There’s always one person at holiday gatherings who double dips at the table. They take a bite out of their chip or carrot and then inconspicuously stick it back in the dip again. This habit is gross, but is it actually dangerous? A study conducted recently by Harvard Medical School found that double dipping can add bacteria to dips.
No studies have examined how much disease double dipping causes. However, saliva from a sick person often contains infectious germs. Researchers say your chances of getting sick from a healthy person who double dips are less than from sick people who cough or sneeze without washing their hands. Still, to protect the health of your guests, serve them dip on individual plates or put a spoon in the dip, so they won’t be tempted to double dive into the common dip bowl.
Source: Shmerling RH. “Double dipping” your chip: Dangerous or just…icky?” Harvard Health Publishing. August 4, 2016.
Soups, casseroles, and pot roasts are a great way to warm up on a cool autumn day. Super cooling a large quantity of hot leftovers or planned-overs made in advance is a good idea to keep food safe. Do not cool hot food at room temperature or place large quantities of hot food in the refrigerator. Both practices can cause food to be in the temperature danger zone (40°F–140°F) for too long, which may lead to bacterial growth. Options for super cooling include the following:
- Super cool a large roast or poultry by cutting it into smaller pieces. Refrigerate pieces in a single layer.
- Reduce large quantities of hot food by putting them in smaller, shallow metal pans. Place shallow pans in refrigerator or freezer to cool.
- Place a large pot of hot food in an ice bath (sink of ice and cold water). Stir occasionally until food is cool, then refrigerate.
Download Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook from the USDA for home food safety guidance.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2018 Food and Health Survey reported consumer confusion about food and nutrition. Eighty percent of survey respondents stated they have come across conflicting information about food and nutrition, and 59% state the conflicting information makes them doubt their food choices.
It is no wonder consumers are confused. There is an explosion of nutrition and food safety information readily available, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction. One reliable source is the IFIC Foundation. The IFIC Foundation’s mission is to effectively communicate science-based information on health, nutrition, and food safety for the public good. The public nonprofit organization partners with credible professional organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions to advance the public understanding of key issues.
Topics recently explored on the IFIC Foundation’s website and blog include the following:
- What’s the Carnivore Diet?
- Google Can’t Diagnose Your Food Allergy
- Everything You Need to Know About Aspartame
- Snacking Series: Do Snacks Lead to Weight Gain?
Food Advocates Communicating Through Science (FACTS) is a global network of the IFIC Foundation that can help consumers understand the science behind the myths and truth related to food, nutrition, and food safety.
Learn more about the IFIC Foundation or about FACTS.
Source: IFIC Foundation
Sheet pan meals are a popular trend for those on a busy schedule. These meals often contain a protein source for the main dish and two vegetables for sides—cooked together on a single sheet pan in the oven. Cooking multiple menu items in one pan appeals to those looking for recipes that require little preparation and use minimal dishes. Sheet pan meals can be very convenient and nutritious. However, it is important to keep food safety in mind. Follow these tips for a safe sheet pan meal:
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly before cooking. This can prevent the introduction of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
- Use separate utensils and cutting boards for produce and raw meats.
- Cook the protein source to the correct internal temperature:
- Beef (steaks, chops)—145oF
The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable foods: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When you buy hot dogs, refrigerate or freeze them promptly. Never leave hot dogs at room temperature for more than 2 hours or 1 hour if it is 90 degrees or higher.
Although hot dogs are fully cooked, those at higher risk for foodborne illness—including pregnant women, preschoolers, older adults, and anyone with a weakened immune system—should reheat hot dogs until steaming hot because of the risk of listeriosis. Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes listeriosis, may also be found in other foods like luncheon meat, cold cuts, soft cheese, and unpasteurized milk. Symptoms may include fever, chills, headaches, backache, upset stomach, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. It may also cause miscarriages. Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms. If you have Listeriosis, your provider can treat you.
Source: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
Donating extra produce from your garden is a great way to reduce waste and address food insecurity in your community. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has two publications that are useful to review if you plan to donate produce this growing season. Growing Together: Food Safety in Donation Gardens provides useful tips for keeping donation garden produce safe during the stages of growing, harvest, and transport. Tips include keeping pets away from the garden, washing hands before and after handling produce, and using municipal (drinking) water to rinse and remove visible dirt from produce. Another publication titled Top 13 Vegetables to Donate to Food Pantries discusses the produce that food pantries prefer to receive because clients recognize them, they are simple to prepare, they can be used in many different ways, and they can be stored at least one or two days without refrigeration.
Find the no-cost resources online at the Extension Store: Growing Together: Food Safety in Donation Gardens and Top 13 Vegetables to Donate to Food Pantries
Myth #1: Food poisoning isn’t that big of a deal. I just have to tough it out until it’s over. Fact: Some foodborne illnesses can lead to long-term health conditions, and 3,000 Americans a year die from foodborne illness. Get the facts on long-term effects of food poisoning.
Myth #2: It’s OK to thaw meat on the counter. Since it starts out frozen, bacteria isn’t really a problem. Fact: Bacteria grows surprisingly rapidly at room temperatures, so the counter is never a place you should thaw foods. Instead, thaw foods the right way.
Myth #3: To get rid of bacteria on my meat, poultry, or seafood, I should rinse them off with water first. Fact: Rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water can increase chances of food poisoning by splashing juices with any bacteria they might contain onto your sink and counters. Cooking food to the safe minimum internal temperature is the recommended way to reduce bacteria.
Hot cereals, such as oatmeal, are money-saving breakfast foods. Not only do they cost much less than cold breakfast cereals, but they also keep longer on the shelf. A box of oat ring cereal, for example, has a shelf life of 6–8 months. A box of oatmeal can last up to three years! This means that if you’re an oatmeal fan, you can buy it in bulk and not have to worry about it “going bad.”
To ensure the longest shelf life for all cereals, keep them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place where the temperature remains stable. Changes in temperature can cause moisture to condense from the air inside packages. Moisture can cause mold to grow. A dense box of whole grains generally lasts longer than a box of cereal rings, flakes, or puffs because it contains less air.
For more tips on safely storing grains and other dry foods, visit the website www.eatbydate.com/grains/.
In today’s busy world, one time-saver some individuals use is home delivery of mail order foods. Ordering food through the mail raises concerns about food safety. It is important to know how food and the packaging should look when perishable foods—such as meat, poultry, fish, and other perishable items—arrive.
How to determine if foods have been handled properly:
- Perishable items should arrive cold or frozen and packed with a cold source, in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
- Food should be delivered as quickly as possible—ideally, overnight. Perishable items and the outer package should be labeled “Keep Refrigerated.”
- When you receive a food item marked “Keep Refrigerated,” open it immediately and insert a food thermometer in the food to be sure the temperature is below 40°F. Food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible or at least refrigerator-cold. Even if a product is smoked, cured, vacuum packed, and/or fully cooked, it is still a perishable product and must be kept cold. If a perishable item arrives above 40°F, as measured with a food thermometer, do not consume or even taste the suspect food.
- You cannot tell that food has been mishandled or is unsafe to eat by tasting, smelling, or looking at it. Make sure perishable foods are not held at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F for longer than two hours. Bacteria grow rapidly in this “Danger Zone.”
Source: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
One minute you’re fine, and the next you begin to sweat as crippling cramps move wavelike through your belly. You vomit or have diarrhea, or both, fearing you won’t live to see another day; then it goes away. You’re back to your old self, maybe after a day or two.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that this scenario, known as an “acute gastrointestinal event,” happens to all of us at least once a year. People tend to blame the last thing they ate, but most likely it could be something from a day or two ago.
It takes the stomach around four to six hours to empty a full meal, and then the small intestine takes about six to eight hours to get out all the nutrients and empty into the colon. The remains linger there for another one to three days.
While this may not be something you like to think about, knowing this information the next time you get sick will help you be able to estimate when you might have eaten the food that made you sick. For example, if you throw up something and don’t have diarrhea, it could be that what made you ill was something you ate within the last four to six hours. If you wake up in the middle of the night with cramps and diarrhea, it’s more likely something you consumed 18 to 48 hours earlier.