Getting To Know Listeria

Most people know about Salmonella, E. coli and Botulism and are now, unfortunately, adding Listeria to their list of frequently heard of foodborne illnesses.

Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) is not one of the top most frequently occurring foodborne illnesses, but it is one of the most costly and deadly. Listeria—the illness is called listeriosis– causes the third highest number of foodborne illness related deaths in the United States annually. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die.

What makes Listeria scary is that it resists some of the things—salt, nitrates and acidity– that are usually used to control bacteria growth. What makes it extra scary is that Listeria can grow and live for a long time at refrigerator temperatures. These pathogens can easily hide in nooks and crannies of a refrigerator, cooler or manufacturing equipment for a long time. You can’t see, taste or smell Listeria in foods.

A good thing about Listeria is that it takes a large amount to make someone sick and most healthy people will not get sick from eating foods contaminated with Listeria. The people that are at the highest risk to get listeriosis are pregnant women because it could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or septicemia or meningitis in the newborn. Others at risk are people with organ transplants, children, the elderly and those that are immune suppressed due to illnesses such as cancer, renal disease, diabetes and AIDS.

The good news is that proper cooking and reheating of foods can control Listeria. The bad news is many of the items that have been found to contain Listeria are foods that we don’t usually eat cooked. The most risky foods are those that are kept in the refrigerator for a long time (cheeses), cooked foods that have been further handled (lunchmeats, hot dogs, and meat spreads) and foods that are minimally processed (fresh fruits, vegetables and cold smoked seafood). In the past couple of years Listeria has been found in hummus, ready-made salmon salad, sliced cooked chicken, leafy greens, sprouts, fresh cut vegetables, ice cream, unpasteurized cheese, frozen produce, caramel apples, cantaloupe and even cat food.

What can you do to protect yourself from Listeria?

• Keep perishable foods refrigerated
• Prevent ready-to-eat foods from being cross contaminated by raw foods.
• Cook beef, pork and poultry to the recommended minimum internal temperatures.
• Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
• Avoid unpasteurized milk or foods made from raw milk.
• Read and heed label instructions to “keep refrigerated” and “use by” dates on refrigerated foods.
• Only keep leftovers three to four days. Heat leftovers and “ready to eat foods” to at least 165 degrees F.
• Those especially at risk should avoid soft cheeses such as Feta, Brie and blue-veined cheeses, as well as unheated lunchmeats, hot dogs and frozen vegetables.
• Pay attention to food recalls.

Keep your refrigerator clean and as cold as possible (40 degrees or lower). Although Listeria can grow in the refrigerator, it grows more slowly under colder conditions. Use a refrigerator thermometer to double-check the temperature is below 40 degrees F. Clean and sanitize the shelves of your refrigerator regularly.

References:
Listeria, FSE 99-21, Pat A. Curtis, Ph.D and John E. Rushing, Ph.D, Department of Food Science, North Carolina State University. https://fbns.ncsu.edu/extension_program/documents/foodsafety_listeria.pdf
Barfblog, Benjamin Chapman, Ph.D, State Specialist, NCSU and Doug Powell, Ph.D, Barfblog publisher. www.barfblog.com
Listeria (Listeriosis) The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/index.html

Risk of Death for Dinner?

Is this a correct consumer advisory?

“Consuming raw seafood may increase your risk of death.”

“Evil witch advisory.”

Yes, these are actual advisories I’ve seen on walls and restaurant menus.  I’m sure someone considered them funny. But there is nothing funny about a foodborne illness.

Perhaps these “off the wall” methods did get more people’s attention than the more traditional advisory statement:  Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.

What’s a consumer advisory?  They are warnings required when a restaurant serves a food product that could possibly cause a foodborne illness.  This includes animal foods such as beef, eggs, fish, lamb, milk, pork, poultry or shellfish that are served raw or undercooked.  The concept is that an educated consumer can make their own decision on whether to eat these foods or not.

The foods listed on advisories are possibly harmful when served raw or undercooked are known in the industry as potentially hazardous foods—these are foods that have caused illnesses in the past.  Typically most of the bacteria are destroyed by cooking, but when the food is served raw or undercooked, an illness may occur if the bacteria count is too high.

If you’ve seen these advisories, are you paying attention to them?  It could mean YOU.

Of course not everyone who eats these foods will get sick.  Certain groups of people have a higher risk than others.  These include the elderly, preschool age children, and those who have a compromised immune system such as people with cancer or those who are on chemotherapy, people with HIV/AIDS, and transplant recipients. Others at risk are those with liver disease and alcoholism and people taking certain medications. If you have concerns that you may be included in this list, check with your health professional.

People’s immune systems weaken with age or disease and it’s this immune system that serves as the body’s defense against illness—including foodborne illnesses. You may have been able to eat some foods undercooked or raw in the past, but need to use more caution as you get older.

Very young children have not yet built up strong immune systems. Because of this, children’s menus should not include raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. One item children should especially avoid is undercooked ground beef.

The cavalier attitude of these restaurants regarding the advisories makes me wonder what’s the attitude in the kitchen. The great sanitarians in my county said that these consumer advisories would not be acceptable to them and the restaurants would lose points on their inspection scores. While some restaurants and chefs may take these advisories lightly….people at-risk shouldn’t.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Be ready for power outages

Refrigerator thermometer

I live in an area that may be affected by hurricanes. So, it’s time for us to seriously think about preparing for storms and getting out our emergency check list. Even if you don’t live in a hurricane zone there may be other weather situations that may cause power outages and potential food safety problems associated with losing power for an extended time.

Two items I don’t usually see on emergency supply lists are freezer and refrigerator thermometers (these are good to have all year round, not just in an emergency).  Place a thermometer in both the freezer and refrigerator. With these thermometers you can tell the actual temperature the inside these appliances if the power is out.  Just touching or thinking they “feel cold” isn’t good enough!

Also get a tip-sensitive digital food thermometer like they use in restaurants. This will allow you to check the temperature of your food. The best and most accurate way to determine if food is safe to eat is to know its temperature. 

I’ve seen postings on the internet about putting a cup of water in the freezer, allowing it to freeze and then putting a coin on top of the ice.  The idea is that if the ice melts and the coin sinks you’ll know that the power was out and the temperature in the freezer warmed. (You’d also know that by the condition of your ice cubes and ice cream!)  It’s a good concept if you weren’t home when the power went out and now the food has refrozen. Unfortunately this cup of ice can only tell you that the power was off and the ice melted, it can’t tell you how warm it got inside the freezer.  In most cases, if the ice melted, and you weren’t around to take the actual temperature, you’d probably have to pitch most of the food because there are just too many variables and unknowns.

After the power has been out for more than 4 hours you’re going to have to ” break the rule” of leaving the refrigerator door shut, check the temperature, and make some decisions about what to do with the perishable food. Foodsafety.gov recommends, “Food (stored in refrigerator) should be safe as long as power is out for no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours. Never taste food to determine its safety!” See their handy chart here

Coin in freezer–does this really work?

One more important step in being ready for power outages is to stock foods that can be eaten and prepared without refrigeration or cooking. Canned foods, nuts, snacks, dried fruits, and water can be prepared quickly without opening the refrigerator or freezer door and they require little preparation or clean up. They also come in handy when you don’t have time to go to the store. 

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS,
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Here is a shopping list for foods that do not need refrigeration along with meal ideas of how to prepare them

Download handout: shop for emergency meals

 

Do as I do—Demonstration tips

People love cooking classes and food demonstrations.  So why not use this interest to teach more than recipes or cooking techniques? You can teach food safety by using good practices.

Think of the class or demo as the “teachable moment”–that’s the time that is just right for someone to learn something.  Think about your audience. Are you teaching a newly diagnosed diabetic, or a group of seniors, new cooks or maybe a pregnant women or parents of young children.  All of these are people that should be more aware of food safety because they (or their family members) are more susceptible to a foodborne illness.

If you have guest chefs doing demonstrations for you – encourage good practices.  Sometimes you don’t have control over what a “guest chef” does—a friend of mine cringed the whole time a “guest chef” cut vegetables without washing and taste tested from the pot. Be sure to review with them before you start the food handling practices you expect.

You know the saying “do as I say?”  Well why don’t you make it “do as I do,” too?  People mimic each other and will learn healthful techniques if they see you practicing what you preach.

Here are some basic ideas to keep in mind.

  • Wash your hands before you cook. Make it obvious.
  • Watch your clothing and jewelry. Avoid long sleeves, watches, rings, bracelets, and earrings.
  • Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food and explain why you aren’t touching it.
  • Use separate cutting boards for ready-to-eat and raw foods. Different colors are a plus.
  • Keep foods refrigerated or in coolers until you’re ready to use them.
  • Follow the “two-hour” rule. Don’t allow folks to eat food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables. Again, make it obvious.
  • Use a food thermometer. Demonstrate how to use it and encourage its use for all foods, not just meats.
  • Don’t lick the beaters.
  • Don’t put the tasting spoon in the food or stand over the food while tasting.
  • Don’t lick your fingers.
  • If you’re wearing gloves, use care to keep them clean. Change the gloves when you change tasks. Wash your hands before you put your gloves on.
  • Don’t use your phone while you’re wearing gloves.
  • Don’t play with your hair.
  • If you’re serving samples, kept them at the proper temperature and make sure the serving utensils are clean.
  • If you’re only partially cooking something due to time, do not allow people eat this food before it is thoroughly cooked.

I know you think some of these are simple and basic—but I think I’ve seen each of these done by a cooking teacher or food demonstrator.

If you’re passing out recipes—at a demo or any time—make sure they include food safety tips. Include appropriate cooking temperatures along with storage temps and how long you can keep the food.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

What don’t you eat?

I frequently teach food safety classes for food service managers. At the end of the first day of class—after sessions on foodborne illness pathogens and potentially hazardous foods— someone usually asks me if there are foods or places that I just don’t eat.  Local sanitarians are often guest speakers in this class—I like to ask them that same question. I think it gives the class members “food for thought” and makes the information we’ve taught more personal.

 

You may have seen the list that’s been published by several sources and frequently pops up on Facebook. It’s the six foods Bill Marler never eats (http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/6-foods-bill-marler-never-eats/).  Marler is an attorney that frequently litigates foodborne illness cases. His six “NO GO” foods are:  unpasteurized milk, raw sprouts, undercooked meat, pre-washed or pre-cut fruits and vegetables, raw or undercooked eggs and raw oysters or shellfish.

 

My list is similar. Like him, I don’t do undercooked meats, unpasteurized milk, raw sprouts or raw oysters.  I also add to this list:  some raw fish, ceviche, unpasteurized cheeses, Hollandaise sauce, home canned foods and some foods at buffet lines.

 

I’m not as picky as Marler about the pre-washed fruits and vegetables.  While most of the time I do purchase unwashed and uncut items, I will occasionally buy pre-washed items to save time.  When I do, I watch the dates carefully and the refrigeration temps.

 

Also, I will occasionally eat an undercooked egg—but definitely opt for pasteurized eggs for recipes that require raw eggs, especially when serving to guests that may be immune compromised.

 

Why do I say “some raw fish”? Most fish that is used for sushi is frozen before use to kill potential parasites—so I don’t necessarily consider them risky.  There are other fish—like most of the tunas—that aren’t at risk for parasites and I have eaten them raw. But some “creative chefs” serve fish species that aren’t on the no parasite list. If I don’t know, I don’t eat. In general I usually opt for cooked or vegetable sushi. I consider the sushi chef more of a risk for cross-contamination than the fish itself. I watch to see how they handle the raw vs. cooked products, do they keep their ingredients cold and how often do they clean their tables.

 

I also won’t eat ceviche.  For some of the same reasons I don’t do “some raw fish”.  While many people consider the fish in ceviche “cooked” by the lime or lemon juice added to the raw fish—it isn’t heat treated.  The acids may reduce some of the bacteria—I just don’t know how much.  Some versions of ceviche are cooked, if I don’t know, I don’t eat. I frequently come across ceviche when traveling to locations that don’t have adequate refrigeration or where I have cross contamination concerns. It’s just something I avoid.

 

I also don’t eat home canned foods unless I know who made them and what recipe and process was used. If it’s an old recipe or not from USDA or National Center for Home Food Preservation I’m going not going to eat it. I also need to trust the person who did the canning….are they a rule and recipe follower? …if not…I’m not going to eat it.

 

I also questioned our own Chef Judy—what does she “not eat”.

While her is very similar to the others with oysters, undercooked ground meat, sprouts and raw dairy she interestingly adds chicken salad.

 

Having trained as a chef, she also adds a couple situations and locations that cause her concern. These include buffets, slow restaurants and places where prepared foods sit at room temperature.  All good thoughts.

 

When I ask this question of sanitarians their list always includes raw sprouts.  But also say that there are things they would eat themselves that they don’t feed their kids. These include undercooked eggs and undercooked meats.

 

Everyone’s list is a little different—based on their knowledge, experiences and education related to food safety.  No food can be completely risk free, but we can teach good food safety practices to help reduce these risks.  Everyone has to use their best judgement and make an educated decision for themselves (and their families) regarding what’s on their “don’t eat” list. What’s on yours? Send us a tweet @foodhealth or reply to the email that announced this post or click contact us below and let us know!

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Resources:

CDC list of outbreaks

Foodsafety.gov list of recalls

Food Safety Education Materials

Sprouts or Microgreens?

I like to ask sanitarians and other food safety experts what foods they WON’T eat. One item that’s always on their list is raw sprouts.

Over the past 20 years, sprouted seeds have been associated with at least 55 foodborne illness outbreaks with more than 15,000 people getting sick. All of this came from eating something people thought was good for them!

The damp, warm environments that are traditionally used for sprouting can harbor and incubate pathogens.   You won’t find sprouts on children’s menus, in school cafeterias or in nursing homes or hospitals.

The bottom line…..if you or a family member is someone “at risk” (children, the elderly, pregnant women or the immune suppressed) it’s best to avoid raw sprouts entirely.

If you like sprouts here are some tips (you also might like to view an earlier post on this topic https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/sprouts-for-health/ ) :

  • Only purchase sprouts that are refrigerated
  • They should look fresh and green. Avoid sprouts that look slimy or are sitting in water.
  • Cooking sprouts thoroughly kills most harmful bacteria—works good with mung beans sprouts but not practical for smaller sprouts like alfalfa.
  • Homegrown sprouts aren’t necessarily safer because the harmful bacteria may be present on or in the seed itself. Sprouting seeds need warmth and moisture to grow, which are the same conditions that are ideal for pathogens.

A similar food,  that’s becoming popular are microgreens. They are “cousins” to sprouts but less risky.  Sprouts are consumed entirely– leaves, stem, roots and possibly seeds, while only the stems and leaves of microgreens are eaten (similar to fresh herbs). One big difference is that you don’t consume the seed portion of a microgreen—seeds tend to be one of the sources of contamination in sprouts.  Another difference is that microgreens are grown in dirt not just water like sprouts.

What exactly is a microgreen?  They are edible baby plants, a little more than a sprout but younger than a “baby green”. They can be grown either indoors or outdoors in one to two weeks. People use them as they would sprouts, to add color, flavor, crunch and nutrition to sandwiches and salads or as garnishes. Microgreens can be grown from just about any seed; popular varieties are radishes, celery, dill, broccoli, green peas, arugula and mustard greens. The flavors tend to be similar but more subtle than the mature version of the same plant.

When growing or harvesting microgreens you need to take care watch for mold growth. Once harvested, they should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten as soon as possible. Microgreens can be purchased in some grocery stores or farmers markets. They tend be expensive because they are labor intensive and their shelf life is only two to five days.

What about nutrition?  Microgreens are full of antioxidants. Researchers reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry that the microgreens contain considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than their mature plant counterparts. The amounts were highly varied based upon species.

If sprouts are just little “too risky” for you, you might want to try microgreens.  Of course, like all agricultural products, they are not completely risk-free.  People that are immune-suppressed, pregnant women, children and the elderly should still consider the risks of eating these small greens.

Here are three great ways to use microgreens:

  1. Top salads with microgreens for added color and flavor.
  2. Garnish grilled items and other entrees with them just as you would fresh herbs. No chopping needed!
  3. Use microgreens on veggie burgers, street tacos, grilled items, and sandwiches.  Think of them as a combination of herbs and garnishes!

To keep the microgreens lasting longer, keep them between damp paper towels in a resealable container. You want a little bit of air circulation but you also want them to stay moist and not dry out. Handle them carefully with tweezers or a spoon so you do not smash them with your fingers. The best ones to buy are the ones that look the freshest. Our favorites are beets and radish microgreens. You can find them in farmer’s markets and grocery stores.

 

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

References:

Assessment of Vitamins and Carotenoid Concentrations of Emerging Food Products: Edible Microgreens J. Agric. Food Chem 2012 J. Agric. Food Chem., 2012.

What are Microgreens, Eli Snyder and Lina Lovejoy, Caldwell County Center, NC Cooperative Extension, February 13, 2018, https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2018/02/what-are-microgreens/

USDA paper on sprouts and food safety

 

 

 

 

Just a poached egg

I like to teach with stories.  I think people learn more and remember it if they relate a topic to a real-life experience. Sometimes telling one story can lead to others and people can personalize the topic. Hopefully this will help them remember and make use of this knowledge.

When teaching food safety we always get to the topic of raw or undercooked eggs.  Here’s the story I tell….

One day I went to visit my 98 year old great aunt who was living in a nursing home. She shared a frustration with me. She had asked the dietary staff if she could please have a poached egg. She wasn’t feeling well and remembered her mother cooking her poached eggs when she was sick. She was looking for a comfort food.

She was told that she could only have a poached egg if she signed (as she called it) a piece of paper saying that she knew she might get sick(er) if she ate this egg.  First off, she was legally blind and really couldn’t read this paper they gave her. Secondly, she wasn’t feeling well, just wanted a poached egg and didn’t really want to be bothered with a paper.  She was confused and didn’t understand.

She didn’t get the egg.  This makes me sad.

What’s the background here?

Rightfully, the nursing home staff was concerned about this elderly and sick person contracting salmonellosis from an undercooked egg. I applaud them for this concern.  At her age a case of salmonellosis could be very risky.

For the average healthy adult the risk of getting sick from a Salmonella contaminated egg is very low. It is estimated that as few as three in 10,000 eggs are contaminated. (http://foodsafetytalk.com/ #156)

Typically, people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most individuals recover without treatment.  In some cases, diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Salmonella ranks second of all foodborne illnesses in the United States. It’s important that remember that children, the elderly, pregnant women and those people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to a food borne illness such as this and need to be more concerned.

One way to reduce the risk from Salmonella bacteria is to thoroughly cook eggs until 145 degrees F.  At this temperature both the whites and yolks are firm. Yes, this means the yolks should not be runny. This rules out sunny-side-up, over-easy, soft boiled, runny scrambled and my aunt’s beloved poached egg. For dishes containing eggs like quiche and souffles, they should be cooked until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.

What could they have done? There is an alternative –but does cost a little more. The answer is pasteurized shell eggs. These eggs have been heat treated so that they can be served undercooked without a risk.

I’ve had many nursing home and assisted living employees in my classes and frequently they tell me that they do use pasteurized eggs and offer poached and other eggs with “runny yolks” to their residents.  I’m glad to hear this.

I should have dug a little deeper into the situation, asked a few more questions and been a better advocate for my aunt.

Hopefully, my telling this story gives my students a chance to think about their choices, their options and the risks they take.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Not quite spirals

Eat more vegetables.  I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

But even for real vegetable lovers,  eating the same vegetables over and over can get monotonous. Fortunately there are tools on the market that can help put fun vegetables on your plate.

One of these tools is the spiralizer.  Spriralized (is that a word?) vegetables are the “in” thing. The theory is that these noodle-like vegetables can be add variety meal and can replace higher-calorie pasta in recipes.

Listening to the ads on television and watching some YouTube videos on spiralizing they make it seem easy-to-do.  I’ve tried a couple different types of models–including hand-held, hand-crank and electric.  I have to admit that I’ve had limited success making my own spiralized vegetables.   I think some of this depends upon the type of spiralizer. Prices range from as low as $12 and as high as $300 for restaurant quality.

In my opinion, it’s difficult to get good results with the hand-held (hear: less expensive) spiralizers.  There is also  more of a chance of cutting yourself (note from personal experience).  I got fairly good zucchini and yellow squash noodles.  Admittedly, my carrots looked more like shreds.

There are some table-top spiralizers and others that attach to counter-top mixers.  These seem to have better results with heavier vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, jicama, carrots and rutabagas. Some have different sized and style blades so you can get strips, ribbons, spaghetti, fettuccini along with noodles.

The shape and density of the vegetable has a lot to do with successful spiralizing. The longer and more uniform the shape of the vegetable the better results. Because of their shape, not all vegetables turn into great noodles.  Bell peppers, onions and cabbage can be cut with a spiralizer, but you might end up with slices and shreds, just due to the layers naturally in the vegetable. Cucumbers are usually not as firm as other veggies and need a little more skill–but with the electric sprializer I got beautiful cucumber ribbons.

If you don’t own a spiralizer (or your skills are similar to mine) look for already made veggie noodles in the fresh produce section or the frozen vegetable aisle of your grocery store. Veggie noodles are becoming more popular and easier to find. I found beets, butternut squash and zucchini “noodles” cleaned, cut and ready-to-go….easy peasy.

If you try spiralizing, I hope you have better success than I did.  But no worries—this is one of those times that you can eat your mistakes.  All vegetables count! 

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

NOT Ready-to-eat

Except perhaps a quick glance at the recommended microwave cooking times, I’m betting that most people don’t look at the fine print on a bag of frozen vegetables. I’ve recently noticed that some packages now contain the food safety caution:

“Product is not ready to eat. For food safety, cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer. Refrigerate any leftovers.”

As a food safety instructor I’m really pleased to see these kinds of cautions on packages—now to get people to read and believe.

Most people think of frozen vegetables as relatively safe but, they are not intended to be consumed without cooking, because they may contain bacteria that are only killed when cooked properly and thoroughly. These bacterial pathogens are the biggest concern.  Several foodborne illnesses have been linked to frozen vegetables including  Listeria monocytogenes, Norovirus and Hepatitis A.

According to the Frozen Food Foundation  http://www.frozenfoodfacts.org/about-frozen-foods/helpful-hints   freezing does not kill all bacteria; some can live at freezing temperatures. Even frozen foods that were partially cooked by the producer may not have been cooked at temperatures high enough or long enough to kill all the bacteria that might have been present. They emphasize that it is important to prepare ready-to-cook frozen foods according to their cooking instructions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers most frozen vegetables “ready-to-cook” NOT “ready-to-eat.”  As their name suggests, ready-to-cook foods must be cooked according to package instructions before eaten.  On the other hand,  ready-to-eat (RTE) foods are just that: foods that can be eaten right out of the refrigerator.

You might be asking yourself, why would someone eat frozen vegetables uncooked?  One thought that comes quickly to mind is when people pop veggies directly from their freezer into the blender for a smoothie. I also know several salad and salsa recipes that use frozen or partially thawed but not cooked vegetables as ingredients.

Remember that young children, the elderly and people that are immune compromised due to illness, transplants or HIV are more susceptible to a foodborne illness than others.  Pregnant women should be very cautious because a Listeria infection could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or septicemia or meningitis in the newborn.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

 

 

 

Washing Poultry

Research shows that 70% of consumers wash their chicken before they cook it. Where do you stand on this issue?

The practice of washing chicken may actually have come from someone I admire greatly, Julia Child.  In one of her episodes of The French Chef she advised viewers to run uncooked chicken under the faucet saying she just thought it was a safer thing to do. She reasoned that we wash produce, so we should probably wash poultry, too.  Julia said it, must be right.  Sorry, no.

We all know that there can be bacterial hazards in raw poultry. The most concerning are  Salmonella and Campylobacter. Meat and poultry account for 22% of all foodborne illnesses and 29% of all foodborne illness related deaths.

These bacteria CANNOT be removed from the poultry by washing.  But they can be splashed and spread around your kitchen when when placed under the kitchen faucet to rinse.  Bacteria-laden water could go onto counter tops, faucets, towels, sponges or ready-to-eat food sitting near-by.  This is a prime example of potential  cross contamination.

Best practices are to use the poultry directly from the package. Take care not to spread any juices from the chicken that may have collected in the package.  Wash your hands carefully before and after handling the raw chicken.  The only way to know poultry is safe is by using a food thermometer to insure it has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

There are a couple other things you can do to help make sure you’re keeping your chicken (and other foods in the refrigerator safe):  keep your refrigerator temperature below 40 degrees F and store the poultry in the lowest part of your refrigerator so it won’t have the opportunity to drip potentially hazardous juices onto ready-to-eat foods and/or produce that won’t be cooked.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

References:

RTI International. “Many U.S. consumers do not use a food thermometer when cooking poultry, despite hazardous risks” January 26, 2015  https://www.rti.org/news/many-us-consumers-do-not-use-food-thermometer-when-cooking-poultry-despite-hazardous-risks

Don’t wash your chicken campaign, Drexel University. http://drexel.edu/dontwashyourchicken/

Food 52 March 20, 2018 Should You Wash Your Chicken? https://food52.com/blog/21918-should-you-wash-your-chicken