Consider Pasteurized Eggs

Eggs are considered potentially risky for some people.  The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) food code puts them on the TCS (foods that need time and temperature control for safety) list.

The major concern is Salmonella which ranks second (11%) of all foodborne illnesses in the United States. (Note:  Norovirus is first with 58%).

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.  But it’s important to remember that children, the elderly, pregnant women and those people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to a foodborne illness. I know a sanitarian that says she’ll eat an undercooked egg, but is careful not to give one to her children.

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.

One way to reduce the risk from Salmonella bacteria in eggs is to cook them until they reach at least 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 poached egg. For dishes containing eggs like quiche and souffle, they should be cooked until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.

There is an alternative — but it does cost a little more — use pasteurized shell eggs. These eggs can be served undercooked without a risk. While these products look like and can be used like regular “shell” eggs, they have been heated to destroy potential bacteria. Look for them in the egg section of the grocery store.  But read the packages carefully, make sure the carton says “pasteurized”.  Some “specialty” shell eggs such as organic, lower cholesterol, higher vitamin — are NOT pasteurized. Usually, pasteurized eggs have a marking on the shell itself to help you not confuse it with “regular” eggs.

Other sources of pasteurized egg products include whole-out-of shell eggs (liquid eggs—frequently used in restaurants) and low-cholesterol egg products (made primarily with egg whites). These pasteurized products usually come in containers that look like little milk cartons and can be found both fresh and frozen in most grocery stores. They are great if you have a recipe that calls for an uncooked egg such as egg nog, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, and uncooked ice cream and will be serving it to potentially “at-risk” individuals.

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

 

References:

Food Safety Talk 156: Rank the Kato’s, June 16, 2018, http://foodsafetytalk.com/food-safety-talk/2018/6/16/food-safety-talk-156-rank-the-katos

Just a poached egg https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/just-a-poached-egg/

Estimates of Foodborne Illness in the United States https://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/2011-foodborne-estimates.html

What Causes Food Poisoning?     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention                                                               https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html

Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart  https://www.fsis.usda.gov/safetempchart

 

Healthy Eating on a Budget with a Twist

During this busy time of year, people may not be thinking much about healthy eating. And their plan to stick to a budget may have gone out the window on Black Friday. But come January, lots of folks will be resolving to do better in both of these areas, making it a great time to talk about healthy eating on a budget.

Our Healthy On a Budget poster shows four steps to choosing foods that are good for your wallet and your health:

  1. Buy in season and on sale.
  2. Buy whole ingredients in bulk, not processed foods.
  3. Buy only what you need.
  4. Skip junk food that runs up your grocery bill but provides little nutrition value.

To add a twist, incorporate food safety into this conversation by talking about leftovers. Whether it’s a serving of stir-fry or a bag of carrots, throwing out food is like throwing money away. At the same time, there’s food safety to consider.

Cover all the bases with these resources we found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website:

  • Handle leftovers properly! This keeps them safe to eat, but it also helps preserve the quality of the food. After all, who wants leftovers that taste like whatever else is in the refrigerator? Follow these tips from the USDA on wrapping, storing, thawing, and reheating leftovers.
  • It’s a fact: leftovers get lost! Whether it’s a container of stir-fry in the back of the refrigerator or a bag of carrots hidden in the bottom of the produce drawer, sometimes you don’t know whether it’s time to throw it out or keep it. Take the guesswork out of it with this chart or use the USDA FoodKeeper app.
    • You can download the free FoodKeeper app to your phone or tablet, or use the online version on your computer. It’s a great way to make sure you’re not keeping food too long or throwing it out too soon. For example, a simple search will tell you that carrots keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks but broccoli stays fresh only 3-5 days.
    • You can search foods in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
    • If you use the app, you can add products to your device’s calendar and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date. You may never lose leftovers to the back of the fridge or freezer again!

Here we go again!

Yes, you’ve probably heard there is another recall of ROMAINE lettuce. It was obvious when our local grocery store pulled all the products that contained romaine. The shelves looked empty.

This is the fifth such recall due to E.coli O157:H7 since late 2017.

According to a Food Safety News article https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2019/11/letter-from-the-editor-lets-call-the-whole-thing-off/ over 360 people have been infected during these outbreaks with many hospitalizations and at least six deaths.

This recall started with packaged salads but now expanded to all ROMAINE lettuce grown in
the Salinas, California area.  Read your labels.  Many are now saying where the lettuce was grown. If the package contains ROMAINE but you don’t know the origin, don’t take chances.   The package I had in my refrigerator just said product of the US but also emphasized it did NOT contain any Romaine.

The same goes for salads in restaurants and salad bars. Ask the staff —hopefully, their suppliers have verified where the lettuce was harvested. If they don’t know, don’t take a chance.

E.coli O157:H7 is a nasty bacterium that can lead to potentially life-threatening kidney failure —especially in young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.  For many years we’ve associated these bacteria with undercooked ground beef. But these recent recalls show that ROMAINE is also a major potential source.  The pathogen is killed by sufficient heat but obviously, since lettuce and salads aren’t cooked they have become a source. This is not something that you can wash off the lettuce.

E.coli O157:H7 has also been associated with unpasteurized (raw) milk and juice, soft cheeses made from raw milk, and raw fruits and sprouts. It has also recently been linked to raw flour.

Right now the recall is ONLY for ROMAINE lettuce (whole heads, hearts, salad mixes with romaine, baby romaine and Caesar salad mixes). Other leafy greens have NOT been implicated.

The recall is ONLY for the Salinas, California growing region.  This includes Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey counties in California.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

FMI – see GREEN IDEAS 

References:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/recall-case-archive/archive/2019/recall-115-2019-release

https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2019/o157h7-11-19/index.html

Cranberries for Next Year

Since cranberries are a must for most families at Thanksgiving, I bet there are cranberries in your house right now?

According to the Ag Marketing Research Center, Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries per year (that’s about 2.3 pounds a person) and 20% of this is during Thanksgiving week.

Fresh whole cranberries are available in our markets now, but won’t be there for long. The season is September through January.

If you’re buying fresh berries, look for those that are red, ripe, plump, hard and shiny.  Before use, they should be sorted and washed. Take out any bruised, shriveled, soft, spongy or brown berries. White berries are safe to eat; they have just not developed their full color.

They are usually sold in 12-ounce bags that are equal to about 3 cups whole berries or 2 ½ cups of chopped. Fresh berries will keep in the sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Since the season is so short, why not buy a couple of extra bags to freeze for use during the next year?  Instructions on the bag say to simply throw them in the freezer as purchased. These berries won’t be washed, so you’ll need to wash and sort the frozen berries just before use.  When removed from the freezer and thawed the cranberries will have a soft texture and are best used for cooking and baking.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation encourages rinsing and sorting the berries before freezing. They recommend placing the clean and dry berries on a tray so they will freeze individually and then pack loosely into freezer containers or bags.  Like other frozen fruits, cranberries should be added to recipes still frozen to prevent the juices from flowing out of the fruit.

Holiday Food Safety

Holiday Quiz

Here is our favorite recipe for Cranberry Sauce.

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

 

 

Got Chickens?

Backyard poultry —cute little chicks and ducklings—are becoming popular with both rural and urban families.  This can be an educational opportunity for families as well as a way to have fresh eggs.

But, backyard poultry has been recently been linked to illnesses.  Over 1000 people in several states have become infected with different strains of Salmonella. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at least 175 people have been hospitalized and two people have died.  Most of those who are ill are children younger than five years old.  Poultry can carry the bacteria and not appear sick themselves.

The CDC offers these recommendations to those who have backyard flocks: 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water right after touching backyard poultry and adults should supervise hand-washing by young children if they come in contact with the chickens and chicken equipment.
  • Children under five (and adults over 65 and those with chronic illnesses) should avoid handling chicks, ducklings or other poultry because their bodies may not have the ability to resist infection.
  • Children should not be allowed to play or eat in areas where the poultry roam.
  • Keep other household pets away from the chicken area—they may carry the bacteria to the family and home.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry.
  • Keep chickens out of the garden. Fresh chicken droppings can be a risk of contamination to fresh produce.
  • Don’t let the poultry in your house.
  • Keep shoes on while working with poultry outside of the house. Remove those shoes before going into the house!
  • Wash the chicken’s equipment outside and not in the kitchen with the people’s food and dishes.

While as cute as can be, take care and be mindful of this potential risk. 

Cheryle Jones Syracuse. MS

Professor Emeritus

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/farm-animals/backyard-poultry.html

 

Digital Influencers Lack Food Safety Expertise

“You can’t believe everything you see on the internet.” I think we’ve all said this to clients or classes at one time or another. But we all know that when someone wants a recipe or other information the first thing most people do these days is grab their phone and “Google it”.

But, what about food preservation?  This really isn’t the same as cooking chicken for dinner or finding a cake recipe. Preserving foods safely requires the following research-based practices.  The two most respected resources for food preservation are the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Guide to Home Canning https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html  and the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) https://nchfp.uga.edu.

So the question is….do people looking for food preservation recipes on the internet find safe and research-based recipes?

This was the question a group of researchers from the Cooperative Extension, University of Maine asked. According to a news release this group of researchers specifically looked at recipes for home-canned salsa found on popular food blogs. They selected salsa recipes because it is a popular condiment in the United States and found 56 recipes for canning salsa on 43 different food blogs.

They developed a tool to compare the bloggers’ recipes with a known safe recipe for home-canned salsa  https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_salsa/choice_salsa.html  from the NCHFP.  The procedures and results of their study were published in Food Protection Trends Vol 39, No. 5.  http://www.foodprotection.org/publications/food-protection-trends/archive/2019-09-adherence-of-food-blog-salsa-recipes-to-home-canning-guidelines/

A quick summary of what they found: Only four or 7% of all the recipes met all of the researchers’ criteria for safety.

What’s the “take-home message” for us? 

  • Unless you’re a food preservation food scientist, this isn’t the place to be creative and develop your own recipes.
  • Food bloggers could be a great source of safe recipes and a good way to teach—not only food preservation but also food safety in general.
  • The researchers’ recommendations suggest that one thing educators can do is reach out to bloggers (they called them digital food influencers) with information on food preservation and safety and encourage them to recommend USDA and NCHFP resources to their readers and followers to help reduce risk.

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 our emergency checklist ready. 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 as 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. Don’t forget the manual can opener! 

More things to consider: cash, gas, medicines, baby food, pet food, paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic utensils. 

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

 

Butter Beans

If you’re not from the south, you may not be familiar with the vegetable known as a “butter bean”.

Technically they are what other parts of the nation call lima beans and belong to that genus and species Phaseolus lunatusis. They are sometimes called sieve beans, calico beans or Madagascar beans. But, most frequently in the South, they are known simply as “butter beans”.

Like other beans, the butter bean contains fiber, iron and B-vitamins. They are a rich source of low-fat protein.  A ½ cup serving of butter beans contains 5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, 17 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of dietary fiber for 100 calories.

Lima/butter beans grow in pods that are removed before eaten. They can be eaten “green/fresh” when they are young. Or left on the plant to mature more and harvested for “dried” beans.

If you’re purchasing or preparing freshly shucked butter beans it’s important to remember NOT to eat the beans before cooking. Lima and butter beans contain a substance called linamarin and if they are eaten raw forms hydrogen cyanide which is poisonous.

Luckily butter beans and Lima beans are not usually consumed uncooked.  Cooking the beans for 20 minutes will destroy the toxin.

A few things to think about:

  • the linamarin is still present in the dried beans-they need to be heated/cooked after soaking.
  • read packages of frozen Lima or butter beans to ensure they have been cooked—simple blanching—which is common in frozen foods may not be enough to destroy the linamarin.
  • make sure your Lima and butter beans are thoroughly cooked before serving

No matter what you call them, butter beans are good eating.

Here is a favorite recipe for Vegetarian Paella using lima or butter beans:

Vegetarian Paella
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 2 cups
Total Time: 25 min | Prep: 10 min | Cook: 15 min

Ingredients:

Olive oil cooking spray
1/2 onion, dice medium
1/2 red bell pepper, dice medium
1 carrot, peel and slice thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced kale
1 plum tomato, dice medium
1 cup low-sodium tomato juice
1 cup water
2 cups instant brown rice
2 cups frozen Lima beans

Directions:

Heat a wide, shallow 3-quart sauce pan over medium-high heat. Lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray. Add onions, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes until vegetables begin to brown.

Add the rest of the ingredients and reduce heat to medium. Cover pan and cook for 5-6 minutes until liquid is absorbed by rice and rice is tender.

Serves 4. Each 2 cups serving: 311 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0gtrans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 40mg sodium, 64g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 6g sugars, 11g protein.

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

Treat it like meat

  • Wash your hands before and after handling.
  • Avoid cross contamination.
  • Cook thoroughly.

What am I talking about?  Believe or not….flour.

Generally we don’t  think of flour as a “risky” food, but some food safety specialists are now suggesting that we start treating flour like we would raw meat.  There have been several recalls within the past few years linking flour to pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella.

To most, flour seems dry and harmless, but we need to remember that it is not a “ready-to-eat” food. It is made from milling wheat which is a raw agricultural product that has been (obviously) grown outdoors where it could have been contaminated. This leaves the potential that “raw” flour may contain bacteria that could make someone sick. Flour should be heated before consumed.  When baking with flour, using baking mixes and other flour-containing products always follow proper cooking instructions.

Another potential problem is cross contamination.  Flour dust spreads easily. Always wash your hands and work surfaces after handling flour.

You can reduce the risk and “pasteurize”  the flour by heat-treating it in an oven or toaster oven before putting it in cookie dough or cake mixes.  Place the flour about ¾” thick on a cookie sheet. Bake for five minutes at 350 degrees F.  This treatment has been proven to kill bacteria found in flour.

Needless to say, this is another reason not to eat raw cake mix or batter and children shouldn’t be allowed to play with or eat raw dough. Remember: seniors, the very young, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

If you STILL want to lick the beaters—you know the risk.

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

Resources:

  1. For information on food recalls go to www.foodsafety.gov/recalls-and-outbreaks
  2. Heat treatment of flour will be presented at the International Association for Food Protection Conference in July 2019
    https://iafp.confex.com/iafp/2019/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/21486
  3. North Carolina Extension’s Safe Plates Information Center https://www.facebook.com/SafePlatesFSIC/
  4. E. coli in raw flour: the risks are real.  https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/?s=flour

 

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 foodborne 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