Home Food Preservation: Apples and Tomatoes

The gardening and preserving season is winding down, but it is never too late to learn about safe home food preservation. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is offering two online food preservation classes in October.

  • Preserve the Taste of Summer: Totally Tomatoes – Learn about canning and freezing tomatoes, salsa, and other tomato products. Canning includes both water bath and pressure canning.
    – Thursday, October 8, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
    – Monday, October 12, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Preserve the Taste of Summer: All About Apples – Learn about canning applesauce and apple pie filling, as well as freezing and drying apples.
    – Thursday, October 22, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
    – Wednesday, October 28, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

These fun and interactive classes will benefit both newbies and experienced home preservers. All sessions are one hour and free of charge. Register on the Preserve the Taste of Summer website (extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/preserve-taste-summer).

Don’t Forget about Lunch-box Food Safety

Lunch bag with drink and fruit

Whether you are back to school or work, packing a meal can have some amazing benefits! Packed meals may be lower in calories and provide more essential nutrients, such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Packing meals also saves money. It is important to remember lunch-box food safety when packing your meal. Follow these tips to prevent being ill when eating on the go.

  • Keep cold food below 40°F and hot food above 140°F.
  • Use an insulated lunch box. Some food is safe without a cold source, like whole fruits and vegetables, canned meat and fish, and peanut butter.
  • For perishable foods, keep foods cold by including at least two cold sources. Use two frozen gel packs or combine a frozen gel pack with a frozen juice box, fruit cup, or frozen bottled water. Place cold sources on top and bottom of perishable food items, including lunch meats, eggs, cheese, yogurt, and milk.
  • Clean your lunch box or bag regularly to avoid bacteria growing on the sides.

Source: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, www.fsis.usda.gov/

Keep Cool With Cooler Safety

Hot summer days bring outside meals with family or friends. Before you head to the next picnic, it’s important to know how to pack the cooler to keep food at a safe temperature.

Cooler with ice and beverage cans
  • The day before, clean your cooler(s). If it feels warm, allow it to cool down indoors. Consider filling water bottles or milk cartons to freeze overnight to use as ice blocks in your cooler. Ice blocks stay frozen longer than ice cubes or ice packs.
  • Load food straight from the fridge to your cooler. Perishable foods like raw meat, poultry, and fish should be stored in watertight containers or zipped plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. The cooler should always be below 40ºF. A thermometer placed in the cooler will help monitor the temperature inside.
  • Avoid opening the lid, which lets cold air out and warm air in. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishable food in a separate cooler. When traveling, place the cooler in the car rather than the hot trunk. Once at your destination, keep your cooler in a shaded area rather than in the hot sun. Placing a blanket, rug or quilt over the cooler will also help keep it cool.

Sources:
Eat right, www.eatright.org
Food Safety and Inspection Service, www.fsis.usda.gov/foodsafety

Making Salad Safely

Salad is a popular summer dish. However, it is also linked with foodborne illness. There are ways to prepare salad safely so that friends and family do not get sick. Salad food safety tips include the following:

  • Wash your hands! Always wash hands before and after preparing any salad ingredient.
  • Don’t rewash lettuce that is already prewashed in the package. This can introduce contaminants that were already eliminated.
  • Use a different knife and cutting board for each ingredient. If you intend to keep salad ingredients separate for people to make their own, you won’t have contaminated all ingredients.
  • Keep salads cold in a refrigerator, in a cooler, or over ice. Don’t leave out at room temperature for more than two hours. Warmer temperatures (40–140 degrees) can cause bacteria to grow on food and promote illness.
  • Make sure salad is served with a utensil and not bare hands. Hands carry viruses and bacteria that can cause illness. It is best to use clean and sanitized salad tongs or forks.
  • Visit Produce Basics (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics) for tips on how to select, store, and wash many types of salad ingredients.

How to Know if a Recipe Is Safe

We see many video and print recipes on social media. How do you know if a recipe is safe to use? Fight Bac, a partnership of organizations devoted to food safety, has these tips to ensure your meals don’t include a side of foodborne illness.

  1. Wash your hands. Up to 99% of people don’t correctly wash their hands when preparing food at home. You should wash your hands for 20 seconds. If you sing “Happy Birthday” twice, that is about 20 seconds.
  2. Cook the food to the correct temperature to ensure it is safe to consume. Poultry should be cooked to 165°F; ground meat to 160°F; steaks, chops, roasts, and fish to 145°F. Cook all other foods to at least 140°F. Check our “How to Use a Food Thermometer” video and handout to learn more about taking the temperature of food, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/use-a-food-thermometer.
  3. Don’t cross contaminate. Cross contamination occurs when foodborne bacteria and viruses spread from one food or surface to another.
    • Wash the cutting board, counter, utensils, and serving plate thoroughly with hot, soapy water immediately after they have touched raw meat, poultry, or fish.
    • Do not rinse raw poultry or meat. Rinsing meat can cause bacteria on the meat to spread through the air.
    • Do not use marinades previously used on raw foods for the cooked product.
  4. Wash fresh produce, unless it’s prewashed salads. This video shows you how to properly wash produce: spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/clean-fruits-vegetables.

Sources:

Safe Recipe Guide, www.saferecipeguide.org
Food Safety and Inspection Service, www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/featured-campaign/superbowl/talking-points

Washing Leafy Greens

Leafy greens need to be handled safely just like any other food. Start with washing your hands with soap and water. Cut away any damaged areas on the leaves or stems.

If the label on the leafy greens bag DOES NOT say “prewashed” or “ready to eat,” thoroughly wash the greens under running water just before chopping, cooking, or eating.

Washing greens in water

If the leafy greens label DOES say “prewashed” or “ready to eat,” use the greens without washing. If you wash leafy greens before storing, you can potentially promote bacterial growth and enhance spoilage.

Wash only what you intend to eat. After washing fresh greens, pat dry with paper towels or a fresh clean towel—or use a salad spinner—to help remove excess liquid. Never wash leafy greens with soap, detergent, or bleach because these can leave residues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recommend using commercial produce washes because these also may leave residues.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, March 2018, (www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/wash/washing-leafy-greens)

Farmers Market Food Safety

While farmers markets are a great source of fresh produce, here are some tips for keeping those foods safe:

  • Choose produce that is free of bruising and spoiling. Do not purchase if the skin is broken, is slimy, or has soft spots.
  • Go home directly from the market and store produce according to the fruit and vegetable storage guide, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/store-fruits-vegetables. The quality of produce will decrease if left in a vehicle for too long.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before preparing produce.
  • Wash produce just before use—not before storing. Washing prior to storing will cause the produce to spoil faster. Before use, rinse produce with clean running water. Rub briskly to clean surfaces and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Spend Smart. Eat Smart.offers more information about cleaning produce, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/video/clean-fruits-vegetables.
  • Wash reusable grocery totes frequently in the washing machine or by hand with hot, soapy water. Clean all areas where you place your totes, such as the kitchen counter, to reduce the spread of illness-causing microorganisms. Store totes in a clean, dry location, not the trunk of a vehicle.

Sources:

Eat Right, www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/separate/reusable-grocery-tote-safety
University of Minnesota, extension.umn.edu/farmers-markets/shopping-farmers-markets

Scrub by Scrub: The Importance of Washing Your Produce

Strainer of asparagus

As we transition from winter to spring, many fruits and vegetables—like asparagus and strawberries—start to be in season! It is very important to remember to wash fresh produce prior to eating in order to remove any harmful bacteria like E. coli or listeria. The next time you reach for a fruit or vegetable, use these strategies to ensure it’s clean and fresh:

  • Wash your produce immediately before eating. Washing some produce—like berries—before storing actually hastens spoilage.
  • Wash all produce in cold water; do not use detergents or soap to clean the outside of your fruit.
  • Try using a vegetable brush for fruits and vegetables that have a thick skin.
  • Produce that has tiny nooks and crannies—like cauliflower and broccoli—should be soaked in cold, clean water for one to two minutes.
  • You don’t need to rewash products that are labeled “ready to eat” or “triple washed.”

For visual demonstrations of other ways to select, store, and prepare food, check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/videos).

Handling Avocados Safely

sliced avocados

Bacteria love avocados almost as much as people do. Unlike most fruits, the avocado is low in acid. That makes it good for bacterial growth. In addition, we like to eat avocados raw, which means we don’t kill the bacteria by cooking.

Based on a 2014–2016 study, the FDA found that about 18% of avocados had Listeria monocytogenes on their skins. In small amounts, this germ isn’t dangerous for healthy adults. However, it can cause serious harm to young children, older people, and pregnant women.

  • To prepare an avocado safely, you first need to wash your handscarefully.
  • Then rinse the avocado’s skin thoroughly before you cut it open.Otherwise, the blade will carry the germs on the skin into the pulp.
  • Throw away the skin and the pit promptly.
  • To avoid bacterial growth, eat the avocado as soon as possible aftercutting and peeling.

Source: Colorado State University: Food Source Information, fsi.colostate.edu/avocados/#food-safety

Be the Food Safety MVP on Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching. The big game is a big day for food. When food sits out at room temperature for long periods of time, the door is open to uninvited guests—bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Every year 48 million people become ill from foodborne illness! Don’t be the cause of a foodborne illness penalty flag! Follow these game day rules:

  • Keep hot food HOT and cold food COLD: Hot food needs to be held at 140°F or higher. Use slow cookers and warming trays. Cold food needs to be held at 40°F or lower. Nest dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them as needed.
  • Follow the two-hour rule: Perishable foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Between the pre- and post-game shows, you may easily have food sitting out 4–6 hours; temperature control is required.
  • Handle food safely: Always wash your hands before handling food, and clean all surfaces. Use different utensils for each food item and ask guests to use new plates when returning to the food table.
bowl of chili

For more information on food safety and cooking temperatures, visit ISU’s food safety website or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

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