Summer is the time I enjoy lap swimming – have turned into a fair weather swimmer over the years after too many early morning workouts in the cold and dark as a youth. During my time at the pool, I have noticed a new campaign by the CDC to prevent recreational water illnesses – these are results of swallowing pool water which, even with the chlorine, may still contain germs. The campaign flyers strongly encourage use of swim diapers for those who need them and showering before entering the water, particularly if there is a lot of sweat and dirt (think of the number of folks who enjoy bare feet in summer time. The chlorine breaks down very quickly when there is more than water to keep clean. Even excessive use of tanning oils (yes I still see these used) and sunscreen (use is strongly encouraged to prevent skin cancer) mitigate effectiveness of the chlorine. Certified pool operators know the chemistry requirements and do their best. Lifeguards are alert to swimmers’ physical risks. Care is taken to keep the pool and grounds as risk free as possible – but those enjoying the pool grounds need to do their part too. The water is great – come on in!
Not only is Memorial Day the kick off to summer, it is also a day to reflect and appreciate those who have passed. We hear a lot in the media about sexual violence rates (reportedly 1 in 5 Americans has been sexually abused) but not so much about food borne illnesses, which, according to CDC, are estimated to hit 1 in every 6 U.S. residents each year. Of these, it is estimated there are 3,000 deaths. Sadly, many of these are preventable. Either those engaged in preparing or serving food aren’t thinking through what and how they accomplish tasks and possible resultant consequences of contamination or cross contamination; or there is a rush and food isn’t cooked to high enough temperatures; or food contact surfaces aren’t cleaned and sanitized; and/or other corners are cut. There have been a few cases where there was a mindful intent to take shortcuts or save dollars that clearly would endanger those eating prepared foods – thankfully those responsible have been held accountable and are now in jail. Mostly though, people get sick because food handlers (whether it be the high schooler at a quick service or your mother in law at a family function) don’t connect the dots and recognize cause and effect. So, as another Memorial Day passes and another summer begins, reflect on your actions as a preparer and consumer of food and follow SafeFood basics outlined by the FightBac program called the four core practices of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
At our Easter gathering, a nephew was talking about his “cleansing” process – once a week he whips up a leek-kale-etc shake to purge his body of food “toxins”
I thought of this cleansing process when I was checking whether there was any BBQ sauce on hand. Surely, somewhere nestled among all the jars in the fridge door there was some BBQ love. There certainly were enough containers to choose from! USDA advises storage of open containers up to six months – oops! I am pretty sure some of these were there this time last year – like the BBQ sauce I finally found – along with the open jars of mayo, mustard, pickle relish, and catsup! So, time for a condiment cleansing! I hate to waste food so rather than buying the “value size” I should purchase smaller units more in line with actual use. When I make potato salad, I do like to use a new jar of mayo due to my failure to remember when container was purchased AND wondering whether anyone double dipped with the knife when making a turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving. Note to self is to buy smaller units of condiments – pass up the best value and just buy what I need. Now if I can only remember this approach at the movie theater and avoid the jumbo popcorn and diet soda!
This Mother’s Day is a good time to post this guest blog. Happy Mother’s Day to all! CHS
Hello! My name is Emma Vsetecka. I am currently a dietetic intern who recently spent some time with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. ISU Extension and Outreach seeks to provide education and partnerships designed to solve problems and prepare for the future through a variety of resources, workshops, and educational programs. The field of dietetics is constantly evolving and thriving providing registered dietitians numerous paths to positively impact and transform lives.
Through my college career, many classes focused on food safety and the importance of it in a foodservice setting. As I think back, I consider myself fortunate to have learned about its importance at home. At a young age I had an interest in preparing food. When learning how to cook from my parents they let me do simple tasks before I was in charge of preparing whole meal. Some of the tasks I remember doing when I was younger were helping my dad grill. I was in charge of running into the house with the dirty plate from the raw foods to get a clean plate for the cooked foods. This was to prevent cross contamination of the raw food item that was on the plate when we took it out to the grill. Some simple examples my parents shared with me were we don’t want cross contaminations on our foods or it could make us really sick. As I got older, I took on more responsibilities in family meal preparation. Once, I remember making beef stew with my mom. As I finished cutting up the beef my mom asked me to cut the vegetables next. I knew I had to get a new cutting board and knife so I didn’t cross contamination the raw beef and the vegetables. It is these fundamental concepts my parents taught me at a young age that stuck, and led me to my interest in becoming a registered dietitian.
This rotation through ISU Extension gave me awareness of many tools and resources to use as I continue my journey to become a registered dietitian and as I begin my career. Interacting with ISU Extension professionals has also enhanced my knowledge about the different opportunities in the dietetics profession – we don’t all have to work in hospitals!
My sister showed me this story going around Facebook about a woman in California charged for selling food through her FB account who just can’t believe this was all happening. Her alleged crime was operating a food facility and engaging in business without a permit. The food she was selling was a $12 plate of ceviche which most readers of this blog likely recognize as a higher risk food. The woman is part of a Facebook group (reportedly 15,000 members) that routinely shares recipes, trades kitchen gadgets or sells dishes below market prices. Well, as the saying goes, two out of three ain’t bad but the last item of selling foods, particularly foods that are higher risk. The purpose of the permits is to provide regulatory oversight. Each state has their own set of rules governing these type of food sales – known as Cottage Food Laws; the FDA offers some regulatory guidance with the goal of preventing food borne illnesses. The woman told a reporter “It’s just crazy because people have been selling out their trunks and out of parking lots for years, I never knew it would be a problem.” With an estimated 48 million cases of food borne illness occurring each year and a major contributing factor due to food purchased from unapproved sources, some regulatory oversight for these cottage foods makes sense. Obviously certain types of foods contain ingredients that are riskier than others – baked goods like bread are less conducive to bacterial growth than say cheesecake or ceviche! Inspections provide some assurances that the person making the food isn’t sick and is using safe ingredients and handling them properly with food contact approved equipment. Yes, operating within the law may require some additional resources; hence higher market price. The article didn’t say whether anyone reported becoming ill from the ceviche that was sold – if they did I bet they would be more than willing to pay full market value next time around! Budding food entrepreneurs are advised to work within the regulatory framework – part of building a good business is good planning.
Hello my name is Leah Palm and I am a dietetic intern through Iowa State University currently completing my rotations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I recently had the opportunity to work with Dr. Strohbehn during my community rotations. As part of this experience, I attended the Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Professional Development Day as well as the Nutrition and Wellness Team Meeting Day. I was honored to be able to participate in these two days and to learn more about the resources Iowa State Extension provides to the community and to the state of Iowa. On day two, one of our guest speakers was Dr. Keith Vorst, a professor at Iowa State who spoke about his research with polymeric food packaging and how it ties to food safety concerns. This is a topic I have not thought about much and am interested in learning more. The presentation made me realize the importance of food safety extends to packaging and consumer awareness. I recently had an experience with rotten milk from a grocery store and was curious if it was due to packaging, lighting, or transportation. I had purchased two different types of milk and had it go bad a week prior to the “best by” date in both instances. The next time I went to the grocery store I noticed the brand of milk I usually bought was in a container less opaque than other brands. Although there are numerous factors that may have contributed to my milk spoiling- it got me wondering. What exactly is the material used in the plastic container? Is the plastic container too transparent therefore letting more light on the product? Is something in the container being degraded and leaching into my milk? This week provided me with endless food for thought!
You prolly have heard or read about celebrations for Earth Day which was celebrated this last weekend. Yet for many – especially farmers (those folks who grow/produce food and fiber we take for granted) every day is Earth Day. A day designated to recognize Agriculture – National Ag Day – was March 21st. Interestingly, a recent survey by The Center for Food Integrity found that less than half of US consumers (42%) strongly agreed with this statement “U.S. farmers take good care of the environment” and more than half – 51 percent – were ambivalent. Some of this stems from size of the farm: big is bad is the view of many. Certainly there is trust in knowing the person involved with the food production, and that trust encourages a perception that smaller farms are not as profit driven as larger farms (the faceless corporate entity). Knowledge of how food is produced is another burning question for consumers. A recently published study from University of Illinois reported in Feedstuffs Foodlinks found the three top attributes by consumers when purchasing beef, chicken, milk and eggs were “no growth hormones”, “non-GMO” and “humanely raised,” although there were differences in importance based on product type. So what do these terms mean? Ask 10 people and you may get 10 different answers. While there are some certification programs, there are also differences of opinion as to what these terms mean. Although the “organic” attribute was ranked lowest in importance for consumers, for many, purchasing certified organic products is how they ensure a product is GMO free. As another Earth Day ends, it behooves all of us to make mindful food purchases and part of that is understanding what terms on the label mean. Your government has definitions for use of many terms – see USDA’s National Agriculture Library for more information. More important though, we should recognize that farmers work hard under uncertain and changing conditions of weather, demand, markets, and policies to produce the food we are fortunate to have available for purchase, and thank them for their efforts.
In case you noticed, there hasn’t been a SafeFood blog for a few weeks as I was out on vacation (had a great time BTW). It was amusing (and at times annoying) to see the sites around the selfie sticks and outstretched arms of people documenting their experiences. Digital photography certainly makes it easy and inexpensive to do so, and social media makes it easy and inexpensive to share these validations (I was there!) with the world. So, being the food safety nerd that I am, began to wonder why it is so hard for retail foodservices to document completion of tasks such as checking of food temperatures or sanitizer concentrations? Documentation is as easy as initialing a log but still seems to be a challenge to obtain complete and accurate records. Is moving to a selfie of task completion the answer?
We are in the fifth week of Lent and Friday Fish Fries are going strong here in the Midwest. It is a Catholic tradition to abstain from meat and meat products on Fridays – hence restaurant specials (All you can eat fried cod!) or church events. In fact, according to Wikipedia, McDonald’s addition of the Filet-o-fish menu item occurred during Lent as one franchise tried to recapture lost hamburger sales. Many churches host Fish Fries as fundraising events or simply as a venue to gather the community. Some church events are quite successful with reports of one parish serving 800 people in one night and another a meal every 8 seconds. Of course, these large events are successful due to having the right equipment (40 fryers and 5 commercial ovens) and volunteer labor. Having a well-organized plan and then working the plan is a key ingredient in the recipe for success. Another critical item is communicating to the volunteers the ins and outs of food safety. It is more than simply washing hands when entering the kitchen or wearing and apron and gloves. Ideally the person in charge has attended training about health and hygiene practices to minimize risk of contamination, temperature controls of food, and proper cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces that touch food. Over the years, our team has developed many downloadable resources that can be freely used by volunteers at Fish Fries or other community food based events. Having volunteers trained will reduce liability risks – and maybe lower insurance premiums! Check out these resources at www.iowafoodsafety.org
I read an article about hot recruitment taking place within fast food and casual dining segments due to high annual job turnover rates of over 100%! That means every staff member has been working at your fave eating away from home spot for less than a year. While the “I just started here” used to be a common ploy by wait staff to elicit sympathy from customers (been there, done that) it could back fire with SafeFood customers thinking about potential for mistakes. Those who eat out a lot might begin to wonder why someone is always new –a reverse of “it’s not you (or the restaurant), it’s me”, and begin to dine elsewhere. Working when most others play is perhaps a big part of the turnover recipe but another ingredient is that food away from home is an ever expanding market. Think about all the places where quick or casual foods are served. The C-Store biz is getting into foodservice in a big way too. The article by Leslie Patton for Bloomberg News mentioned high stakes recruiting for experienced managers and staff – in some states (those without living wage policies) hourly rates for line staff are over $9 an hour. True, hard to support a family on that but currently above minimum wage with lots of opportunities to advance. And certainly a good return for the high schooler saving for prom (or a car, or college, or entertainment). Let’s hope part of the experience quotient includes attention to food safety; with all the newbies each year, there is a lot of potential for mistakes that could lead to a food borne illness outbreak. Experienced managers should have the skills to communicate best safe food handling practices to their staff in a way that the information is understood and acted upon, monitor workers are walking the talk, and take action when they don’t.