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

 

 

 

Is that a girl pepper?

As educators, it seems like one of our major jobs these days is helping people sort out the truth from the myth and misinformation on the web. Sometimes these articles and memes sound like they might be true and then then next thing you know everyone’s talking about it and then everyone believes it.

Perhaps you’ve seen the one about buying green peppers by their sex. The post reports that peppers with three lobes or bumps on the bottom are male and better for cooking. Female peppers supposedly have four bumps and are full of seeds, sweeter and better for eating raw.

Let’s set the record straight, peppers don’t have genders. When you look into the botany of peppers there is a little truth to the sex thing. Peppers grow from flowers that do have both male and female parts. But the peppers themselves do not.

So, what about the number of lobes on the bottom of the pepper? Like many other things (including people) the shape is determined by weather, growing conditions, and genetics. The number of the bumps don’t give us any clue to the flavor or sweetness of the pepper.

Just like many other fruits and vegetables, the degree of sweetness is generally a factor of the ripeness of the item. So, if you want sweeter peppers, select those that are red, yellow or orange. Yellow and orange peppers are a separate variety. Green peppers will gradually turn red on the plant but not yellow or orange.

When selecting pepper, for the best value, get one that is heavy for its size. As bell peppers ripen, they begin to wrinkle and lose the firmness in their skin. Therefore, avoid dull, shriveled or pitted peppers. Refrigerate peppers in a plastic bag and for best quality use within five days.

Bell peppers are a great source of vitamins A and C and beta-carotene. If your budget will allow, pick the colorful red, orange or yellow peppers. They have more vitamins and beta carotene than their green counterparts. Peppers are fat-free, saturated fat-free, low in sodium, cholesterol-free and low calorie.

Just another case of you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.

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

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.

New Product: Menu Planning Handouts

“When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Truer words were never spoken, especially when it comes to healthy eating! In fact, research shows that planning meals is associated with healthier diets and reduced rates of obesity (1).

Menu planning also helps you:

  • Make a shopping list.
  • Stick to a grocery budget.
  • Eat more meals at home.
  • Get out of the “same old” mealtime rut.
  • Enjoy mealtimes with less stress.

There’s no doubt about it — planning sets clients up for success. Our new Menu Planning Handouts make it easy! Healthy menu items are pictured and listed at the top. Choose from these to fill out the one-week menu planning chart at the bottom.

The Menu Planning Handouts are great for a class or one-on-one counseling. They’re printed on both sides, so clients can do one side as a group or with your help, then use the other side to plan on their own at home.

I like the idea of using the Menu Planning Handout as a menu planner AND a food diary all in one. Clients can use it to plan meals and snacks for the day or the week, then check off what they eat as they go.

Adding the matching dry-erase Menu Planning Poster or Wall Decal makes this the perfect system to help your clients plan to succeed in their healthy eating goals.

  1. Ducrot P, Mejean C, Aroumougame V, et al. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017 Feb 2;14(1):12. DOI: 10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7.

Activity Idea: Making MyPlate Plates

MyPlate is an excellent tool to encourage balanced eating.

For visual learners, having an image of MyPlate is a great starting point on the road to healthful eating habits. You can take this image even farther in an interactive project. Not only will this project help cement the basics of MyPlate in the minds of your visual learners, but it will also draw in your kinetic learners as well. Almost everyone can benefit from learning by doing!

So, what’s the project? Making a physical MyPlate plate.

There are a bunch of ways to approach this, but I want to point you toward a few of my favorite styles…

Color a Paper PlateApproach #1: Color a Paper Plate

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Display an image of MyPlate and walk your clients through the basics of how and why the plate is divided. After that, you can distribute paper plates to each of your participants and let them create their own MyPlate plates with crayons or markers. They can draw their designs right on the plate!

Be sure to choose crayons or markers that are safe for kids — these won’t have harmful chemicals that could be dangerous to ingest. Not that a lot of anything would transfer from the plate to the food placed on it, but it’s best to play it safe.

If you’re distributing food as part of the activity, have people use their plates to portion out what they eat. They may want to make several MyPlate plates so that they can use the guide a few times. After all, paper plates don’t last past one meal.

Materials needed: A MyPlate image example, paper plates, and markers or crayons

Use the Plates Again and AgainApproach #2: Create Melamine Plates

To help your clients make MyPlate plates that they can use again and again, create melamine plates. These plates are embedded with the images that people draw, and they’re reusable. In fact, they can be treated just like regular plates — without fear of flaking, fading, or general destruction.

To create these plates, you’ll need a Make-A-Plate Kit with specialized markers. Hand out the plate papers from the kit to your clients after your discussion of MyPlate, and then let them use the markers to create their own MyPlate images.

This is a relatively inexpensive project that produces long-lasting results.

There is one thing to be aware of, however, and that is production delays. It often takes 2-3 weeks to return the MyPlate drawings as physical plates, so be sure to plan for this holdup.

Materials needed: A MyPlate image example, melamine plate kits, melamine plate markers, materials for shipping the plates

Approach #3: Paint Pottery Plates

For more immediate results and a long-lasting plate, there’s always painting pottery. Yes, this is a generally more expensive and involved approach than the other two, but it also often produces beautiful results. You can turn the project into a festive outing or party, and it makes a great end-of-session finale.

Hanging a MyPlate poster or enlarged drawing in the studio can help inspire your participants as they work. It also offers a great example to guide their painting.

Materials needed: MyPlate image example, a pottery studio, potted plates, paints and brushes

Try Word ArtDetails: Creating the Plates

Now that we’ve discussed a few general ways for your clients to make their own MyPlate plates, let’s get into the specifics of plate creation.

Make sure that there is an image of MyPlate available for your participants to look at as they create their plates. After all, the goal is to have an accurate guide to balanced eating available for their reference. A MyPlate with the wrong proportions on it is not helpful.

Now, when it comes to drawing the plate within the guidelines set forth by the USDA, there is plenty of room for innovation.

Yes, clients could copy the MyPlate image exactly “as is” from the USDA website, but they could also innovate when it comes to decorating the plates. For example, some participants could use pictures to highlight what goes in each section, drawing images of their favorite foods from each food group. Or each section of MyPlate could become a word cloud (as pictured here). This word cloud can also feature the foods that fit into each food group.

The possibilities are endless!

Examples, Giveaways, Prizes, Shortcuts, or Take-Home Ideas for Clients

Of course, if you’re looking for examples, giveaways, prizes, shortcuts, or take-home ideas for clients, then you need look no further than the Nutrition Education Store. At the store, you can purchase…

These are wonderful examples that people can pass around while they create their own MyPlate plates. The plates also make perfect prizes for giveaways and can be distributed as take-home ideas for clients. Plus, if you don’t have the time, budget, or resources to have participants make their own plates, these plates offer a fantastic shortcut.

So. There you have it. A bunch of ideas for a great MyPlate project. Enjoy!

By Judy Doherty, PC II and Founder of Food and Health Communications, Inc

There’s always more in the store. Check out these fantastic MyPlate resources!

MyPlate Poster

MyPlate Wristbands

MyPlate PowerPoint Presentation

MyPlate Handout for Kids

MyPlate Apron

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

 

Just a poached egg

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the background here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Is it TWO or FOUR?

This is something that’s been bugging me.  I teach food safety, primarily to food service managers and folks that work in restaurants.  Occasionally I do work with consumer groups. If you teach these topics you know that there are a couple differences in what we teach the restaurant folks vs. what we teach consumers.  Why?

According to the FDA Food Code food service operations are allowed to keep TCS (or potentially hazardous)  food in the temperature danger zone (TDZ) of 41 degrees to 135 degrees F for up to FOUR hours.

But, when you teach it to consumers it’s the TWO HOUR RULE.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture: “Never leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 °F, food should not be left out more than 1 hour.” https://www.fsis.usda.gov .

And if you really want to get “picky” their TDZ  is a bit different, too. They say 40 degrees to 140 degrees F.

Food doesn’t instantly go bad at either two hours or four hours. Again, according to the USDA  “leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria (such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter) to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes.”

Why the difference?  I don’t really have an “official” scientific reason. According to the folks at the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline they are leaving an abundance of caution with the conservative consumer recommendations.

While teaching I try to explain to folks that the four hours allowed for restaurants/food service is making the assumption that these folks are following recommended FDA food safety practices. These include lots of  hand washing and gloves,  use of sanitizers, working to prevent cross-contamination and using timers and thermometers.

This conservative approach might be a great idea for consumers. A lot of things can happen (or not happen) in a home kitchen.  I’m hoping that they do wash their hands before cooking and do use some good food safety procedures.  Not many folks in home kitchens use sanitizers but let’s hope they use lots of hot soapy water. Does the dog or cat climb on that counter when they are alone in the house?  Did mom get called away and thinks it’s two hours, when really it was more?  Food in restaurants are delivered in refrigerated trucks and put away quickly, while sometimes food stays in the TDZ longer than planned between the grocery store and the home refrigerator. I also wonder how many home refrigerators have thermometers.

What I  think is really important…if it’s two or four…. follow good food safety practices all of the time.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

 

Recalls in the news

I know people on Facebook are just trying to be helpful….but they also spread fear and concern.  Twice within the last week I’ve gotten a “FLASH NEWS ALERT” about a recall of shredded cheese due to Listeria. There were many “shares” on this post and also many people commenting that they were afraid and pitching the cheese in their refrigerator.

I try hard to keep up on food safety topics in the news and hadn’t heard anything about a new recall. So, I checked it out at the government’s food recall website FoodSafety.gov . This site provides food safety and food recall information from both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  At this website you can also sign up for alerts to be sent to your smart phone or email.

The FDA is responsible for about 80% of the food eaten in the United States. The Food Safety Inspection Service of the USDA monitors meat, poultry and egg products produced in federally inspected establishments. The web site will direct you to which agency is specifically involved with the recall and alert.

If there is a multistate foodborne illness outbreak, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serves as the lead coordinator.  You can follow these outbreaks and the investigations on the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/

According to the FDA website, they only seek publicity about a recall when they believe the public needs to be alerted to a serious hazard.  There are three recall classifications. Class I has the highest risk when the public is at risk for a serious health problem or death including biological pathogens and food allergens. When you look at the list of recalls it’s interesting to note that many of them are related to undeclared allergens, mislabeling or foreign matter in the food. Not all are recalls are linked to foodborne illness pathogens.

It is wise to protect yourself—pay attention to food recalls and check your refrigerator, freezer and pantry for these products.

The foodsafety.gov site lists recent as well as archives older recalls.  There has been nothing since last year on cheese.   I guess it just takes that long for some of these posts to get around.

It’s always worth a double check before pressing that “share” button spreading fear to your family, friends, students and clients!

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University