Grocery shoppers tend to avoid fruits and vegetables that have odd shapes or unappealing spots. As a result, many tons of edible food go uneaten and wasted.
Although it’s true that bacteria can cause blemishes on produce, that doesn’t necessarily mean that blemished produce is unsafe to eat. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are usually tasty and healthful. They provide the same—in some cases, more—nutrients as their more attractive cousins.
Several studies have shown some imperfect fruit and vegetables have higher amounts of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that give produce its color and flavor. Phytochemicals may also protect us from cancer and heart disease.
So go ahead and eat ugly produce! It usually costs less because of its appearance. The nutrients it gives you, though, are priceless to your health.
Owning a pet may be great for your mental health, but pets may also carry harmful germs through their fur, feces, and saliva. The risk of getting a foodborne illness from a pet is low for most people. However, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems have an increased risk.
If you cannot keep pets entirely out of your kitchen, here are ways to guard the safety of your food:
Always wash your hands after touching your pet and before handling food.
Clean your pet’s paws after it plays outside or has been in the litter box before entering the kitchen.
Keep your pet off of counters and tables.
Don’t eat or drink while playing with animals.
We all love our pets, but it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with them.
There is nothing more fun than attending a summer fair or celebration with your family. There are so many things to see, do, and enjoy—especially the food. To make safe food choices and reduce the chances of you or a family member getting food poisoning, here are some food safety tips:
Before choosing a food vendor, look at their workstations and note if they are clean and tidy. Does the vendor wear/use disposable gloves when preparing food?
Are there handwashing sinks/stations for the vendor/employees?
Are gloves or tongs used to serve food to customers?
If the vendor provides single service utensils, are they individually wrapped? (Unwrapped eating utensils have the potential for contamination from dirt, air, flies, and even customers.)
Be sure your hot food is hot and cold food is cold. If not, tell the vendor.
Choose a clean place to sit and eat your meal.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Bring hand sanitizers or hand wipes in case it is difficult to wash your hands.
Following these tips will keep you on your way to a safe and happy summertime event!
When preparing any fresh produce, start with clean hands. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation. Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before preparing and/or eating. This includes produce grown at home, purchased from a grocery store, or bought at a farmers’ market.
Washing fruits and vegetables with soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash is not needed. It is important to wash the surface of the produce, even if you do not plan to eat the skin. Dirt and bacteria can be transferred from the surface when peeling or cutting produce. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. After washing, dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present on the surface.
Many precut, bagged, or packaged produce items are prewashed and ready to eat. If so, it will be stated on the packaging and you can use the produce without further washing.
Cut away any damaged, discolored, or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables before preparing and/or eating.
Make sure all cutting boards and knives used to cut fresh produce are washed in soapy water and rinsed before using again.
Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings, are often opened and forgotten on the door or shelf of your refrigerator. Although they may last a long time, they can become expired or spoiled before they are completely used. Tips to ensure safe condiments include the following:
Label foods with the date the container is first opened.
Use open condiments before opening a new one.
Check product quality and labeled date before consuming condiments (see below).
Throw away if spoiled or expired.
WHAT DO THE PRODUCT DATES MEAN?
Best by, use by, best if used by, best before – all indicate the date a product should be used for best quality, neither is a food safety/spoilage issue.
With spring cleaning right around the corner, it’s important to prioritize what needs cleaning in our homes. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the kitchen is the dirtiest place in the household. This place where meals and snacks are prepared and served daily tends to have the most germs. The “germiest” area in the kitchen as well as the second “germiest” item in the household is the sink. This spring, clean everything and the kitchen sink to reduce germs in your home. Wash and sanitize the sides and bottom of the sink once or twice a week with disinfecting cleaner or in a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. Clean kitchen drains and disposals every month by pouring a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water down them.
March is National Frozen Food Month! To celebrate, try these nutritious and delicious options from and helpful tips for the frozen food section:
Frozen Produce–Frozen fruits and vegetables are an excellent option when purchasing out of season produce. Frozen varieties are packed with nutrients, sometimes more than fresh items, because they are packaged at the peak of harvest season. Frozen produce is a great way to save money without sacrificing flavor.
Frozen Meat, Poultry, Seafood–Fresh animal protein can be expensive behind the counter, but frozen options can be just as nutritious and delicious when carefully selected. Proteins not breaded or fried are the best options. The frozen section is also a terrific place to find several meat alternatives, such as plant-based burgers or tofu meatballs.
Check the saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar content on the Nutrition Facts Label; try to purchase products with less than 10% of the Daily Value.
Save frozen entrées and pizzas for busy nights; add other items to these meals and snacks, such as steamed vegetables, sliced apples with nut butter, or a side salad, to increase nutrient density.
To start stocking your freezer, here is a chart with recommended storage times for common frozen food items:
Do you wash your coffee pot every morning, or rinse and reuse the next day? What about the inside of the machine? Do you occasionally run a pot of water or vinegar through? Whether you use a single-use coffee-maker or a traditional multicup machine, they can be difficult to clean, so the rinse-and-reuse method is common. Because coffee is acidic, it should prevent the growth of bacteria. Right?
Actually, there are bacteria that are not only resistant to the acidity of coffee, but they also use the caffeine as an energy source. Moreover, these bacteria are able to quickly repopulate the machine after rinsing alone, and bacteria continue to grow in number and diversity the longer the machine is in use. To avoid unwanted contamination of our beverages with harmful bacteria, be sure you clean your coffee machines, inside and out, frequently following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Source: Vilanova C, Iglesias A, Porcar M. The coffee-machine bacteriome: Biodiversity and colonization of the wasted coffee tray leach. Sci. Rep. 2015;5:1–7. DOI: 10.1038/srep17163.
Fruit-infused water has become popular in recent years. It’s a great way to drink more and stay hydrated. With no added sugar, it’s a good alternative to juice or soda. The endless flavor combinations are tasty and refreshing. There are some important food safety tips to remember, however. To avoid increased bacteria growth and foodborne illness, follow these tips:
Start with clean hands; wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
Wash produce thoroughly under cool running water. Use a clean produce brush on firm items such as oranges or lemons.
Use clean cutting boards and utensils to avoid crosscontamination.
Store infused water in the refrigerator at 40°F or below in a sealed pitcher.
If you are taking your infused water on the go, make sure to drink it within four hours. Infused water at room temperature must be used or discarded after four hours to prevent bacteria growth.
For best results, drain fruit solids within 24 hours and refrigerate water up to three days.
Always start with clean equipment for new batches; avoid refilling the same pitcher.