Keeping Bread Fresh

I bet everyone, at one-time-or-another, thrown a loaf of bread or an extra bag of hot dog buns directly into the freezer in the store wrapper.  Then a few weeks later wondered what happened  and why it was crumbly, dry, tasted like the inside of the freezer and was basically inedible.

Easy answer: freezer burn.

This is the process of food drying out inside the freezer. This usually happens if the food has been improperly wrapped.  Cold moving air inside the freezer is your enemy when it comes to the quality of the food once thawed.  This air can get into inappropriate containers and wraps and causes the food to be dehydrated, develop off-flavors along with other quality and texture changes.

Bread is a perishable product. The main problem with bread is that it becomes stale and may develop mold.   In general, commercial breads can be kept in a cool dry place (like the pantry, kitchen counter or bread drawer) for two to five days. Homemade breads and those commercially made without preservatives have a shorter shelf life.

You can put bread in the refrigerator to inhibit mold growth, but this tends to speed staling. 

 Freezing bread is generally the best alternative for storing bread for longer than a few days. Staling and  mold growth will be slowed or halted in the freezer.  The  main thing to remember is that it should be wrapped well. Just putting it in there in the bag it came in from the store is asking for failure.  Bread wrappers are not sufficiently moisture-vapor resistant to be used for freezing.  Well wrapped bread keeps in the freezer for two to three months.

Bread should be removed from the store wrap and placed in what they call moisture and vapor proof packaging. This packaging will not become brittle or crack at low temperatures and keepd that damaging air out. This packaging will also protect foods from absorbing off-flavors or odors.

What is a good wrap? Specifically developed freezer paper is good.  Heavy-duty aluminum foil also works well. Another good way to package bread is in zip-top freezer bags.  These allow you to take out just what you need and keep the rest frozen.

A few kitchen hacks to keep bread fresher longer:

  • I wrap my bread in two slice packs inside the freezer bag, just right for a sandwich or easy to separate if I only want one piece.
  • I slice English muffins and bagels before freezing and separate the layers with plastic wrap. That way if I only want half a muffin I can easily take out just one half and keep the rest frozen.
  • I do the same with bagels. Cut them in half and then in quarters and separate the pieces as I wrap. That way if I only want half a bagel I get both a top and bottom and not just the boring bottom half.
  • When purchasing loaves of bread from a store it is always better to get the bakery to pre-slice them on a machine for you. Then you can wrap the slices into 2 serving packets or double bag them all if you are going to use them up fast.

Thawing a piece or two of frozen bread only takes a few minutes on the counter.  Individual slices, bagels  or English muffins can go straight into the toaster.

One last thing. What about if the bread does become moldy, should you just cut it off and use it anyway?  NO.  Bread is porous allowing molds to quickly and easily spread. It may be contaminated with toxins deeper than you can see. Moldy bread should be pitched.

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

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Grill it safely

I recently went to a large outdoor family event where lots of hamburgers were being cooked on grills.  Was there a food thermometer in sight?

Nope.

I really don’t understand why people are so resistant to using a food thermometer when cooking. The only way to be sure that meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria is with a thermometer.  This means on the grill, too. Many folks are not in the habit of using these tools and they are easily forgotten when cooking outside.

A June 27, 2017  news release * from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service  says that recent research “found that only 24 percent of the public uses a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers and only 42 percent do so when cooking chicken.” “I’m glad to see that the percentage of people using a thermometer is getting better, a 2002 survey showed that only 6% of cooks used thermometers on burgers.

The safe minimum cooking temperature for ground meats, including beef, pork, veal and lamb, is 160 degrees.  If you have turkey or chicken burgers they should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  If you’re making steak or pork chops they only need to be cooked to 145 degrees.

While many folks use it as a guide, color is not a good indicator for doneness of ground beef.  If raw ground beef is somewhat brown to start with, it may look fully cooked before it reaches a safe temperature. Conversely, some burgers may still be pink and have already reached a safe temperature.

You may ask: “why are there different temperatures for steak and ground beef?”  The pathogen of concern here is E.coli and the problem is with the grinding. If there are any bacteria on the surface of the meat it will be mixed in when the meat is ground. On-the other hand, when a steak is placed on a grill or under the broiler, any bacteria that may be on the surface is destroyed by the high heat.

Chicken and other poultry are usually associated with the bacteria called salmonella. It takes a little higher temperature to destroy this, so that’s why all chicken or other poultry should be  cooked to a minimum internal temp of 165 degrees F.

The take-home message:  if you don’t have a food thermometer—think about buying one.  If you already have one, please dig it out and use it. It takes the guess work out of cooking meats and lets you have confidence that the meat you’re serving will not make someone sick.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

*https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2017/06/27/fsis-provides-pro-grilling-tips-summer-barbecues

Teachable Moments

Educators call lessons learned in real life “teachable moments.” That’s the time that is just right for someone to learn something.

Wouldn’t you think that would be true with food safety? Especially when it’s related to cooking.

Cookbooks and on-line recipes could be a really good source of food safety information.  Putting the appropriate information—like cooking temperatures, cross contamination risks or storage times — right into a recipe would provide the cooks the info right when they need it.

This seems so simple. But it’s not being done. A study at North Carolina State University, that was recently published in the British Food Journal* looked at cookbooks and the advice they gave about food safety. The researchers evaluated a total 1,497 recipes from 29 cookbooks that appeared on the New York Times best sellers list for food and diet books.

One thing they specifically looked at was if a recipe did tell the reader to cook the food to a specific internal temperature. In other words—did they encourage the use of a food thermometer?

They also looked to see if the recipe perpetuated food myths. Some of these were cooking poultry until the “juices run clear” or hamburger until it is brown.  Both of these are unreliable for determining if the food has reached a safe temperature.

Some of the cookbooks recommended cooking temperatures. Yeah!  But not very many—only 8% or 123 of the recipes reviewed even mentioned a temperature.  But unfortunately not all of these temperatures were right. So even if a person followed the recipe exactly they may not be cooking the food to a high enough temperature reduce the risk of a foodborne illness.

Overall, only 89 out of 1,497 recipes gave readers reliable information that they could use to reduce their risk of foodborne illness.

This isn’t new info. A similar study was done about 25 years ago, and found similar results. So nothing really has changed in the past quarter of a century.

Ideas for educators:

  • put minimum cooking temperatures into recipes that you share with students
  • when doing food demonstrations use and explain good food safety practices including hand washing, heating to a proper temperature quickly, refrigeration or ice chests to keep cold food cold, avoiding cross contamination on cutting boards and with utensils, and using a food thermometer when appropriate
  • don’t use vague terms such as “cook till done” or “bubbly inside” to describe when a food is done; explain the process like cook chicken until the juices run clear and the internal temperature is 165 degrees F.
  • offer storage tips for finished products like refrigerate in shallow pan immediately

Here is one example from foodandhealth.com

Chili on The Grill

Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Total Time: 20 min | Prep: 5 min | Cook: 15 min

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked pinto beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 bell pepper chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped fine (no seeds)
Dash of cumin
Dash of chili pepper
Dash of dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil
Juice of 1 lime

Directions:

Place all items, except for the lime, on foil with the drizzled olive oil. Place on preheated grill of 400 degrees F. Grill until the beans are heated through and the veggies are caramelized and tender, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with lime juice.

Serve the beans and vegetables with grilled chicken that is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F and steamed brown rice. A side salad is great, too! Serve all food hot immediately. Refrigerate leftovers immediately.

Serves 4. Each 1/2 cup serving: 172 calories, 4g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 8mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 2g sugars, 8g protein.
© Food and Health Communications

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

*Katrina Levine, Ashley Chaifetz, Benjamin Chapman, (2017) “Evaluating food safety risk messages in popular cookbooks”, British Food Journal, Vol. 119 Issue: 5, pp.1116-1129, https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-02-2017-0066

Here is our food safety temperature poster:

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Egghead Quiz

Egg

Answer TRUE or FALSE to these questions to find out how much you know about the incredible edible egg.

  1. An extremely old egg will sink to the bottom of a bowl of water.
  2. You can tell if an egg is raw or cooked by spinning it on a table top.
  3. The color of the egg yolk is determined by the food the chicken has eaten.
  4. It’s best to use the freshest eggs possible for over-easy or sunny-side-up eggs because the yolk in these eggs will be less likely to break.
  5. Most of an egg’s nutrition is in the white. The yolk is only fat.
  6. Eggs are good for your eyes.
  7. Get the freshest eggs possible when making hard-cooked eggs; this will make them easier to peel.
  8. One large egg has 150 calories.
  9.  Eggs should be stored in the carton in the refrigerator.
  10. Because egg shells are hard (especially after hard cooking) they are great foods to take on a hike because they don’t need to be refrigerated and they will keep all day.
  11. The green ring or halo that is sometimes found around the yolk of a hard cooked (hard-boiled) egg is caused by overheating or overcooking.
  12. Because of the high cholesterol in the yolks all eggs should be avoided.
  13. You need to have a rooster (male chicken) to get eggs.
  14.  Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.

Answers:

  1. FALSE an extremely old egg will float to the top. As an egg gets older moisture evaporates through the porous egg shell. As this happens an air pocket develops inside the shell as the air pocket gets bigger the egg will float. However, this is not always a reliable tool to tell the age of an egg. A newly laid egg may also float, as occasionally a hen will lay an egg with a larger air cell.
  1. TRUE A raw egg will wobble due to the moving liquid inside the shell.  A cooked egg will easily spin.
  1. TRUE The yolk color depends upon the plant pigment in the hen’s feed.  Natural yellow-orange substances such as marigolds petals may be added to light-colored feed to enhance the yolk’s color. Artificial colors are not permitted to be added to the food.
  1. TRUE The fresher the egg the stronger the membrane surrounding the yolk.  A sign that an egg is older is when the white gets thinner and the yolk gets flatter.  When the yolk membrane gets weaker the more likely it will break during cooking.
  1. FALSE Most of an egg’s nutrients are in the yolk. The yolk has a high percentage of an egg’s vitamins. Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Egg yolks also contain choline which is an essential nutrient for fetal development during pregnancy and aids in the brain function of adults. However, there is more protein in the white (3.6 grams) than in the yolk (2.7 grams). There is no fat in the white and 4.5 grams in the yolk.
  1. TRUE This is especially true as you get older. It is specifically the substances in the plant pigments that cause the yolks to be yellow that have been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  1. FALSE Older eggs peel more easily.  Eggs are easier to peel when they are a week to 10 days old.  Evaporation through the shell weakens the membrane holding the white to the shell allowing the shells to come off easier after cooking.
  1. FALSE Eggs have a high nutrient density.  One egg provides many nutrients in proportion to its calorie contents.  Nutrient dense foods help you get nutrition without excess calories.  There are 13 essential nutrients in one egg with only 72 calories in one large egg.
  1. TRUE They will age more in one day at room temperature than they will one week in the refrigerator.  Eggs will keep up to three weeks after you bring them home from the store. Another reason to store eggs in the carton in the refrigerator is so they won’t absorb refrigerator odors.
  1. FALSE The egg shells are very porous (17,000 tiny pores in the shell of one large egg).  These pores allow moisture to move in and out of the shell both when the egg is raw or cooked.) Once cooked eggs need to be refrigerated. Hard-cooked (hard-boiled) eggs should only be kept unrefrigerated for no longer than two hours.  So if you’re taking them on a hike or picnic keep them in a cooler.
  1. TRUE   The greenish “halo” is caused by the reaction of the sulfur in the egg white with the iron in the yolk.  This happens when the eggs have been cooked too long or at too high a temperature. Cooking eggs in hot water, not boiling water and then cooling immediately minimizes the green. While this green ring might be unsightly it is harmless and safe to eat.
  1. FALSE  Dietary cholesterol has long been a hot topic surrounded by confusion. There is less dietary cholesterol in eggs than people have thought over the years. There are 186 milligrams of cholesterol in one egg. This cholesterol is found in the yolk. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans recommend eating less than 300 mg dietary cholesterol per day and consuming less than 200 mg per day can further help people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
  1. FALSE You only need to have hens (female chickens) to get eggs. But you do need to have a rooster to get fertilized eggs. It takes 24-26 hours for a hen to produce an egg. After an egg is laid the hen starts over again about 30 minutes later.  Most eggs are laid between 7 and 11 in the morning.
  1. FALSE The color of the shell is not related to the quality, flavor, nutritional content or cooking properties of an egg.  The difference in shell color is due to difference in hen breeds.  Hens that lay brown eggs are larger and require more feed than hens that lay white eggs. For that reason, eggs with brown shells usually cost more.

How’d you do?

  • If you got 11-14 You’re an EGGHEAD!  Good job!
  • 8-10  EGG-cellent! You know your eggs!
  • 4-7 You’re a little hard boiled when it comes to eggs.
  • 3 or less Don’t look now but you have egg-on-your-face!

Source:  Egg Nutrition Center (www.eggnutritioncenter.org) and the American Egg Board (www.incredibleegg.org)

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

Check out all of our fruit and veggie posters for spring

 

Easter Eggs: What You Need to Know

Eggs are a fun and traditional Easter staple. Did you know that at one time they were banned during Lent and became a treat to eat on Easter? Eggs also symbolize fertility and renewal. They are associated with the end of winter and the coming of spring.

Here’s another bit of egg trivia: the average person consumes one-and-a-half dozen eggs at Easter, and the average family eats about four dozen eggs during the holiday.

It’s always fun to color Easter eggs, but remember that these eggs should not be left at room temperature for longer than two hours. If you’re thinking of having an egg hunt, it would be safer to use plastic eggs instead of real eggs. Why? Well, if the shells are cracked, then they can easily be contaminated by dirt and moisture from your yard. Plus, there’s always the concern that the hunt will take longer than two hours.

And speaking of food safety, if you are putting colored eggs into a braided bread or Easter pastry, remember to eat or refrigerate the pastry within 2 hours of pulling the pastry out of the oven. If you plan to store it for longer, then you can keep the pastry in the refrigerator for three to four days.

The food safety fun doesn’t end there!

For some families, pickled eggs are an Easter tradition. This usually involves placing hard-cooked eggs into a vinegar or pickled beet solution. Despite the pickling, these eggs should still be refrigerated. Use pickled eggs within seven days of preparing them.

And finally, the week after Easter is often considered “egg salad week” because one the most popular ways to use up all those hard-cooked eggs is by making egg salad. Remember, hard-cooked eggs should be kept refrigerated and eaten within seven days of cooking.

Now let’s talk about preparing the tastiest and prettiest Easter eggs.

The green ring that sometimes appears around the yolk of a hard-cooked egg is usually caused by hard boiling and over cooking. This is the result of a reaction between the sulfur in the white and iron in the yolk, which interact when combined with high heat. This green part is safe to eat — it’s just a little unappetizing. For best results, try this method instead:

Recipe: Hard-Cooked Eggs

For a kinder and gentler way to cook eggs, place them a pan and fill it with cold water until you have about  1” covering the tops of the eggs.

Bring everything to a full boil, put a lid on the pan, and then take it off the heat. Set a timer and let the pan stand for 12 minutes (for large eggs) to 15 minutes (for extra-large eggs).

When the time is up, drain the pan and cool the eggs under cold running water or in an ice bath.

Refrigerate when cool.

Not only does this method eliminate the green ring, the whites will be less rubbery! Plus, this approach helps prevent the shells from cracking. Remember, eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling.

And speaking of peeling, did you know that the fresher your eggs are, the harder they’re going to be to peel when cooked?

This is because the airy space between the shell and the egg itself increases as an egg ages. The shell becomes easier to peel as this air space increases. If you want eggs that will peel more easily, buy them a couple weeks before Easter and keep them in the fridge.

Shopping Tip: Eggs are usually on sale close to Easter. This may be a good time to buy a couple extra dozen. The “use by” dates on the egg cartons indicate the date before which the eggs should be eaten for best quality, not food safety. Usually eggs can be safely eaten for 2-3 weeks beyond the sell-by date. That said, eggs should be refrigerated at the store, so avoid displays of eggs that are not kept cold.

I hope these tips and tricks come in handy as you prepare your spring celebrations!

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

Activity Idea: Teaching Food Safety

I don’t watch television cooking shows very often, because their food safety practices usually upset me.

I once watched a popular show (the hostess is a household name that I won’t mention) and spotted at least three things that I would consider food safety problems — these included unsafe recipes for food preservation and cooking temperatures that were just WRONG.

I’m not the only one who is concerned about these shows and what they are teaching (or not teaching) their audiences.  Back in 2004, a research project looked at over 60 hours of cooking shows. They spotted an unsafe handling practice every four minutes. More recent research studies have shown similar results.

It isn’t getting better.

All of the studies documented a lack of handwashing, cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat food, and not using a thermometer to ensure that the foods have been cooked properly.

Other unsafe practices spotted include: fly-away-hair, chipped nail polish, potential contamination with wiping cloths, not washing produce, touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands (combined with inadequate handwashing), sweating onto food, touching hair, licking fingers, double dipping with tasting spoons, and eating while cooking.

One of the studies noted that — not surprisingly — only 13% of the shows they watched mentioned any type of food safety practice.

While I know that these shows are produced primarily for entertainment, I wish they would do a better job of modeling good food safety procedures.  They have the opportunity to teach millions of viewers, but they don’t.

So I had an idea for those that teach food safety.

Have your students watch a few of these shows and note the unsafe practices. Perhaps you could watch a few together and then discuss what they saw and why they identified those items. Have them check too for any good practices or mention of food safety too.

They’ll never look at a cooking show the same way again.

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

References:

  1. Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.
  2. Nancy L. Cohen, Rita Brennan Olson. Compliance With Recommended Food Safety Practices in Television Cooking Shows. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2016.
  3. Curtis Maughan, Edgar Chambers, Sandria Godwin. Food safety behaviors observed in celebrity chefs across a variety of programs. Journal of Public Health, 2016.

And here are a few fantastic resources for National Nutrition Month!

Feeding Baby Safely

One of our Food and Health Communications team members is expecting her first baby in the next few months, and we all have babies on the brain! Mom’s milk or formula will be the mainstay of baby’s diet for the first several months, but by four to six months, the baby’s energy needs may increase and solid foods may be recommended.

Don’t rush to add solid foods! Until this age, babies usually don’t have the control over their tongue and mouth muscles to enable them to safely eat solid foods.

Here are a few key points for keeping baby’s food safe:

  • Never give babies dairy products made from raw or unpasteurized milk, as they may contain bacteria that could cause serious illness.
  • Do not give honey to babies who are under a year old. This can put the baby at risk for botulism. This includes baked goods or other foods that contain honey,
  • Don’t give babies raw or partially-cooked eggs. This includes soft-cooked eggs or poached eggs with “runny” yolks. The yolks and whites should be firm. Serve only the yolks to babies less than one year old, because egg whites may cause an allergic reaction.
  • Don’t serve babies mixed-ingredient foods until they’ve had all the individual ingredients separately. This will help you to makes sure that they are not allergic to the individual foods. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it doesn’t matter what solid foods are offered first. Many doctors recommend cereals first and often suggest rice cereal because it is not likely to cause food allergies.
  • Don’t give babies unpasteurized fruit juices.
  • If heating baby food or milk in the microwave, make sure to stir it to ensure that there are no “hot spots” within the food so that you don’t burn the baby.

And here are a couple other basic thoughts on feeding baby:

  • Do not allow food or formula to stay at room temperature for more than two hours. This is enough time for any bacteria that may be in that food to multiply to unhealthy levels.  Start off with small amounts of solid foods and throw away any uneaten food from the baby’s dish — don’t save it for another meal.
  • Remember, a baby’s immune system has not developed and they are more at risk for foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults.

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

Here are some other wonderful resources for feeding babies, kids, and families…

And here are a few more great options for Nutrition Month!

Keeping Fruits and Vegetables Safe to Eat

Here’s a quick food safety question for you: which of these foods needs to be refrigerated for best food safety?

  • Cut watermelon
  • Washed and cut leafy greens
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Freshly-cut cantaloupe cubes
  • Fruit salad

If you answered ALL of them, then you would be correct.

While many people don’t consider these items risky — after all, we often leave whole fruits and vegetables at room temperature for storage or to ripen further — once cut, all fruits and vegetables need to be refrigerated for safety.

Once a fruit or vegetable has been cut, the barrier to the outside world has been broken and the plant’s natural defenses have been compromised. This opens the food up to the environment. Plus, the moisture and natural sugars in fruits and vegetables help create a great place for bacteria to grow. Refrigerator temperatures, on the other hand, can help slow this development of bacteria.

Other foods that are quite often forgotten are things like smoothies and juices. These drinks should be consumed within two hours or refrigerated. Just like with cut fruit, with smoothies and juices you’ve disrupted the cell structure by blending or squeezing, which in turn makes them more susceptible to bacteria development.

Another way to help prevent bacteria growth on fruits and vegetables is to wash them carefully — even if you’re not going to eat the outside. There could be bacteria on the skin or rind and it can be dragged across the moist flesh of the food during your preparation. This additional bacteria on the inside of the food can just add to potential problems if left at room temperature.

Always remember to wash your hands, countertops, and cutting boards before and after cutting fresh fruits and vegetables. Take care to avoid cross-contamination with raw meats, poultry, and seafood.

The same caution should be taken with cooked fruits and vegetables.  Once they’ve been heated, the cell structure has been broken down, making it an ideal setting for pathogen development.

Here’s the key take-home message: Once cut, cleaned, peeled, chopped, blended, or cooked, all fruits and vegetables should NOT be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate them for safety.

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

The Nutrition Month preparation fun continues in the Nutrition Education Store! Check out these great materials…

Feeding People with Allergies: Avoiding Cross-Contact

Things change.

I looked around the dinner table this past holiday and realized that things were different. We had a wonderful group of people, both family members and friends… all people that we enjoyed spending time with in the past. Nothing about that has changed. However, what had changed was what we were eating. Some of the people around the table had illnesses over the past year that changed what they were “allowed” to eat. Another person had been diagnosed with a food allergy. And then there were the frequently-heard statements about certain foods that just don’t “agree” with people.

Overall we had:

  • One nut allergy (no tree nuts for sure, maybe peanuts, too!)
  • One seafood allergy
  • One person with lactose intolerance
  • Three people that didn’t eat any peppers (red, yellow, or green)
  • One person that recently had bariatric surgery and didn’t want sugar
  • One person who didn’t “do” any refined or carbohydrate-based foods.

So, how do you feed a group like this?

Here are some basics:

An allergy happens when a person’s immune system reacts to proteins in food. Major allergy foods include: eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts), soybeans, milk, fish, and crustacean shellfish. We had several of these to consider at our latest gathering. Another thing to remember about allergies is that cooking a food does not reduce or eliminate the chances of a reaction.

A food intolerance is when someone’s body can’t digest certain chemicals properly. Common intolerances involve lactose and gluten. These usually result in vomiting, nausea, cramps, and diarrhea. People with Celiac disease can have long-term problems when they consume even small amounts of  gluten.

It’s really hard to please everyone, but of more concern to me were those allergies that could really result in major reactions, including a rash, hives, breathing problems, cardiac arrest, and maybe even death. This is not something that you should brush off or ignore. Sometimes it’s even hard to trust that people with these allergies won’t eat the wrong foods.

How do you handle a situation like this? First, we asked each person or family to bring something that they knew they could eat. That way, everyone had at least something.

Then, when asked, we were able to provide the ingredient label or recipes for most of the other meal items. I was surprised that one bakery item from the grocery store didn’t have an ingredient label, but a sign by the cash register cautioned about nuts and gluten.

Another key is to watch out for cross contact. What’s cross contact?  This is when the allergy food is inadvertently put in contact with a non-allergy food.  Just a fork or spoon being transferred from one food to another may put enough of the allergy protein in the second food that could cause a problem for the person with the allergy. This could be something as simple as mixing food with fingers, on counter tops, in serving spoons, frying pans, dishes, or even “double dipping” a chip or cracker touching one food and then another. It gets even more hectic when there are larger numbers of people and several of them are trying to prepare food in a kitchen at the same time.

We were much more aware of these allergies and food intolerances this year. This is something for everyone to think about when groups get together to eat. I’ve been at buffet lines and pot-luck dinners where people have been good to share recipes and add signs if there is a known “allergy food” in the dish, but it’s also good for people to be concerned about that cross contact, too. While people with food allergies need to be “on the alert” and ever-vigilant, we can all help each other by paying closer attention to the details.

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

And for a few other helpful allergy resources, don’t miss these materials…

Keep Your Family Healthy in the New Year

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Everywhere you look this time of year, someone is suggesting a resolution (or two or three) that you should keep. I’m going to chime in on this, too, with four really simple things that you can do to help keep your family healthy.

  1. Invest in a good tip-sensitive digital-read food thermometer and use it! Cooking food to the recommended minimum internal temperature is the only sure way to destroy bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli.
  2. Buy a couple of refrigerator and freezer thermometers and put them to use. Monitor these temperatures frequently. Your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F and the freezer should be close to zero degrees F. These are also great tools to have in place when determining the safety of foods after a power outage. Proper refrigerator and freezer temps can extend the time food can be kept. Recommended leftover storage is 4 days at 40 degrees or below.
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  3. Get yourself several dishwasher-safe plastic cutting boards. Designating specific colors for different foods (such as yellow for raw chicken and green for fresh veggies) can help prevent cross-contamination. Change mats frequently during food prep and wash them thoroughly in the dishwasher.
  4. Wash your hands frequently and encourage your family to do it, too! You probably don’t need to be reminded to wash after using the restroom, but also think about washing before cooking, before eating (even in a restaurant), after blowing your nose or sneezing and especially after changing diapers. Be extra diligent with handwashing when you are living with someone who is ill or in a confined area with a large group of people, such as a cruise ship or college dorm. Handwashing is the best way to prevent the transfer of norovirus.

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Best wishes for a happy and food safe new year!

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

Here’s a free printable handout that features these resolutions. How will you use your copy?

4resolutionsforhealth

And here are some other useful tools from the Nutrition Education Store!