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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Holiday season is right around the corner. Finding time-saving ways to have home-cooked meals is important when our schedules are full. Slow cookers help us save time but offer home-cooked meals.
Follow these slow-cooker food safety tips:
• Use slow-cooker recipes that include a liquid.
• Ensure that internal temperature of the food prepared reaches 160°F. • Thaw ingredients like meat and poultry before cooking them in the slow cooker.
• Vegetables take longer to cook, so give them a head start before adding the meat.
• If reheating, the contents must reach a temperature of 165°F, then they can be kept warm in the slow cooker at 140°F for serving.
The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) have issued new recommendations about eating seafood. The advice is specific for pregnant and breastfeeding women and caregivers of young children to help them make informed choices about fish and seafood.
Fish is a high-quality protein source and is rich in omega-3 fats. Americans, including pregnant women, are encouraged to eat 8–12 ounces of fish per week. The new guidelines categorize fish for safety and mercury content into three categories:
Best Choices—Eat 2–3 servings a week
Example: canned light tuna, salmon, cod, tilapia, shrimp
Good Choices—Eat 1 serving a week
Examples: halibut, snapper, grouper, tuna (yellowfin), albacore/white tuna, canned and fresh/frozen
Choices to Avoid—Highest mercury levels
Examples: King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish (Gulf of Mexico), and tuna (bigeye)
Flip to your favorite cooking show and you may observe the chef licking their fingers or even cutting vegetables on the same surface as raw meat. Cooking shows are fun to watch—but do they demonstrate safe food handling practices? A recent study from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst suggests there is room for improvement.
The study involved a panel of state regulators and food practitioners completing a 19-question survey that measured safe food practices, use of utensils and gloves, protection from contamination, and time and temperature control. The panel completed the survey while watching ten popular cooking shows. Lead author Dr. Nancy L. Cohen stated, “The majority of practices rated were out of compliance or conformance with recommendations in at least 70% of episodes, and food safety practices were mentioned in only three episodes.”
A number of safe food handling behaviors were not being done by TV chefs, which could lead to a foodborne illness and make someone sick. Areas for improvement include wearing clean clothing, using a hair restraint, handling raw food safely, and washing hands. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are the leading sources of foodborne illness in the United States, yet less than 10% of the shows demonstrated proper washing of produce. Don’t be a “TV chef” at home; always make sure you’re following safe food handling practices. For food safety tips, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety.