safety Mythbusters

washing lettuceMyth: “It is OK to wash bagged greens if I want to. There’s no harm!”

Fact: Rinsing leafy greens that are ready to eat (those labeled “washed,” “triple washed,” or “ready to eat”) will not enhance safety and could actually increase the potential for cross-contamination. This means harmful bacteria from your hands or kitchen surfaces could find their way onto the greens while washing them.

Myth: “I don’t need to rinse this melon for safety. The part I eat is on the inside!”

Fact: A knife or peeler passing through the rind can carry harmful bacteria from the outside into the flesh of the melon. The rind also touches edible portions when cut fruit is arranged or stacked for serving and garnish. Rinse melons under running tap water while rubbing with your hands or scrubbing with a clean brush. Dry the melon with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Myth: “Be sure to rinse or wash raw chicken, turkey, or other poultry before cooking it!”

Fact: Rinsing poultry is an unsafe practice because contaminated water may splash and spread bacteria to other foods and kitchen surfaces.

Myth: “Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator…it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!”

Fact: Some harmful bacteria can survive and even grow in cool, moist environments. Keep fresh produce separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. For tips on how to clean and disinfect your refrigerator, go to http://bit.ly/1DeqVeO.

Sources: http://bit.ly/1FQlpQp

What’s in Your Kitchen

in the kitchen homeA 2013 study identified the six germiest items in the kitchen. These items were found to have pathogens (disease-causing agents) on them that can cause someone, especially children, pregnant women, and older adults, to become ill. Risk of illness can be lowered by using the cleaning tips below.

 

Kitchen Item Pathogen Found How to Decrease Pathogens
Can opener salmonella, E. coli, yeast, and mold Handheld: Wash in hot soapy water, rinse, and air dry after each use.
Electric: Using a clean cloth, wash the cutter, feed gear, and magnet with hot soapy water. Rinse with a wet, clean cloth.
Vegetable drawer of refrigerator salmonella, listeria, yeast, and mold Wash in hot soapy water, rinse and air dry after each use.
Blender salmonella, E. coli, yeast, and mold Dishwasher Safe: Wash blender in the dishwasher.
Not Dishwasher Safe: Wash in hot soapy water, rinse, and dry before reassembling.
Rubber spatula E. coli, yeast, and mold Wash in hot soapy water, paying special attention to the area where the handle joins the spatula.
Refrigerator meat compartment salmonella, E. coli, yeast, and mold Use a clean cloth and wash the bin with a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Thoroughly rinse with warm, clean water and dry.
Food storage container with rubber seal salmonella, yeast, and mold Wash in hot soapy water, paying special attention to any grooves where the cover attaches to the container. Then rinse and dry.
General Safe Food Practices:
• Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 10–15 seconds.
• Avoid cross-contamination by storing ready-to-eat foods on top of uncooked foods, such as meat, to avoid raw juices dripping on other foods.

http://www.nsf.org/newsroom_pdf/2013_germ_study_FOR-WEB-ONLY.pdf

Recycling Food Waste? Waste Not, Want Not?

woman helping man at  food pantrySupermarkets throw out $47 billion worth of food each year. Much of this food is still safe to eat. The idea is to offer food to people at low prices and reduce the amount of food wasted. This has led to new businesses opening around the United States that provide groceries at a discounted price. These food items are safe to eat,but one of the following applies:

  • They are past their sell-by date (end of store “shelf life” but still safe to eat).
  • They are close to their use-by date (found on shelf-stable products; indicatesabsolute best quality when unopened).
  • They have minor imperfections (e.g., slightly bruised produce, slightlydented cans).
  • They are from overstocks.

Why is repurposing of these foods gaining popularity? Foods that are past their sell-by date or close to their use-by date can still be safe to eat and therefore can be used to combat hunger. Currently, 1 in 8 or 11.9% of Iowans are foodinsecure, meaning that at some time during the year they lacked access to safe and nutritious food. This leads to lower intakes of nutrient-rich foods, more health problems, and loss of independence. People who are food insecure do not receivethe nutrients needed to remain healthy and active. Not having access to safe and nutritious foods in midlife and older adulthood can make completing daily tasks (e.g., cleaning, bathing, etc.) more challenging. In addition, getting a foodborne illness can have long term health consequences. In children, a lack of propernutrition is associated with increased behavior problems, school absenteeism, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue.

The Iowa organization Table to Table is working to reduce food waste and foodinsecurity. Table to Tablecollects edible food fromdonors and distributes thesefood items to those in needthrough agencies that serve the hungry, homeless, and at-risk populations. Since 1996,Table to Table has rescuedabout 12 million pounds offood from grocery stores,restaurants, schools, andother food operations. To learnmore about Table to Table, visit www.table2table.org/.

Ice Cold Facts

ice cubesJust because ice is cold does not mean it is protected against certain viruses and bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Therefore, ice should be handled like any other food.

When planning your tailgating activities this football season, ice will play an important part in keeping your food safe for you, your family, and your friends. Protect yourself, family, and friends by following these “Ice Cold Food Safety Tips:”

• Avoid touching ice with dirty hands or glasses.
• Use clean, nonbreakable utensils to handle ice (i.e., tongs, scoop).
• Store your ice in a clean container. If you are using an ice chest/cooler, be sure to wash it with hot soapy water and let it air dry before using it.
• Keep the ice you want to use in your drinks in a separate cooler from the ice that you are using to keep your foods cold.
• Use ice bags that are sealed shut rather than drawstring bags. By keeping your ice bag closed, you are also preventing your ice from getting contaminated.

For more information about food safety, visit the Food Safety website at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/food-safety-families.

Food safety in stormy weather

refrigerator graphicThis time of year brings occasional stormy weather. Are you prepared if your power goes off? Your refrigerator and freezer can help you avoid foodborne illness if you are prepared.

Be prepared
• Monitor the temperature. Keep a thermometer toward the front of the refrigerator and freezer. Check the temperatures as soon as you can after the power is restored before the food refreezes and you cannot tell how warm it had been. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator and 0°F or lower in the freezer.
• Keep ready-to-eat food. Store ready-to-eat foods in case you can’t cook or cool food.

When the power goes out
• Refrigerator and freezer doors should be kept closed as much as possible.
• The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed.
• A full freezer will hold temperature about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
• Packages can be grouped in an “igloo” if the freezer isn’t full.

When power is restored
• Toss perishable food that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
• Throw out food with an unusual odor, color, or texture, or that feels warm to the touch.
• Check for ice crystals in frozen food. Food partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or colder.

When in doubt, throw it out.
Need to know which foods are safe to keep? Ask for When the Home Freezer Stops (PM 1367) at your county Extension and Outreach office. Or download it: store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/When-the-Home-Freezer-Stops

Springtime Learning = Summer Safety

young boy on tabletUse technology to introduce your children or grandchildren to food safety basics they can put to use all summer long. Below is a list of technology-based resources that can help make learning food safety fun. The first two are free apps for iPads, iPhones, or iPod touch that can be downloaded from iTunes:

Perfect Picnic Game: This app helps kids learn how to build and run a food safe picnic park.

Solve the Outbreak: This app allows kids to become a food detective and uncover the what, why, and how of foodborne illness outbreaks and to see the type of work that real-life “Disease Detectives” do. (Created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Scrub Club: This interactive website teaches kids about hand-washing through the use of games, songs, videos, and other downloadable activities. (From the National Science Foundation International) Go to: http://www.scrubclub.org/home.aspx

For more information on these and other food safety applications, please visit: http://www.fightbac.org/kids

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) Explained

GMO CornMisinformation about the safety of GMOs is widespread today, especially on the Internet. Dr. Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, answers some common questions about GMOs.

Why do we use GMO technology?
GMO technology allows farmers to use fewer pesticides and fertilizers on their fields and produce higher quality and greater yields of crops. This has the potential to result in less damage to the environment and in lower food prices.

How are GMO crops made?
To make a GMO crop like corn, scientists insert a very carefully selected section of DNA into the corn plant. The DNA is converted by the plant, as part of the corn’s own DNA, into a protein. That protein gives the corn plant the ability to resist a herbicide or prevent a pest from damaging the plant. The added DNA and protein affect only the pests and herbicides, not people or animals. The added DNA and protein are broken down when we eat them, just like all the other DNA and protein already in the plant.

Are foods made with GMO plants safe to eat?
We eat DNA and proteins all the time! Every living thing, including plants, animals, and bacteria contain DNA and protein. The added versions, such as those found in GMO foods, are not different. Since the beginning of agriculture, farmers have been combining and selecting varieties to improve crops. Using modern tools, scientists speed up this process and make it much more specific.
Most of the major health organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have declared that foods from GMO plants are safe. Farm animals have been consuming GMO grain for many years and the meat, milk, and eggs they produce are safe and healthy for people to eat. Farmers in the United States have been growing GMO corn and soybeans for almost 20 years and these foods and ingredients have been part of our food system all along. To date, there have been no reported cases of sickness from or allergic reactions to foods grown using GMO technology.
Is the use of GMO technology monitored?
Before farmers can grow foods that contain GMO technology, rigorous testing is done to make sure the plants are safe for the environment, animals, and humans. Government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), carefully examine the plants for safety and only those that pass are allowed to be grown.

Are GMO foods labeled?
FDA scientists are responsible for food labels, and they agree that foods produced with GMO technology are as safe and nutritious as other foods—and therefore do not need to be labeled. Some food companies have chosen not to use GMO ingredients in their products, like Cheerios©. General Mills, the company that makes Cheerios©, has said that they are not concerned about the safety of GMOs but believe some consumers might want to have
a choice.

For more information about GMOs visit: www.GMOAnswers.com and www.foodintegrity.org

Safe Home Food Preservation

Preserve the Taste of Summer LogoInterest in home food preservation has increased due to the popularity of local foods and gardening. With more people preserving food, there is concern about whether the resulting food products are safe to eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the most common cause of foodborne botulism in the United States is from home-canned vegetables because proper procedures were not followed. It is important to keep food safety in mind every step of the way when preserving foods at home.

  1. Follow food safety guidelines when preparing the recipe.
  2. Always use up-to-date tested recipes and directions from a reliable source because knowledge and recommendations change over time with scientific developments. Ignoring recommended procedures can result in home canned products that will make you and your family very ill.
  3. Use the appropriate canning method. The acidity of the canned food product determines whether or not it should be processed in a hot water bath canner or in a pressure canner.
  4. Have the dial gauge on your pressure canner checked each season. Weighted gauges remain accurate and do not need to be tested. Contact your local extension office for information on how to get your dial-gauge pressure
  5. canner tested.

ISU Extension and Outreach offers the Preserve the Taste of Summer (PTTS) program that provides a thorough review of research-based, safe home food preservation practices, includes eight online lessons as well as four hands-on workshops (requires completion of online lessons), and is available statewide. The cost ranges from $25 to $100 depending on the level you choose.
Participant evaluations show that the program increases knowledge of safe home food preservation practices and is well received by those who have participated. One participant said, “I would never have attempted home canning before the online lessons. Now I know how to do it correctly and will attempt home canning.” Another stated, “I plan to make homemade jams and can tomatoes. I wouldn’t feel confident in trying these out before taking this workshop. Great opportunity!”
To register for PTTS, visit www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/preservation/home.html.

Dating 101

Americans throw out billions of pounds of food every year due to confusion about food expiration date labeling practices, according to a recent report released by Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council. This study found that over 90 percent of Americans prematurely toss food because they misinterpret dates on food labels as indicators of food safety.

For most products, date shelf life is determined by the manufacturer and is based on food quality, not food safety. The lead author of the study concluded that a standardized date labeling system providing useful information to consumers is needed. Until a new system is in place, use the guide below to help decipher codes on your next grocery store trip:

  • A “Sell-by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best If Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Closed or coded dates” are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

It is also important that you keep track of your food inventory at home. The acronym FIFO (first in, first out) can help you remember oldest food should be stored in front and used first, while newer items should be placed in the back of your fridge or cabinets.

A helpful resource is StillTasty. Here you can type in a food item and determine how long it will stay safe and tasty. The website provides storage recommendations for the fridge and freezer. An app for the iPhone is available as well, and even alerts you when food should be tossed! A good rule of thumb is “4 day throw away”; after four days leftovers should be eaten, thrown out, or frozen.