Food Poisioning Goes Viral

I’ve often wondered what makes a YouTube or a post on Facebook go viral. Knowing my interest in food safety, a friend recently shared a Fox News story that I’m sure helped make this story on a food poisoning death go viral https://www.foxnews.com/health/student-died-after-eating-leftover-pasta-in-rare-food-poisoning-case The story became popular was picked up by several other social media outlets. This video now has over 4 million views.

In case you haven’t seen it, the original video was by a YouTuber named Chubbyemu. The recreated story was about a student who died of a food borne illness. The video is about 14 minutes long and I found it difficult to watch as its original purpose is to train emergency room physicians about possible food borne illnesses. If you read the original account of the illness and death you see that Chubbyemu took some liberties and sensationalism with this dramatic educational piece.

The real story happened back in 2008 and Belgium health specialists wrote about it in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in 2011. Their report shares that a 20 year-old man died after eating five-day old pasta that had been left at room temperature. He suffered headache, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea and died about ten hours after eating. The body was autopsied and the leftover spaghetti also studied. The investigators indicated that Bacillus cereus (B. cereus) was the mostly likely cause of death.

B. cereus is a bacteria that produces food borne Illness caused by toxins. It is frequently found in cooked pasta and cooked rice, but also can be found in sauces, soups and leftovers that have sat out too long at room temperature. The young man in our story heated the pasta in the microwave, and perhaps he felt that was a way to prevent a food borne illness. What many people don’t know is that after these toxins have been produced they cannot be destroyed by heating. The key way to prevent the development of B. cereus is taking care with these foods after cooking especially during cooling, storage and reheating. These foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours and according to the USDA cooked pasta leftovers eaten within three to five days.

If anything good has happened out of this young man’s death and the viral story 11 years later—perhaps more people have become aware of this food borne illness and the importance refrigerating foods as soon as possible and then not keeping the leftovers in the refrigerator too long.

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

J Clin Microbiol. “Sudden Death of a Young Adult Associated with Bacillus cereus Food Poisioning.” 2011 Dec; 49(12): 4379–4381. doi: 10.1128/JCM.05129-1122012017

Food Safety Talk Podcast #174 No Borscht Collusion (location on podcast 54:10) http://foodsafetytalk.com/food-safety-talk/2019/1/30/food-safety-talk-174-no-borscht-collusion?

USDA FoodKeeper https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/index.html

Teach Food Safety with Recipes

I’m a strong believer in teaching with recipes. Not only do they instruct how to cook, but they can provide information on nutrition and food safety. When people are preparing meals can be that important teachable moment https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/teachable-moments/

This approach to teaching is supported by a study published in the Journal of Food Protection .* The study’s author, Sandra Godwin, PhD, RD, from Tennessee State University observed that participants who received recipes with food safety instructions significantly improved their food safety behaviors when given specific food safety instructions in recipes. The study showed that only 20% of people used food thermometers when using recipes WITHOUT safety instructions and 86% used thermometers when given recipes WITH safety instructions.

Looking at making recipes a tool for teaching food safety, the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) has developed a way to help recipe writers and food editors (and I’m hoping educators, too) incorporate food safety instructions into their recipes. They’ve developed a Safe Recipe Style guide. Check it out at: https://www.saferecipeguide.org/

This website has several drop down menus that include much of what even a food safety novice would need when writing recipes.

The Safe Recipe Style Guide addresses the four major areas of food safety concerns in the home kitchen:

  1. internal cooking temperatures
  2. hand-washing
  3. cross contamination
  4. produce handling

A couple examples from the style guide: “All recipes should start with instructions to wash hands with soap and water because current studies show that a large majority of people do not wash their hands properly – or at all – when handling food.” Or “cover and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until cooked through and internal temperature reaches 165 F on food thermometer.”

It really couldn’t be easier now to incorporate some of these food safety ideas into your teaching—be it a newsletter, blog post, recipe demonstration handout, or newspaper column.

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

*J Food Prot. 2016 Aug;79(8):1436-9, Recipe Modification Improves Food Safety Practices during Cooking of Poultry. Maughan C, Godwin S, Chambers D, Chambers E IV.

Here is a fun example using our chicken stew recipe and the food safety style guide:

Provencal Fennel Chicken Stew

Serves 8 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Total Time: 45 min | Prep: 10 min | Cook: 35 min
This recipe is inspired from the Provence of France, located in the Mediterranean

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup onion, peeled and diced
1 cup celery, rinsed well and diced
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
3 plum tomatoes, rinsed, cored, seeded, diced
4 cups chicken broth, low or reduced sodium
2 chicken breasts, diced (do not rinse chicken before preparation*)
2 potatoes, rinsed, peeled, and diced
pinch garlic powder
black pepper to taste

Directions:
Food safety prep tips:
  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before starting to prepare your food.
  2. Using a clean cutting board and knife, prepare the vegetables. Follow the guides above for rinsing your veggies well under cool running water. Make sure you get all of the dirt off of the potatoes.
  3. Cut the chicken in chunks and then thoroughly wash and sanitize the knife, cutting board, and any surfaces that came into contact with the raw chicken, including your hands.

Directions:

  1. Saute the olive oil, garlic and onion over medium heat in a large nonstick stockpot or Dutch oven.
  2. Add the celery and fennel and saute briefly until they become translucent.
  3. Add the tomatoes and saute briefly, about one minute.
  4. Add the broth, chicken, potatoes, and seasonings. Cook over medium heat, at a simmer, until the chicken is done and the potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 and when it is white all the way through when cut.
  5. Serve the stew hot with chopped flat leaf parsley.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers promptly in a large shallow pan.
Chef’s Tips:
You can grind the fennel seeds in a coffee grinder or spice grinder.

Infused Water:

We’re seeing them everywhere these days from cafeterias, hotel lobbies to gyms. What am I talking about? Infused water containers. You know those large water containers with ice and other added ingredients such as fruits, vegetables or herbs. I’ve seen many varieties including lemons and limes with the rinds, cucumbers with mint and strawberry basil.

They are all the rage for several good reasons: encouraging hydration, providing a low/no calorie sugar-free beverage, adding ingredients/flavors that may entice people to drink a little more water, reducing waste by encouraging refilling water bottles and saving money by not buying bottled water.
I personally am a little leery to use them…for several food safety reasons. Perhaps, I know too much, but I wonder if the people preparing these containers on a daily basis know or use any food safety practices.

First: Are the containers washed, rinsed and sanitized between uses? I’m a little less concerned when they’re in food service locations…but the one at my gym scares me.

Second: Do they wash and/or scrub the added ingredients? Do the preparers use gloves when chopping and adding these ingredients? This would be “bare hand contact” with ready-to eat foods.

Thirdly: Do the “users” of these containers cross-contaminate the spouts with their refillable bottles? This is especially important if the “mouth” on their already used bottle touches the spout on the large container.

There’s not a lot of real scientific data out there on the safety (or the lack of safety) of these water containers. You’ll need to make your own decision if you feel there is a risk when opting to refill your water bottle. Some key points to consider when evaluating these containers is to make sure they have a lid and there should be ice present to insure the water is kept cold, ideally under 41 degrees F.

Infused water cucumbers

If you like the idea of infused water, but would rather make your own to insure the safety, here are a few tips:

  • Date the infused water container and refrigerate if you have any leftover.
  • Examine the fruits and vegetables in leftover water as they may break down and decompose quickly. Use within 2-3 days.
  • Make sure the fruits and vegetables you are using are fresh and free from spoilage or bruises.
  • Wash and scrub these products as you would any fruit or vegetable you are eating.
  • Some recipes for infused water call for allowing the water and additional ingredients to “infuse” for 1-2 hours at room temperature. I think this is just asking for trouble. Infused waters should be kept in the refrigerator or iced down, check the ice frequently to keep the temperature of the water at 41 degrees or below. Proper refrigeration will make your infused water more refreshing and safer, too!

Here are our favorite flavor ideas, using fruit and herbs or spices together:

  • Strawberries and green tea
  • Peaches with lemons and mint
  • Oranges and cloves
  • Fresh cherries and cinnamon
  • Limes and cucumbers
  • Grapefruit and rosemary
  • Blueberries and basil

Infuse the flavors in the refrigerator and then add a swish of sparkling water for a really refreshing treat!

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

Related posts:
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/germy-water-bottles/
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/hydrate-for-health/

 

Reposting about Turkey

For food writers everywhere the month of November seems to demand that we write about preparing that Thanksgiving meal….including the big bird. This whole process may seem daunting for those that only roast a turkey one time a year. The big meal means lots of food which can result in potential food safety problems—there just never seems to be enough room in the refrigerator to keep it safe. And then what to do with the leftovers?
Over the past several years we’ve posted on this blog numerous articles about these topics. Instead of trying to find a new twist this year….we’re “reposting” some of the more popular Thanksgiving related articles.

Lean Protein: Spotlight on Turkey – Turkey can be a good source of inexpensive low-fat protein. This is a good time of the year to catch a sale on turkey, if you have the space, why not put a one or two in the freezer?
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/lean-protein-spotlight-turkey/

Three Turkey Tips – quick tips about washing the turkey, pink meat near the bones and the best temperature to use a a guide to know when you’re turkey’s done. Includes a handout, too!
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/three-turkey-tips/

How NOT to Thaw that Turkey –don’t try these at home! Sometimes people try the unusual (and frequently not-so-safe) methods for thawing their turkeys. Recommendations for safe thawing, too. https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/how-not-to-thaw-that-turkey/

Thanksgiving Quiz or You Want to do What with that Turkey? Five question quiz (along with the answers) on turkey food safety including tips on thawing the turkey and what to do when it’s till frozen the day before Thanksgiving. Includes a PDF of the quiz.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thanksgiving-quiz/

How old is that Turkey? Advice on what to do with that year-old turkey in your freezer. Spoiler alert: cook it! Post includes tips for those who (obviously) don’t cook turkey that often.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/how-old-is-that-turkey/

All Over But the Leftovers— A five question quiz that reinforces the basics of safe Thanksgiving (and year round) leftover practices. Another PDF quiz included.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/all-over-but-the-leftovers

Early November Checklist –Think ahead with these ideas that can make the shopping, storing and cooking that Thanksgiving dinner easier, including cleaning out the freezer and finding your food thermometer.
https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/early-november-checklist/

Thinking About Turkey—a few last minute thoughts about that Thanksgiving turkey including what to do if your forgot to thaw out the turkey and healthy turkey “tradeoffs.” https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/thinking-about-turkey/

Please feel free to print and share these articles and handouts with your clients.
May you have a happy, healthy and food safe holiday.

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

Check out our new menu planning items:

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