As the saying goes – hindsight is 20/20. It is not uncommon for any of us to reflect on past actions and lament “if only” I had done this or that, I would have saved myself some grief. Sometimes the “if only” do over might have saved some lives – say if a dish wasn’t thoroughly cooked or an ingredient came from a questionable source or the person preparing food had not washed their hands when and how they should. I had an “if only” experience the other day. At a family gathering, my sister (much smarter sister!) asked me to thinly strip fresh jalapeno peppers. The reply (from the not so smart sister – me – one who didn’t use this item a lot) was “Sure”! So I got to it – washed the fresh produce, set up my work station and merrily trimmed, seeded, and then stripped the peppers. All was well until I finished and realized my hands were on fire! IF ONLY (caps on purpose) I had worn gloves! I had not because the peppers were to be used in a cooked dish. IF ONLY I had thought beyond simply safe food handling and thought about physical safety! Advice for relief included soaking hands in milk, rinsing with rubbing alcohol, and applying hydrocortisone cream. All worked – for a brief spell. Finally, after hours, the pain subsided. One take away is obvious – wear gloves when handling flammable foods. Another lesson learned is – think about other side effects – this might avoid another IF ONLY moment! Stay safe!
A recent study by researchers at Rutgers University and published in Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology basically debunked the five-second rule of germ transfer. As you might recall from playground info during recess (always a valid source), as long as you pick up dropped food within the five seconds, then you have “beat the germs” as there was not enough time for contamination to occur. Dr. Donald Schaffner led the study where foods with various characteristics (such as amount of moisture, texture, stickiness, etc.) were dropped from a height of about 5 inches onto different surfaces (carpet, tile, wood, and stainless steel) that were bathed in a disease causing bacteria. The key findings were: 1) longer contact with contaminated surface led to higher bacterial transfer; 2) higher moisture food, like watermelon, picked up the greatest number of bacterial cells and 3) surprisingly, carpet transferred fewer bacteria than stainless steel or tile. The real take away is the five-second rule is like a lot of other news from the schoolyard – maybe it is not accurate!
Rest room designs are evolving! Many now have incorporated several low touch features such as automatic flushes, lights, and soap and water dispensers. Others have done away with the doors and feature curved hallways to serve as a barrier to outer areas. Now, a design feature common many years in elementary schools is appearing on the restaurant scene – a centralized hand washing area. There are advantages with this latter design – an open hand washing concept is similar to that of open kitchens with the message of “we have nothing to hide”. Schools have used the open hand washing station approach for many years as a way to facilitate youngsters’ use of the facilities, avoid bottlenecks, and have a monitor to ensure all hands are washed, along with peer pressure among students. But is this concept ready for prime time? That is – will it fly in an upscale, commercial restaurant setting? My sister shared she had experienced this design recently at such a place. To her, it was not a great idea as she was hoping for more privacy to brush her teeth! Others might like the privacy to fix their hair, reapply make up and/or other girly girl tasks, without losing any mystique. I found it a curious choice by this restaurant and wondered what influenced their decision. Was there a hope customers would serve as watchdogs and call out those who didn’t use the station? I don’t really see that happening as their clientele isn’t in junior high anymore. Perhaps there is savings in design, plumbing fixtures and the like. The upside is that those who don’t wash their hands don’t contaminate the door handle on their way out of the restroom.
Fire up the grill! Soak up the sun! Splash at the pool! Enjoy the traditional celebration of the last weekend of summer designated to highlight the contributions of the labor force. But others take advantage of retail sales – 50% to 70% off – who would want to miss those bargains? And while one is out shopping, meet the gang for a burger and brew at your fav hangout. But wait, why are all the restaurants and stores open? Who is working there on Labor Day? Seems ironic doesn’t it? Hopefully staffing has not been pared down too much as mistakes happen and short cuts are taken when there is too much to do and too little help and time. Some of those mistakes and short cuts could lead to an accident causing physical harm (cuts, burns and falls are very common in foodservices) or lead to food borne illness. So, take care folks – whether you are taking advantage of a day off or on the job! Keeping the labor force healthy is job one! Enjoy the day!
A recent article in Feedstuff Food Links caught my attention. Apparently, children have a disproportionate sway over household grocery purchases and decisions. Maybe that doesn’t surprise some of you who have seen weary parents just hoping to survive the dreaded trip for weekly groceries – anything can go in the cart just to get to the finish line! The article that caught my eye was written by Krissa Welshans. She referred to a market research report that revealed more than a quarter of parents (26%) learned about a new food product as a request from their child. Further, another report found that a product’s healthfulness for children (am assuming perceived healthfulness as there are a lot of products marketed as such that might be suspect) influenced 91% of parents’ food and drink purchases. Hmmm, maybe there is some value in nutrition education in the school curriculum. So many health factors are diet related and with fewer and fewer schools offering family and consumer science courses – aka the old home economics curriculum –(and my alma mater is one of these) it is important that accurate messages about food be part of learning. Not messages crafted by marketers, but messages based on solid information. There does seem to be a trend for back to basics foods – items with fewer unpronounceable ingredients as seen with the clean label trend. Yes students do have a lot to learn but informal delivery (such as posters on cafeteria walls) or even formal education with infusion into other curricular units (seen with the school gardening efforts as a basis for science classes) makes good sense. Incorporation of food safety principles in these messages could reach those who make important food decisions at home. The success of child to parent alcohol and smoking reduction programs are good models. Many weary parents might appreciate the help!
Hello everyone! First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Chloé Lundquist and I am currently a dietetic intern at Iowa State University. I was lucky enough to have my time with Extension and Outreach fall during some of the Summer Short Courses for School Foodservice Managers. I learned so much about school nutrition program and it got me thinking that maybe the general public needs to be better informed. For instance, did you know that more school lunches are served on a given day than lunches at a major quick service chain? In the Smarter Lunchroom workshop we did a group activity where we listed words often associated with school meals. Sadly, this list included words like “boring”, “bland”, “disgusting”, and even “unhealthy”. During the different workshops, I learned about several tactics school foodservice departments are using to try and satisfy the students and their parents while complying with government regulations. For example, many schools have set up a “Flavor Station”, with different spices and condiments available for students to customize their meals. Schools are also trying to get students’ input on would like menus; many districts use a cycle menu with several options on a daily basis. So are school meals really unhealthy? A recent study was done comparing the nutritional quality of school lunches and packed lunches. The results showed that school lunches were actually of greater nutritional quality than packed lunches. School nutrition programs have the difficult task of trying to please several different entities (students, parents, public, and government regulations). One clear take away for me was the interest nutrition program staff had in pleasing the students in their districts.
It’s Fair Time! Our State Fair – the Iowa State Fair – has been underway for close to a week. Had the chance to explore/eat/enjoy yesterday – and there was a lot for each! We didn’t see Ann Margaret and Pat Boone but we did see the butter cow, ate at Beef Quarters and Dairy Barn, and enjoyed the cooler weather. We also saw future farmers (way into the future) at Little Hands on the Farm exhibit get up close and personal with farm animals. As a hand hygiene advocate, I LOVED this sign from CDC about washing hands after touching animals. It is good there are readily available restrooms that are well-stocked with hand washing supplies – hopefully fair goers make use!
We hear of outbreaks occurring – here is one that hit close to home. Dietetic Intern Nicholas Arensdorf (as part of a rotation with Extension Specialist Rachel Wall) provides advice on what to do if one occurs in your neighborhood.
The Iowa Department of Public Health has issued a consumer advisory against consuming potato salad produced at Big “G” Food Store in Marengo, Iowa. The culprit: Salmonella in the “traditional potato salad” and “zesty potato salad” made in July. It is unclear when the food became unsafe, but it is likely that the issue was incorrect handling and unsafe storage temperatures after the potato salads were made. This was an easily preventable mistake that led to at least 20 cases of Salmonella poisoning in the area.
Because Salmonella is a bacterium, you cannot taste, smell, or see it with the naked eye. This makes it difficult to tell if a food is unsafe to eat. Following precautionary practices will provide some protections. With the tips below, you can reduce your risks.
•Always wash your hands before handling foods.
•Wash all produce, even if it will be cooked.
•Keep raw meat foods separate from fruits and vegetables and keep utensils separate. Store raw meat below any fruits or vegetables in the refrigerator.
•Foods with raw or under-cooked eggs, poultry, or meat should not be eaten. Poultry and meats should be well-cooked, and not pink in the middle.
•Keep cold foods cold and keep at or below 40º Fahrenheit temperature (refrigerators should be at this setting – you can monitor with inexpensive thermometers).
At Events (it IS Fair Season!)
•Avoid food that has been left out for 2 hours or more (think: picnics, barbeques, and buffets). If it is super-hot weather, say above 90 F, then 1 hour or less exposure is recommended.
•Be especially cautious of creamy salad foods (think: potato salad, egg salad, and other casseroles) when they have been left out for unknown amounts of time. (These foods are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply when handled incorrectly)
•Wash your hands immediately after petting animals (especially reptiles, chicks or ducklings as they carry Salmonella sp.) or touching animal feces.
Signs and symptoms of Salmonella poisoning often develop within 12 to 36 hours after eating the bacteria, but can happen as soon as 6 hours or as late as 3 days later. Symptoms of Salmonella poisoning (and also several other food-borne illnesses), include: fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, bloody stools, diarrhea, dehydration from diarrhea, and/or muscle pain from dehydration
It is important to note that simply not eating will not relieve symptoms when diarrhea is caused by a bacterium. Avoiding dehydration is very important, so frequently drinking fluids and replacing electrolytes, like water and sports drinks, is encouraged until diarrhea subsides. Eating foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and white bread toast may help relieve diarrhea.
Consumers who have purchased the “Zesty” or “Traditional potato salad” should throw it out and not return the product to the store. Iowans with concerns or questions about the implicated products should contact DIA’s Food & Consumer Safety Bureau at 515-281-6538 or Big G Food Store at 319-642-5551. If you have eaten Big G’s potato salads and/or have encountered these symptoms above, contact your doctor or healthcare provider. Do not prepare foods for others.
If you are like me, you have been getting some exercise virtually by sitting on the couch and cheering on Katie, Michael, Missy and other Olympians! I particularly like the swimming events – as a fair weather swimmer I try to get to the pool for some laps during the summer. While I may think I can swim like an Olympian as I channel those setting records, it prolly is not evident to others! The Games are inspiring and watching these athletes swim, jump, twirl, flip, twist and shout on their way to best performances makes me hope those in charge of the foodservice are on their game. How depressing to train for years and qualify for the Olympics only to be sidelined with a food borne illness. Granted the immune systems of these athletes are pretty strong (they are young and healthy) but we know from past events it doesn’t take much to cause an outbreak. Factor in the weather conditions of Rio and high populations, and the risk increases. So, a shout out in recognition of those working behind the scenes and taking the proper precautions to make sure athletes can perform their best. Those of us in foodservice know there are pressures on you to perform quickly but don’t let those pressures take your head out of the game and cause an incident. Game on and good luck!
Hello, my name is Katie Busacca. I am an intern in the dietetic program at Iowa State University. I recently completed a rotation with Rachel Wall, a Nutrition and Wellness Specialist in Cedar Rapids Iowa. As we enter into the last month of summer gatherings, keep in mind that the hot weather will make a difference in how food at picnics and barbeques should be handled. No one wants to spend the last weeks of summer recovering from a food borne illness, so here are some tips to minimize risk.
• Keep food out of the temperature “danger zone”. Keep cold foods in the cooler with ice to maintain a temperature below 41°F. Pack raw meats, fish or poultry you are planning to grill while still frozen to help maintain a cold temperature. When grilling meat, cook thoroughly (different temperatures are needed for different foods). Be sure to keep hot foods hot – USDA says above 140°F.
• Avoid cross-contamination. Pack one cooler for beverages and one for perishable foods. This limits time cooler is opened and exposed to summer heat. Using separate coolers also prevents raw meats, fish or poultry from dripping on ready to eat foods like fresh fruit.
• Pre-wash fruits and vegetables. Washing and preparing fruits and vegetables at home before placing in separate containers will make it easy to use at the event.
• Hand washing. Hand washing is the best step that can be taken to avoid food borne illness. If there isn’t easy access to running water – bring along a jug of water and soap for hand washing and encourage everyone to do so before eating.
• Serving time. Once food is served, try not to leave it out in the heat for more than one hour. With hot temperatures, bacteria can reproduce very rapidly. If it left out for over an hour, discard any leftovers.
Now that you know how to keep food safe and your family healthy, enjoy these last days of summer and get-togethers.