It’s that time of year when lots of food is made and enjoyed at holiday gatherings. However, sometimes too much food is made and then thrown away before it can be used. About 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year in the United States. Yet 1 in 7 Americans struggles to get enough to eat. On average, $370 worth of food per person per year is thrown away. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) breaks this down by types of food:
Grains (bread, pasta): $22 per year
Fruits (apples, bananas, oranges): $45 per year
Proteins (beef, chicken, pork, fish): $140 per year
Vegetables (onions, lettuce, peppers): $66 per year
Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese): $60 per year
Added Fat and Sugar (chips, candy): $37 per year
Total: $370 per year
The main reason food is thrown away is because it spoils before it is eaten. The USDA has created a resource called Let’s Talk Trash. In it they offer tips on how you can put a stop to food waste in your home.
- Plan and Save: Plan your weekly menu. Then look in your pantry, freezer, and fridge to make a list of what you need to buy before grocery shopping. This can help you buy only the food you need and keep money in your pocket.
- Be Organized: Keep your food pantry and refrigerator organized so you can see what needs to be eaten first. Write the dates on food containers so you know what needs to be used first.
- Repurpose and Freeze Extra Food: Reuse leftovers in another recipe. Use leftover taco meat to make a taco pizza. If you chopped up vegetables for a salad, use leftover vegetables to make a vegetable soup. Make a smoothie with overripe fruit. Freeze extra food to enjoy at a later time.
For more tips on reducing food waste, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart at www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings.
Source: Let’s Talk Trash, www.choosemyplate.gov/lets-talk-trash
You may be aware of the dangers related to eating raw dough because of the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with Salmonella. However, did you know that there may be harmful strains of E. coli in flour?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating E. coli O121 outbreaks related to raw flour. General Mills is conducting a voluntary recall on its three brands of flour: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, and Gold Medal Wondra. The varieties include unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising flours. A person doesn’t need to consume the raw flour to become ill. You can become ill if you handle it and forget to wash your hands.
Follow these food safety tips from the FDA when handling flour and raw dough:
- Do not let young children handle “play” clay that is homemade from raw dough.
- Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
- Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
- Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
- Keep foods made with raw flour separate from other foods during preparation to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily because of its powdery nature. Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.
For more information, please visit: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm508450.htm
The University of Wisconsin–Madison published research saying that an Atmospheric Steam Canner is safe to use for home canning of acidic foods such as fruits, or acidified foods such as salsa or pickles, as long as the following guidelines are observed:
- Foods must be high in acid, pH of 4.6 or below.
- A research-tested recipe developed for a boiling water canner must be used with the Atmospheric Steam Canner. Do not rely on the recipes that come with the steam canner.
- Jars must be heated prior to filling with hot liquid, the steamer must be vented so that the jars are processed in pure steam at 212o F for 45 minutes or less. Cooling must be minimized prior to processing.
- The steam canner may be used with recipes approved for half-pint, pint, or quart jars.
For further information: fyi.uwex.edu/safepreserving/2015/06/24/safe-preserving-using-an-atmospheric-steam-canner/.
Shake off winter by doing some spring cleaning. It is a great time to target harmful bacteria that can hang out on kitchen surfaces and even in your refrigerator. You can’t see bacteria, but they are everywhere! They especially like moist environments. A clean and dry kitchen protects you and your family from foodborne illness.
- Always clean surfaces with hot, soapy water. After thoroughly washing surfaces with hot, soapy water, sanitize them with a disinfectant kitchen spray or diluted chlorine bleach solution (1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart of water). Let the solution stand on the surface for a few minutes, then blot dry with clean paper towels.
- Disinfect dishcloths often. Launder dishcloths and towels frequently using the hot water cycle of the washing machine. Then be sure they are thoroughly dry.
Rid your refrigerator of spills, bacteria, mold, and mildew. Clean your fridge weekly to kill germs that could contaminate foods. Clean interior surfaces with hot, soapy water. Rinse well with a damp cloth; dry with a clean cloth. Some manufacturers recommend not using chlorine bleach because it can damage seals, gaskets, and linings.
- Clean your kitchen sink drain and disposal. Pour a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water down the drain once or twice per week. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth.
Sources: www.fightbac.org and www.foodsafety.gov
The first step in having safe leftovers is to cook the food safely. Cook the food to the proper temperature by using a food thermometer. Bacteria grow rapidly in the temperature danger zone (40°F to 140°F), so be sure your leftovers are safe by following these steps:
- Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or holding it hot.
- Throw away all cooked food that has been at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Cool foods rapidly. To do this, large quantities of food should be cut in smaller pieces first or divided into shallow containers that will aid in cooling.
- Cover leftovers well before refrigerating. This helps keep odors and bacteria out and moisture in.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 4 months. Although leftovers are safe indefinitely when frozen, quality will deteriorate when stored longer.
For a chart on storage times, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were recently released. They emphasize that a healthy eating pattern isn’t a rigid prescription, but is adaptable so that individuals can enjoy foods that meet their personal, cultural, and traditional preferences and fit within their budget. This edition of the Dietary Guidelines focuses on shifts to emphasize the need to make substitutions—choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages in place of less healthy choices.
An eating pattern represents the totality of all foods and beverages consumed. All foods consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern fit together like a puzzle to meet nutritional needs without exceeding limits, such as those for saturated fats, added sugars, sodium, and total calories. All forms of foods—including fresh, canned, dried, and frozen—can be included in healthy eating patterns.
Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods. Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less than recommended amounts.
Healthy eating patterns are adaptable. Individuals have more than one way to achieve a healthy eating pattern. Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.
Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns. New to this edition is a specified limit to help achieve a healthy pattern within calorie limits:
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
- Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
- Consume less than 2,300 milligrams per day of sodium.
For more information on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, visit
Health inspection records for eating establishments are now easier to find thanks to a new app—HD Scores. The app, available for both iPhone and Android devices, was developed by chef Matthew Eierman and his colleagues. The app displays a map of the user’s area and shows a percentage score for each establishment, based on a scoring algorithm created by HDScores.
HDScores emphasizes cleanliness and factors related to foodborne illness, and it focuses less on issues unrelated to contamination. This means it is possible for an establishment to score an A on their health inspection but receive a lower score on HDScores, like 75 percent, if they have only a few violations but those violations are directly related to foodborne illness risk.
Information on the app is updated frequently, with new inspection scores available within 12 to 24 hours of the health department’s filing. Currently the app contains data for more than 615,000 of the approximately 1.5 million eating establishments across the United States. The app covers the entire state of Iowa. For more information on the app, visit hdscores.com.
Iowa winters bring with them cold, snow, and the occasional loss of power. Try these food safety tips for when your power goes out:
Make sure you have a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer. When the power goes out, check your thermometers for safe temperatures: refrigerator below 40°F, and 0°F or lower for freezer.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. When kept closed, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours; a full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours; a half-full freezer will hold its temperature for 24 hours.
Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags now. These can be used in the refrigerator and freezer to help food stay cold and be a source of fresh water for you to use.
When in doubt, throw it out. Any perishable food that has been above 40°F for two hours or more should be thrown out. Frozen food with ice crystals may be safely refrozen.
Source: Food Poisoning Bulletin
Bacteria are everywhere, but a few types especially like to crash parties. Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, and Listeria monocrytogenes frequent people’s hands and kitchens. And unlike bacteria that cause food to spoil, these bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Safe food handling is necessary for prevention.
Staphylococcus (“staph”) bacteria are found on our skin, in infected cuts and pimples, and in our noses and throats. They are spread by improper food handling. Prevention includes washing hands and utensils before preparing and handling foods and not letting prepared foods- particularly cooked and cured meats and cheeses ass well as meat salads- sit at room temperature more than two hours. Thorough cooking destroys “staph” bacteria, but the toxin it may produce is resistant to heat, refrigeration, and freezing and can make you sick.
“Perfringens” is called the “cafeteria germ” because it may be found in foods served in quantity and left for long periods at room temperature. Prevent it by dividing large portions of cooked foods such as beef, turkey, gravy, dressing, stews, and casseroles into smaller portions for serving and cooling. Keep cooked foods hot or cold, not lukewarm.
Listeria bacteria multiply, although slowly, at refrigeration temperatures. Therefore, these bacteria can be found in cold foods typically served on buffets. To avoid serving foods containing Listeria, follow “keep refrigerated” label directions and carefully observe “sell by” and “use by” dates on processed products like deli meat. Thoroughly reheat frozen or refrigerated processed meat and poultry products before eating.
If illness does occur, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.