In 2018, food labels will give more information

Original versus New Label - Side-by-Side ComparisonI heard something on the news about the Nutrition Facts labels changing. What are the details?

The new Nutrition Facts information won’t be on food labels for awhile, but you may like what you see when they do appear.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the updated design on May 20. Large manufacturers have until July 26, 2018, to start using the new label. Smaller companies will get an extra year. This is the first update to the Nutrition Facts label in 20 years.

One of the most sought-after changes will be the inclusion of “Added Sugars” on the label. Currently, the label just includes “sugars” as a category under carbohydrates, but it’s impossible to tell how much of that is naturally occurring, from fruit- or milk-based ingredients, for example, and how much is added during processing.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of our daily calorie intake. So, if you eat about 2,000 calories a day, you should consume no more than 200 calories, or 50 grams, of added sugars a day. The new labels will list the amount of added sugars in both grams and as a percent of a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. This will not only help consumers interested in limiting their added sugar intake, it could encourage manufacturers to reduce the amount of added sugars they use in their products.

Other changes in the new label include:

  • Larger and bolder typeface for both calories and serving sizes. These two pieces of information are among the most important to help people make healthy food choices, but they don’t get much prominence on the current label.
  • Some foods will have “dual column” labels to indicate both “per serving” and “per package” calorie and nutrition information. These will be required on products that have multiple servings but could reasonably be consumed all in one sitting, such as a pint of ice cream or a 3-ounce bag of chips. The first column will provide nutrition information if you just consume one serving — 1 ounce of those chips in the 3-ounce bag, for example. The second column will provide the same information if you eat the entire package.
  • Labels will include information on vitamin D and potassium content. Some people are not getting enough of these nutrients, which puts them at higher risk for chronic disease. Labels will no longer be required to list vitamins A and C, because deficiencies in those vitamins are now rare. Calcium and iron will continue to be listed. A bonus: Instead of listing just a percentage, or the “percent Daily Value,” these nutrients will also have the actual amount listed in grams. Daily Values are helpful indicators of how much a food provides towards the daily recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, but it also can be helpful for consumers to see what that equates to in actual grams.

For more details on the new Nutrition Facts labels, go to www.fda.gov.

Chow Line is a service of the 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, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, Food Security specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Smoothies can boost fruit, calcium intake

photo: Hemera

photo: Hemera

My teenage daughter has a sudden affinity for smoothies. She is making them all the time. Is this something I should encourage?

Smoothies can be a great way for anyone to consume more produce, and even additional calcium if milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified juice is part of the mix.

And most teens need more fruits, vegetables and calcium in their diets. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that less than 1 percent of boys and less than 4 percent of girls aged 14 to 18 years ate the recommended amount of produce. (For girls 14-18, the recommended amount is 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Boys that age need an extra half-cup of each.)

Both boys and girls from 14 to 18 years need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day — about the amount in 4.5 cups of milk. A national nutrition survey in 2005-2006 found that 42 percent of teen boys and only 10 percent of teen girls consumed enough calcium every day.

So, in a word, yes! If your daughter’s smoothies help her consume enough produce and calcium day to day, by all means encourage her on her smoothie craze. But it’s important to make sure they’re healthy beverages, not sugar-laden frozen slushies or milkshakes in disguise.

When prepared healthfully, smoothies can provide a big boost in nutrition. According to a study published in Health Education and Behavior in 2015, when smoothies were introduced as an option at school breakfasts at a middle school and high school in Utah, students eating a full cup of fruit during breakfast increased from 4.3 percent to a whopping 45.1 percent.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management in 2015, showed that 68 percent of high school students who chose yogurt as a breakfast option didn’t choose milk, suggesting that yogurt products — including many smoothies — may offer an appealing calcium-rich alternative for non-milk drinkers.

The smoothies made for the Utah school study included milk or juice, vanilla yogurt, and fruit — usually bananas, strawberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges, but sometimes cherries and pears — and even spinach for green smoothies. No extra sugar, frozen yogurt or ice cream was added — a good guideline for keeping the nutritional profile of a smoothie high. Adding ice will provide a nice chill and help lower the calorie count. Using frozen fruit — even frozen bananas — helps keep a smoothie thick with or without ice cubes.

For healthy recipe ideas, try the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website atfruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. Click on “Recipes” and choose “Beverages and Smoothies.” You will find 16 pages of recipes for everything from an Orange Banana Frosty to a Watermelon Strawberry Shake (no ice cream included).

In addition, consider introducing your daughter to choosemyplate.gov/teens. This website encourages teens to adopt healthy food and activity habits to last a lifetime.

Chow Line is a service of the 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, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Youth Nutrition and Wellness specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Why food safety is vital during pregnancy

photo: iStock

photo: iStock

Why are pregnant women at greater risk of foodborne illness?

When a woman becomes pregnant, she undergoes all sorts of physical changes that are necessary for her body to accept and nurture the growing baby in her womb.

One of those changes involves part of the mother’s immune system called “cell-mediated immunity.” When it’s working normally, cell-mediated immunity helps fight the kinds of pathogens that move from cell to cell. This doesn’t affect the part of the immune system that involves antibodies, which remains fully functioning during pregnancy.

Cell-mediated immunity is the type of immunity involved when a person has an organ transplant and the body rejects the new organ, thinking it’s a foreign invader. When a woman becomes pregnant, the body suppresses this function to allow the body to accept the fetus.

That’s all well and good, but it does put the mother and fetus at higher risk for some types of foodborne illness.

According to foodsafety.gov, the federal government’s hub for food safety information, the top five pathogens related to food poisoning during pregnancy are bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, E. coli and Salmonella, and a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Depending on the pathogen and the severity of the illness, these can cause miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or birth defects in the fetus, as well as serious health problems for the mother.

Food Safety for Pregnant Women, online at foodsafety.gov/risk/pregnant, provides details about each of these pathogens as well as other guidelines, including:

  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and products made from it. Soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco and queso fresco are frequently made with unpasteurized milk. Some hard cheeses are also made with raw or unpasteurized milk. Always read the label.
  • Avoid unpasteurized juice or cider. Even fresh-squeezed juice has been associated with E. coli.
  • Avoid raw seafood and be selective with smoked seafood. Both pose a risk from Listeria. Smoked seafood is OK only if it is canned or otherwise processed to be shelf-stable (the kind that doesn’t need refrigeration), or is an ingredient in a casserole or other dish cooked to at least 165 degrees F.
  • Avoid premade ham, chicken, tuna or other meat or seafood salads, such as those you can buy in a deli. Make them at home instead.
  • Don’t eat hot dogs or lunchmeats unless you’ve heated them to steaming hot — 165 degrees F.
  • Be sure any eggs you eat are cooked until the yolk is firm. Any casseroles or foods containing raw eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees F. Avoid foods containing raw or undercooked eggs, including unpasteurized eggnog, cookie or cake batter, Caesar salad dressing, tiramisu, eggs Benedict, homemade ice cream and freshly made hollandaise sauce.

For more details, see foodsafety.gov/risk/pregnant.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Takeaways from the Biggest Loser study

chow_050616-466368885I recently heard some discouraging news about the prospects of losing weight and keeping it off. What is the best course for people like me, who had a lifelong battle with weight?

You’re likely talking about the study that followed 14 “Biggest Loser” contestants six years after they competed on the TV show. The study, in the journal Obesity, has received wide media coverage.

One of the participants actually weighs less than she did at the end of the competition, but the other 13 regained some or all of the weight they had lost. While more than half retained at least a 10 percent weight loss six years later, five now weigh as much or more as they did before the Biggest Loser. Their level of physical activity had not changed significantly since the end of the competition.

What surprised the researchers most were the measurements of the participants’ “resting metabolic rate,” or the calories a person burns while at rest. It’s generally known that when people diet and they trim down, their metabolism slows and they don’t burn as many calories. But researchers found that as these participants regained pounds, their metabolic rates did not increase as expected. In order to maintain their weight, most Biggest Loser graduates must eat 200 to 800 fewer calories per day than other people who weigh exactly the same as they do.

In addition to that hurdle, researchers found that the participants continue to have significantly lower levels of the hormone leptin. Less leptin triggers hunger and cravings, and is normal when you diet. The participants had normal levels of leptin when they started the Biggest Loser competition and almost none when they finished. Six years later, the participants’ leptin levels had not returned to normal. They were hungry, all the time.

So, what does this mean for you? Since everyone is different, it’s difficult to say. But here are some things to consider:

  • Focus on health, not the scale. Eat 2 to 2.5 cups of vegetables and 1 to 1.5 cups of fruit every day, and round out your diet by focusing on whole grains, lean protein and healthy oils. And get plenty of physical activity: Make it your goal to walk, play sports or work out for at least 30 minutes five days a week. Even if the pounds don’t drop, regular physical activity lessens the risk of chronic disease.
  • Take guidance from the National Weight Control Registry, www.nwcr.ws, a database of more than 10,000 people who have lost 30 pounds or more and have kept it off for at least a year. Most report they have had success by maintaining a low-calorie, low-fat diet, and 90 percent say they exercise an average of an hour a day. But understand the hunger pangs you will likely feel are real, and you will have to work harder to maintain your weight than your lean friends.
  • Shed any shame or guilt you feel about your weight. As science learns more about individual differences in metabolism as well as leptin and other hormones that affect hunger and appetite, it’s easier to understand the biological underpinnings of why so many of us struggle with weight issues. Self-blame doesn’t help.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness with Ohio State University Extension.

How to help your child eat a healthy diet

chow_042916-125754388Our toddler has a sweet tooth. Should we let him indulge, or is it time to start restricting snacks?

Guidance from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says establishing healthy food habits early in life, along with a good dose of daily exercise, is key in helping children become healthy, active adults. So, yes. Just like the rest of us (adults), your toddler should be learning to eat small portions of sweets every once in a while, not all the time.

If you believe your child is already overweight, you should discuss your concerns with your son’s doctor. The academy suggests letting children “grow into” their weight without a special calorie-restricting diet. Children’s bodies are growing and developing, so you don’t want to put them on a weight-loss diet. Too much calorie restriction could deprive them of the energy and nutrients they need to properly develop bone and tissue as they grow taller. And, putting too much focus on weight could cause body image issues.

Still, a recent study indicates that it may be especially beneficial to pay attention to food choices in young children who crave sweets.

The study, “Eating in the Absence of Hunger and Weight Gain in Low-income Toddlers,” is being published in the May 2016 issue of Pediatrics. Researchers looked at young children, specifically 209 children at 21 months, 27 months and 33 months old. They focused on those from low-income families because they are at a higher risk of childhood obesity. The researchers found that the toddlers who ate more cookies after a filling meal and who became upset when the sweets were taken away had gradual increases in body fat over the course of the study. Interestingly, the children who chose a salty option (potato chips or cheese puffs) instead of cookies did not experience the same weight gain. Still, the overall finding was that the tendency to eat when not hungry increased during toddlerhood, particularly with sweets, and this was associated with an increase in body fat.

So, it’s good that you’re paying attention. Noticing your child’s sweet tooth and looking for ways to help shows that you are aware of the importance of establishing a healthy diet early in life. Here are some suggestions from the academy:

  • Being a good role model is important: Children easily pick up on their parents’ habits. Be sure you’re eating properly.
  • Put the focus on health, and refrain from negative comments about weight.
  • Become aware of the difference between eating when hungry and eating for other reasons — because of boredom, for example. Teach your child to pay attention to their inner cues and to choose food only when they’re truly hungry, and to stop eating when they’re satisfied.
  • Don’t use food to pacify or reward children. That can lead to a pattern of emotional eating.
  • Make snacks healthful: Whole-grain cereal, graham crackers, fresh fruit slices and string cheese are among good choices.

For more good ideas, go online to see the academy’s guidance for parents at eatright.org/resources/for-parents.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Carolyn Gunther, specialist in Community Nutrition Education with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Dining out? Put focus on friends over food

chow_042216-86530086Now that spring is here, I seem to be going out for dinner with friends a lot more often. I have already gained five pounds. Besides choosing a salad as my main dish, what else can I do to be sure I don’t overeat when eating out?

First, don’t assume that all salads are necessarily lower in calories than other choices on the menu. A quick Internet search of nutrition information for one restaurant chain showed its entree-sized salads ranged from 440 calories for a salad featuring seared tuna to 1,510 calories for a Caesar salad with chicken.

Unfortunately, it’s often not easy to determine what would be the healthiest option or figure out what items have a reasonable number of calories. Rules requiring restaurant chains to include nutrition information on menus, in the works since 2010, have been delayed until next year at the earliest. And even then, they won’t cover independently owned restaurants and smaller chains.

There’s also a psychological hurdle: When you join with friends to enjoy a meal together, it’s easy to switch into “special occasion” mode and treat yourself to items you wouldn’t necessarily choose every day. But if you’re eating out more often, you need to be careful not to indulge every time.

Here are some tips from the Association of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org) and the National Institutes of Health (medlineplus.gov):

  • Prepare ahead. If you know you’ll be eating out later, have a small, healthy breakfast and lunch, and a light snack — such as an orange, a small apple or a handful of baby carrots, and a full glass of water — before you leave for the restaurant. And if you know where you’ll be dining, check the restaurant’s website to see if you can find nutrition information ahead of time.
  • Watch portion sizes. Dietitians have long advised clients who are trying to lose weight to eat only half of what is served to them and take the other half home for another meal. Now, some say that even half of the oversized portions served at many restaurants might be too much. When you get your food, visualize what a sensible serving size would be, and eat only that much.
  • Look on the menu for items for seniors, which are often smaller portions, or those designated as healthful choices. Don’t overlook those options thinking they’re not for you.
  • Include a simple side salad with an oil-based or light dressing. Avoid creamy dressings. Ask for dressing on the side, and don’t use all of it.
  • Choose foods that indicate they are broiled, grilled, steamed, poached, roasted or baked, which tend to have fewer calories. Words that indicate an item has more calories include breaded, fried, buttered, battered, crispy, creamy and au gratin.
  • Watch the alcohol, which adds calories and may increase your appetite and lower your resolve to eat healthfully.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself, knowing you are mindfully making the right choices while savoring the company of good friends.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Irene Hatsu, food security specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Saturate yourself with information about oils

edible oils

I’m confused about fatty acids. I know to avoid saturated and trans fats, and I’ve heard good things about omega-3s and unsaturated fats. But there are also oleic, linoleic and other types of fats. What does all this mean for the type of oil I should be using?

You’re right. If you start digging down into the nitty gritty, information about fatty acids can get very complex very quickly.

First, know that all oils (liquid at room temperature) and fats (solid at room temperature) are really composed of a broad range of fatty acids, including saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. That said, here’s some basic information.

Any fatty acid with the word “omega” in its name — omega-3 or omega-6, for example — is unsaturated. Monounsaturated fat includes oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid, and is the primary fatty acid in olive oil. Although many health authorities recommend olive oil as the top heart-healthy option, there’s growing conversation in nutrition circles about the strength of the evidence behind that advice. Still, it remains a good option and deserves a spot in your pantry.

Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Linoleic acid is the primary type of omega-6 fatty acid that we consume and is essential in our diet. Being “essential” means we need to consume linoleic acid because our bodies  cannot synthesize it from other sources. Not too long ago, researchers thought linoleic acid might cause inflammation and damage arteries. But more recently, scientists have found that higher blood levels of linoleic acid are associated with less trunk fat — the abdominal fat linked to heart disease — as well as less inflammation, higher metabolism and a leaner body mass. (See a report about this Ohio State University research at go.osu.edu/fattyacids.) So, the thinking on linoleic acid is evolving.

Vegetable oils have traditionally been a major source of linoleic fatty acids, but in the last five years or so, many processors have changed the composition of vegetable oils, decreasing linoleic acid, or polyunsaturated fats, in favor of omega-9s, or monounsaturated fats. Most corn oil still appears to be a good source of linoleic acid. Grapeseed oil is also a good source, as are some store-brand bottled oils. Check the Nutrition Facts label: Oils higher in polyunsaturated and lower in monounsaturated fat provide more linoleic acid.

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly long-chain ones that are most closely associated with heart health, are primarily found in cold-water, fatty fish. Most people don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet, and since they are heart-healthy, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings a week of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna. Another type of omega-3, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in some plant-based foods such as chia seeds, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, and to a lesser extent, in canola oil.

The bottom line? Eat more fish and other omega-3s, and try for more omega-6 linoleic acid in your diet. Look for “polyunsaturated” on oil labels.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Martha Belury, registered dietitian, scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the Carol S. Kennedy Professor of Nutrition in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

You can’t judge a whole grain by its color

chow040816-170176370I have seen “white whole wheat” bread and high-fiber white pasta products for years now, but I’ve always been a little suspect. Aren’t true whole-grain products darker in color because of the bran?

Yes and no. Not all darker-colored breads are whole grain. Not all white breads are refined grain. And not all white pastas are low in fiber. You just can’t judge a grain product by its color — you need to look at the label.

This is important because if you’re like most Americans, you’re not consuming nearly enough whole grains or fiber. According to a 2014 study in the journal Nutrition Research, only 8 percent of adults eat the recommended amount of three servings of whole grains each day. And a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study reported that average fiber intake is just 16 grams a day, far short of the 25 grams a day recommended for women and 38 grams a day for men.

Whole grains contain 100 percent of the original kernel — the bran, germ and endosperm — while refined grains contain just the endosperm. Several B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, and minerals, such as iron, magnesium and selenium, are stripped from whole grains when they’re refined. Although refined grains are normally enriched with vitamins and minerals and get back much of what was lost, whole grains still contain a richer nutritional profile of antioxidants, B vitamins, protein, minerals, fiber and healthful fats than those that are refined.

To figure out if your bread and pasta are whole grains, look at the food label. First, review the ingredients list. The first item should start with the word “whole”: whole wheat, for example, or whole rye, whole oats or whole-grain wheat flour. Be wary of terms such as “100 percent wheat,” “multi-grain” or “cracked wheat” on the package. If it doesn’t have the word “whole,” it’s not a whole grain, whether it’s brown, tan or white in color.

Most breads are made from hard red winter wheat, and you’re right in thinking that whole-wheat bread made from that type of wheat is darker in color. But about 10-15 percent of wheat grown today in the U.S. is white wheat, and some of that, called hard white wheat, is often used to make whole-wheat white bread. Hard white wheat began being developed in the U.S. at Kansas State University in the 1960s. It started being grown on a more widespread basis in the 1990s and 2000s.

Pasta, on the other hand, is made from durum wheat, which lends a darker color to whole-grain varieties. In the last few years, some brands of high-fiber white pasta have landed on grocery store shelves. They might not contain 51 percent whole grain — the minimum required by the Food and Drug Administration for a whole-grain health claim on the label — but they have additional ingredients added during processing to boost the fiber content, such as oat fiber or a special high-fiber cornstarch. Again, look at the ingredients listing to know what’s in the product.

For more about whole grains, see www.choosemyplate.gov/grains-nutrients-health.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Colleen Spees, registered dietitian and assistant professor with Ohio State University Extension and The Ohio State University’s College of Medicine’s Division of Medical Dietetics.

Chow Line is a service of the 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.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Food irradiation safe, but not widely accepted

International Radura symbol for irradiated foods

International Radura symbol for irradiated foods

I used to hear a lot about food irradiation, but I haven’t heard very much recently. Are foods being irradiated in the U.S.? Is it safe?

Many foods are approved for irradiation, but you likely won’t see them in the grocery store. Most of the reason, many experts say, is because of negative consumer perceptions about the process: Who wants to eat anything that sounds like it has something to do with radiation?

Of course, irradiation doesn’t make food radioactive. At lower doses, irradiation kills pests such as fruit flies. At higher levels, it breaks chemical bonds in bacterial and mold cells so they die or can no longer multiply, which could prevent foodborne illness and make food last longer before spoiling.

Food is irradiated by going through a chamber on a conveyor belt, where the food is exposed to a radiation beam. The process affects the food itself only slightly. Any losses in nutrients are minor, about the same as from cooking or freezing.

About a third of the spices and seasonings used in U.S. food manufacturing have been irradiated, as well as a small amount of fruit from Hawaii, Mexico and other places. A few retailers sell ground beef that’s been irradiated to reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7. But irradiation is approved for use on many other foods, including:

  • Wheat flour, to control mold.
  • White potatoes, to inhibit sprouting.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, for insect control and to increase shelf life.
  • Beef, pork and poultry, to reduce bacteria.
  • Crustaceans, such as lobster, shrimp and crab.
  • Shell eggs.
  • Molluscan shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels and scallops.
  • Seeds for sprouting, such as alfalfa sprouts.

Irradiated foods must say on the label that they’ve been irradiated and must carry the international logo for irradiation, the Radura symbol. It’s a circle with what looks like a flower inside, along with words indicating the food has been irradiated. Bulk foods, such as fruits and vegetables, need to be individually labeled or have the symbol displayed nearby. An exception is foods that contain irradiated ingredients: Canned soups that use irradiated spices, for example, don’t have to indicate anything special on the label.

Critics of irradiation argue that it alters food in ways that are not yet clear, and using the process could encourage sloppy practices in the food industry and give people a false sense of security about food safety.

It’s true that not all foodborne illness would be eradicated even if every bite of food was irradiated, but public health authorities believe making more use of irradiation could have a significant effect in reducing foodborne illness. The Food and Drug Administration has evaluated the safety of irradiated food for more than 30 years and has found the process to be safe.

To learn more, see the FDA’s web page on food irradiation at go.osu.edu/FDAfoodirrad.

Chow Line is a service of the 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, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, Ohio State University Extension food safety specialist and assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Know your beef: Cuts best for smoker, grill

chow_032516-99194821When I grill a steak, how can I make sure it’s not tough? Also, I just got a meat smoker as a gift. What cuts of beef would be best for the smoker?

Nothing is worse than grilling a steak, enjoying the aroma as it cooks, and then barely being able to cut through it with your best steak knife. The issue probably isn’t your skill on the grill. It’s most likely a bad match of cooking method and cut of beef.

Lean cuts of beef — those with little marbling and external fat — are better suited to slow cooking methods, such as smoking. Slow cooking allows connective tissue and muscle fibers to break down. The process tenderizes what otherwise would be a tough chew. Those cuts are from the parts of the animal that work the hardest, the muscles used for walking and locomotion, which have little fat and the most connective tissue. Generally, those cuts are the round, which is at the hindquarters of the animal, and the chuck and brisket, which are at the front of the animal, from the shoulders to the chest.

Cuts of meat from these areas, which would be good for your smoker, include:

  • Brisket
  • Chuck roast
  • Arm roasts
  • Top and bottom round roasts
  • Tip roasts
  • Eye round roast
  • Boneless rump roast

In between the round and the chuck are the “middle meats,” which are best for grilling. They tend to have a lot of marbling, which is the little white flecks of fat throughout a piece of meat. Generally, the more marbling in the meat, the more palatable it will be — flavorful, tender and juicy. The rib and short loin tend to have the most marbling. The sirloin, which offers lean, tender cuts of meat without much fat, is situated behind the short loin and in front of the round.

Cuts from the rib, short loin and sirloin that would be great on the grill include:

  • Bone-in and boneless ribeye steaks
  • Back ribs
  • Strip steak, such as New York or Kansas City strip
  • T-bone steak
  • Porterhouse steak
  • Top sirloin
  • Tenderloin

Skirt steaks, which come from the middle part of the animal’s underside, found in the flank area, are good quick-skillet muscle cuts best used for fajitas, tacos and in salads.

Whatever cut you choose, when the meat is done, let it cool slightly to let the juices settle, and always slice against the grain. That will break up the muscle grain into small pieces, which will make the meat less chewy.

To see a short video to learn where various cuts of meat come from on a beef carcass, see Ohio State University Extension’s “Beef Cuts for Fast Grilling and Slow Smoking,” at go.osu.edu/beefcuts.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Lyda Garcia, Ohio State University Extension meat specialist and assistant professor in The Ohio State University’s Department of Animal Sciences.
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