When good fruit goes bad

177423860When I hear about a recall involving fresh produce, how can I find out if the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator are affected? If I buy organic produce, am I safe?

Information about recent recalls and food safety alerts are available on the front page of foodsafety.gov.

This listing contains information from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food supply including produce, seafood and dairy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of meat, poultry and processed egg products. For foods covered just by the FDA, see www.fda.gov/safety/recalls for recall information going back 60 days.

For recalled fresh produce check the FDA list. You can run a specific search by using the product name as a keyword. By clicking on the name of the product, you’ll see a description and the pictures of the product that was recalled and the retailers that sold the item.  Packaged products that have been recalled will have a date, and a production lot number to look for on the package. For bulk produce without a label, check with the store where you bought the product to find out if your items are part of the recall.

If you do have a product that’s been recalled, follow the FDA’s advice and don’t take any chances. Either throw it away or take it back to the store and ask for a refund.

To be on the safe side, the FDA recommends that you should also:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (count it out — it’s longer than you might think) with soap and warm water after handling the recalled items.
  • Wash any surface that the recalled items have touched, including refrigerator shelves or bins, countertops, bowls or plates, with soap and warm water.

Unfortunately, organic produce isn’t immune to food safety problems.  For example, one brand of organic mangos sold in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey and Texas was the subject of a recall in May due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. A more recent recall of peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) included both conventional and organic produce, because they were packed in the same facility where, again, Listeria was found.

Anyone can sign up to get automatic alerts about recalls by email or text. Just go tofoodsafety.gov/recalls/alerts to sign up.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Look beyond high fructose corn syrup

488655329What’s the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup?

High fructose corn syrup starts out as corn syrup. But food and beverage manufacturers alter the product for a number of reasons: High fructose corn syrup tastes sweeter than regular corn syrup. It also has good browning capabilities — a plus when making baked goods.

To really understand the science behind the sweetness, you need to know some background about the sugars sucrose, glucose and fructose.

Sucrose is table sugar. It’s usually made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Chemically, it is made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose, bonded together. Even though both are types of sugar, fructose tastes sweeter than glucose.

Corn syrup is primarily glucose, so it’s not as sweet as table sugar. It’s made from corn, which is a lot cheaper than sugar cane or sugar beets. To get a product that’s as sweet as regular sugar, manufacturers add enzymes to regular corn syrup to convert some of the glucose to fructose, and that’s what we know as high fructose corn syrup.

The most common types of high fructose corn syrup used by food and beverage manufacturers contain either 42 percent fructose or, even sweeter, 55 percent fructose. That compares with 50 percent fructose in table sugar. Despite the differences, all of these sugars contribute the same 4 calories per gram to the diet.

High fructose corn syrup has gotten a bad rap since 2004, when a commentary published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested there could potentially be a link between its consumption and obesity. Other scientists questioned such a relationship, saying that high fructose corn syrup is no better or worse health-wise than other added sugars.

Studies are still being published in the scientific literature about how the body processes different sugars and if that makes a difference in health. However, the consensus today recommends that we focus our efforts on limiting all added sugars, not just high fructose corn syrup.

So, if you happen to see “No high fructose corn syrup” on the front of a label, be smart and look at the Nutrition Facts label for overall sugar content. Also look at the ingredients listing to see what other types of sweeteners the item might contain, such as agave, dextrose, maltose, brown rice syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, crystalized fructose, honey or molasses. They’re all sugar.

For more about high fructose corn syrup from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, see http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm324856.htm.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Bridgette Kidd, Healthy People program specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Freezing Vegetables

179038355Freezing is a simple, easy, and convenient way to preserve vegetables. The process takes little time but the cost of a freezer and the utility costs make it one of the more expensive ways to preserve food. The freezing process preserves nutrients and provides a fresher flavor than canning or drying foods.

Freezing foods retards the growth of the micro- organisms and slows down chemical changes that may cause food to spoil. While freezing slows down spoilage, when the food is thawed the growth of bacteria, yeasts, or mold will continue. Proper handling of vegetables is important before freezing.

For step by step instructions on how to freeze vegetables click here

Original information compiled by Sharon L. Mader, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H, Sandusky County. Revised by Pat Shenberger, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ashland County. Revised by: Deb Angell, Associate Professor, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Huron County; and Doris Herringshaw, EdD, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Wood County. Reviewed by: Julie Shertzer, PhD, RD, LD Program Specialist, Department of Human Nutrition, Ohio State University Extension; and Lydia Medeiros, PhD, RD, Extension Specialist, Ohio State University Extension. 

Quick Process Pickles

477645693Quick process pickles differ from fermented pickles because the pickling process uses acetic acid from vinegar rather than lactic acid from fermentation. Quick process pickles are ideal for those who want to make pickles, start to finish, in a few days. However, the flavor of fresh pack or quick process pickles is better if they are left to stand in sealed jars for several weeks.

The correct acid concentration, in the form of vinegar, is important because acid prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum, a deadly microorganism, in quick process pickles. If acid concentration is not sufficient, there is a danger of botulism poisoning. Therefore, use only tested recipes, and do not change the proportion of food, water, and vinegar.

For tested recipes and step by step instructions on how to make quick process pickles click here.

Information Compiled by Lydia Medeiros, Professor, Department of Human Nutrition.
Updated 2008 by Lois Clark, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Auglaize County, and Jean DeBrosse, Program Assistant, Family and Consumer Sciences, Greene County.
Reviewed by Julie Shertzer, Ph.D., R.D., Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension.

Salsa: From Garden to Table

salsa2Americas have grown to love salsa. The sauce is healthy, easy to make, and flavorful. Cooks love to experiment with salsa recipes and may wish to preserve their winning combination by canning. Most salsa recipes are a mixture of low-acid foods (onions and peppers), with higher acid foods (tomatoes). Acid flavorings such as vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice are also common additions. The type and amount of ingredients used in salsa, as well as the preparation methods, are important considerations in how salsa is canned. Improperly canned salsas, or other tomato-pepper combinations, have been implicated in more than one outbreak of botulism.

Important guidelines are provided for preparing safe, home-canned salsa. Use only research-tested recipes. Follow the directions carefully for each recipe. Use the amounts listed for each vegetable. Add the amount of vinegar or lemon juice stated. If desired, the amount of spices may be changed. Do not thicken salsas with flour or cornstarch before canning. Salsa can be thickened at the time of use.

To read the full article on water bath canning of salsa click here. It includes descriptions of ingredients that are used in the tested recipes. These recipes have been tested to ensure that they contain enough acid to be processed safely in a boiling water bath canner. If your personal favorite is not listed, it is best to eat it fresh. Untested, fresh salsa recipes can be stored up to several weeks in the refrigerator, or freeze it up to one year for longer storage.

Compiled in August 2008 by Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educators Marisa Warrix, Cuyahoga County, and Pam Leong, Shelby County. Reviewed by Lydia Medeiros, Ph.D., R.D., Extension Specialist, Ohio State University Extension.

Canning Basics

177578403Methods for canning foods at home have changed greatly since the procedure was first introduced almost two centuries ago. Since then, research has enabled home canners to simplify and safely preserve higher quality foods. Knowing why canning works and what causes food to spoil underscores the importance of following directions carefully.

How Canning Preserves Foods
Invisible microorganisms are all around us. Many are beneficial; others are harmful. All foods contain microorganisms, the major cause of food spoilage. Proper canning techniques stop this spoilage by using heat to destroy microorganisms. During the canning process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals, preventing microorganisms from entering and recontaminating the food. It does not take long at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (F), the temperature at which water boils, to force air out, create a vacuum, and seal a jar. It does, however, take a specific amount of heat for a specific amount of time to kill certain bacteria. Although a jar is “sealed,” all bacteria are not necessarily killed. Adequate acid (as in pickled products and fruits) or sugar (as in jams and jellies) protects against the growth of some microorganisms. In low-acid foods, however, some microorganisms are not destroyed at 212 degrees F. Low-acid foods, therefore, must be heated to higher temperatures that can be reached only with a pressure canner. Low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, must be pressure canned at the recommended time and temperature to destroy Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism food poisoning. Canning low-acid foods in boiling water canners is absolutely unsafe

To read the full article on Canning Basics, including step by step instructions, click here.

Information compiled by Ruth Anne Foote, Extension Agent, Home Economics, Mercer County.
Updated by Marcia Jess, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ottawa County.
Reviewed by Dan Remley, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences/Community Development, Butler County.