Chow Line: Find out details when foods are recalled

chow_013015_519545275A friend told me that there has been an apple recall. She said only certain varieties were affected, but couldn’t remember which ones. Where can I learn more about this kind of thing? 

There actually have been two recent recalls related to apples, both of which were linked to a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. It is a deadly pathogen and you’re lucky to have a friend who will warn you about such recalls.

One recall began because of an ongoing outbreak of L. monocytogenes. The outbreak was traced to commercially produced caramel apples made from Gala and Granny Smith apples grown and processed by a company in California, Bidart Bros. Seven people have died in the outbreak, and 31 were hospitalized in 11 states around the country.

At first, just caramel apples were recalled, but when L. monocytogenes was found at the company’s apple-packing facility, the firm recalled all of its Gala and Granny Smith apples. You should know that these are two of the most widely grown apple varieties, and apples from other growers and processors are not linked to this outbreak.

However, if you have caramel apples at home purchased before Dec. 24, 2014, or Gala or Granny Smith apples purchased before Jan. 6, and you’re not sure if they are affected, check the advisory from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/caramel-apples-12-14/advice-consumers.html, or check with your grocery store. If you do have them, throw them away immediately. Place them in a closed plastic bag in a sealed trash to prevent other people or animals from eating them.

Although L. monocytogenes accounts for a relatively small fraction of foodborne illness, it’s particularly lethal: An estimated 18 percent of those who contract listeriosis die. Most at risk are older adults; pregnant women; patients undergoing cancer treatment, transplants or receiving medications that suppress the immune system; people with AIDS or other immuno-compromising conditions, such as liver or kidney disease or insulin-dependent diabetes; and small children.

There was another recall on Dec. 10, 2014, for fresh-cut Gala apples grown in Pennsylvania and prepared and distributed by Del Monte Fresh. No illnesses have been reported related to this recall, but a random test by the Ohio Department of Agriculture found L. monocytogenes on the fresh-cut fruit. Grocery stores often used these apples in snack packs and other packaged, ready-to-eat fruit bowls. It’s not likely anyone would still have these items on hand, but a complete list of products affected is online at www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm426419.htm.

The best place to look for recalls of fresh produce and other products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration is www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls. This website has an easy-to-use search function to help you find details quickly.

Also, you can see recently recalled foods at foodsafety.gov/recalls, which includes foods regulated by both the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (primarily meat products).

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 Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Chow Line: Stock up and plan for snow day lunches

photo: iStock

photo: iStock

My children always eat their breakfast and lunch at school. Money is tight, and we don’t always have extra food on hand, which is a problem when school is canceled at the last minute because of the weather. I don’t want my children to go hungry just because school is closed. Any ideas? 

First, you’re not alone. During last year’s severe winter, many officials voiced concern about whether some students would have enough to eat at home when schools closed due to weather.

And now, a new national study by the Southern Education Foundation found that 51 percent of children in the nation’s public schools, pre-kindergarten through high school, were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches in 2013. This is the first time in recent history that a majority of students in public schools come from low-income families.

When money is so tight that a family has to make hard choices between paying for food or other necessities, it’s a significant challenge to plan ahead for something like meals for snow days. Good for you for thinking of this.

Here are some ideas for keeping an emergency stash of relatively inexpensive foods on hand:

  • Dry beans. Ounce for ounce, dry beans are a bargain. The website “The Simple Dollar” (thesimpledollar.com) recently did a cost comparison, which found that a one-pound bag of dried beans yielded eight cups of cooked beans at an average cost of $1.99, while a can of cooked beans, at an average cost of $1.19, yielded just two cups. If you’ve never used dried beans, you need to be aware that they take time to prepare ­— at least an hour using a “quick-soak” method. The Bean Institute offers step-by-step instructions at beaninstitute.com/recipes/cooking-with-dry-beans. You’ll also likely want to experiment with herbs, spices and other flavorings to add to the cooked beans. It’s recommended that dried beans be stored in an airtight container and be used within a year of purchase for the best quality.
  • Potatoes. Raw potatoes will last several weeks in the pantry — longer if you can store them in a place that stays cool (50-60 degrees F). They’re easy to cook in the oven or the microwave. Top them with some cheese and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned), and your kids will have a hearty meal.
  • Canned tuna, chicken, fruit and vegetables. Canned goods last a long time in the pantry — a year or longer. Keep a few of these staples tucked in a back corner for use in emergencies.

Aside from stocking up, you should be sure you’re getting the assistance you are eligible to receive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a list of resources online at snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/need-food, including the National Hunger Hotline (1-866-348-6479, or in Spanish at 1-877-842-6273). Ohio also has a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program hotline, at 1-866-244-0071.

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 Irene Hatsu, food security specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Chow Line: Caramel candies: More than caramelized sugar

chow_011615_529331645Over the holidays, my sister and I were eating caramel candy, and she mentioned how much she loves caramel flavoring. I thought caramel wasn’t really a flavoring added to the candy, but a byproduct created from cooking sugar. Who is right? 

You’re both sort of right.

Caramel flavoring is a real product. If you can’t find it in your grocery store, you can buy it online. Whether the candies you were eating had caramel flavoring in them is impossible to say without looking at the ingredients. But, odd as it sounds to some people, caramels don’t need caramel flavoring as an ingredient because caramelization does, in fact, occur when sugars are cooked the right way.

Harold McGee’s quintessential “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” (Scribner, 2004) offers a detailed description of the food chemistry behind both the flavor and texture behind caramelization, caramel syrup and caramel candies. The first step in making caramel candy is combining sugar and water to make syrup: Candy makers need to combine them in the right proportion, heat the resulting syrup to the right temperature, and then cool the hot syrup properly to create the chewy caramel texture.

When sugar (or salt, for that matter) is dissolved in water, the solution boils at a higher temperature than plain water does. But as the syrup heats up, the water evaporates more quickly, and the syrup becomes more concentrated, browning as it heats and producing new flavors as a result. As the syrup thickens, the solution can become hotter and hotter very rapidly, and the whole thing can scorch if you’re not careful. Generally, a syrup with a higher water-to-sugar ratio will result in a softer candy. If you boil too much of the water off, you’ll end up with harder candy.

To make caramels, the solution should be one that boils at 245 to 250 degrees F. When it reaches that stage, the solution is between 85 and 90 percent sugar — just the right concentration for caramels.

But then it has to be cooled properly so the sugar doesn’t crystalize. If crystals form, you’ll get a grainy instead of a smooth caramel. The formation of crystals depends on a lot of things: how quickly the solution is cooled; what is added to the syrup, such as milk products and butter; and even the temperature of the solution when you start to stir it.

Purified versions of caramel syrup are commonly used as both a flavoring and as a deep brown food coloring for soft drinks, prepared foods and many other products.

Adding milk to the syrup does a few things: the casein from milk helps make the caramel chewy, and the whey proteins brown easily, helping provide that characteristic flavor. Butterfat also helps provide both the proper texture and familiar flavor of caramels. Other flavor agents, such as vanilla, can also be added.

Making caramels, or any sort of candy, really, is both an art and a science. That should give you something to chew on the next time you enjoy caramel candies.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Mary Kay Pohlschneider, lecturer in the Department of Food Science and Technology in Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Chow Line: Trim costs while buying more produce

chow_010915_488801301Two of my New Year’s resolutions are to eat more fruits and vegetables and to spend less at the grocery store. Other than watching for sales on produce, what are some ideas to help? 

Those are two great resolutions. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get two to three cups of vegetables and 1.5 to two cups of fruit a day. Keep in mind that it’s important to get a wide variety. Apples and green beans are fine, but you’ll want to spread your wings a bit and eat other types of produce to get the benefits you’re looking for from fruits and vegetables.

And you don’t have to assume that eating more healthfully will be more expensive. A 2012 study by the Economic Research Service, “Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive?” found that healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, are often less expensive per serving than foods that are higher in saturated fat, added sugar or sodium or that contribute little to meeting the dietary recommendations. So, if you’re smart about buying fruits and vegetables and at the same time buy fewer less-healthy foods, your grocery bill could easily go down.

Here are some ideas to help you achieve your goals:

  • For fresh fruits and vegetables, become familiar with what’s in season. You’re more likely to find good prices on in-season produce, but you first need to know what to look for. For an extensive list, visit the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website at fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org and click on “What’s in season?”
  • Don’t forget the canned and frozen sections of the grocery store. As long as you have the pantry and freezer space, here’s where sales can really help trim costs. Store brands are normally the most economical, but sometimes price reductions on name brands will surprise you, especially if you have a coupon. For health, look for low-sodium canned goods and frozen produce without added sugar or sauces.
  • If you have options on where to shop, check them out. Many people head to the nearest grocery store out of convenience, but better deals could be just down the road. Just be cautious about impulse purchases: Shopping at additional stores provides more opportunities to spend money you didn’t plan on. And don’t be tempted to drive so far that the cost of gas undermines your grocery savings.
  • Be sure to eat what you have on hand before it goes bad. According to a 2014 Economic Research Service report, American consumers throw away 90 billion pounds of food per year, including 9.5 billion pounds of fresh fruit and 12.8 billion pounds of fresh vegetables. That’s not only wasted food, but money down the drain. To reduce waste, plan meals and snacks, and purchase only what your family can eat while it’s fresh. And keep fresh produce as visible as possible — in a bowl on the kitchen counter (if it doesn’t have to be kept cool) or at the front of the refrigerator.

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 Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, newly redesigned, please click here.

’Tis the season to stay healthy

451431143One of my friends is inspiring me to stay healthy over the holidays. She is making extra efforts to drink a lot of water and to walk more between now and New Year’s. What are some other healthy holiday ideas?

What a great way to celebrate the holidays — giving the gift of healthy living to yourself.

One of the keys to making it work is attitude. Don’t act like Scrooge when you decide not to have that second Christmas cookie. Instead, smile as you realize that you can enjoy the holidays without eating and drinking so much that you become bloated.

Your friend’s tactics are motivating in part because they’re simple. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose MyPlate offers other healthy holiday ideas that don’t require a massive effort, including:

  • When planning appetizers and snacks, choose crackers that are whole grain. Offer hummus, which is high in protein and a good source of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Serve whole-grain bread rolls instead of those made with white flour.
  • Water is always a great choice to quench your thirst, and you can dress it up for holiday parties. Get some carbonated water and serve with slices of lemon or lime, or flavor with a splash of fruit juice. Enjoy a cup or two before you fill the wine glass.
  • Consider fruit for dessert. Instead of pie, try baked apples with cinnamon and just a sprinkle of sugar, or serve fresh berries with a dollop of vanilla yogurt and a spoonful of granola on top.
  • For holiday cookies and other baked goods, try using apple sauce or pureed bananas in place of butter or margarine to reduce fat and calories. Just use a one-to-one replacement.
  • If you have a recipe that calls for heavy cream, try evaporated skim milk instead. It won’t be as rich, and it doesn’t whip or thicken like cream does, but it can be a great substitute in many recipes.
  • Prepare two (or more?) vegetables for holiday dinners, and be sure to fill half your plate with them.
  • When serving meats, trim away fat before cooking, or be sure to do so on your plate before eating. And go easy on the gravy and sauces: A little goes a long way.

You might not think all of these ideas will fit with your holiday plans. But choose a few. And remember, even if you include healthier ingredients in your cookies, it is best to load up on fruits and vegetables and limit desserts. Small steps can have a big impact and help set you in the right direction for the new year.

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 week’s column will be the last for 2014. Look for Chow Line again on Jan. 9.

This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

When it comes to food, play it safe

147010343Over the weekend, we did some holiday shopping and stopped at the grocery store. We were out for longer than I anticipated, and we left food in the car for about three hours before we got home. Is that food OK to eat? It was chilly, but I’m not sure how cold it was outside.  

It’s good that you’re asking. Too many people don’t take foodborne illness seriously. It’s hard to say why.

It could be because an illness doesn’t always occur when you don’t follow food safety guidelines. Let’s face it: If you became ill every single time after eating meat that’s not been cooked to the proper temperature, you would learn your lesson pretty quickly. If it rarely happens, you may never even associate your illness with those rare hamburgers you ate.

Another reason could be due to the fact that common symptoms of foodborne illness — nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea — mimic those of the flu or some other bug. There are more than 250 different types of foodborne illness out there. People may naively believe they have never experienced any of them, when, in fact, they have.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year, roughly 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, get sick from foodborne illness. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Foodborne illness is a serious problem. Fortunately, it’s often preventable by taking a few precautions.

Those precautions include time and temperature control: Don’t let perishable food remain in the “danger zone” of 40 degrees to 140 degrees F for longer than two hours. That’s the temperature at which any foodborne pathogens that may be in the food can multiply rapidly and grow enough to cause illness.

In your case, the food you bought and kept in your car might have been kept cold enough for those three hours. But it might not have. You’d be hard-pressed to find a food-safety expert who would advise you to take a chance and eat that food — or worse, serve it to your holiday guests. Sadly, “when in doubt, throw it out” would apply here. The smart thing to do is to discard the questionable food and head back to the grocery store.

Foodsafety.gov, a federal website with valuable food safety information, offers more holiday food shopping guidance at bit.ly/holifoodshop. Check it out, and stay safe for the holidays.

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: Next week’s column will be the last for 2014. Look for a fresh look for Chow Line beginning Jan. 9.

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

Start early to teach healthy eating

459647761As the parent of a preschooler, I wonder how much I should focus on the importance of eating healthy foods. I don’t want to go overboard, but isn’t it important to establish this concept early in life?  

Helping children establish a healthy, balanced diet — one that will last a lifetime — does indeed require a balanced approach. When it comes to eating, you don’t want to be too restrictive or, on the other end of the spectrum, too indulgent with your child. At the same time, it is beneficial to establish some basic rules and expectations with your child — and the sooner, the better.

A recent study indicates that doing so with children as young as 2 years old can lead to benefits down the road.

The study, reported at a conference in Boston in November, was conducted by pediatrics researchers at the University of Buffalo. Using data on nearly 9,000 children, the scientists looked at the ability of 2-year-old children to display self-control — that is, their parents reported fewer instances of irritability, fussiness and whimpering and a stronger ability to wait for something — as well as whether their parents set any rules regarding what the children ate. Then the researchers looked at data two years later regarding the now-4-year-old children’s consumption of soft drinks, fruit juice, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fast food, salty snacks and sweets.

The researchers found that children who displayed the ability to self-regulate their behaviors at 2 years old ate more healthfully at 4 years old as long as their parents had also established rules around healthy eating. When parents didn’t set boundaries about which types of food their children could or could not eat, the researchers found little difference in the children’s diets.

Other things you can do that will help lead your child to adopt a healthy diet are to make sure healthy foods are readily available at home, and to be a role model by eating a healthy diet yourself. Along with setting rules and expectations about eating the right foods, these are the three key parenting practices that help kids establish healthy diets.

For more ideas on helping children up to 5 years old eat a healthy diet, Ohio State University Extension offers a 26-page ebook, “Smart Eating for Young Children.” It’s available to download as a PDF for $4.99 atgo.osu.edu/smarteat.

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 Carolyn Gunther, Community Nutrition Education specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

It’s not the turkey that makes you tired

56295406Every year at Thanksgiving, my cousin claims that turkey makes you sleepy. But I thought that myth had been debunked years ago. What’s the story?

Well, don’t be too hard on your cousin. The notion that eating turkey will make you sleepy has been around for a long time. And if you look at your family members after Thanksgiving dinner, it’s likely you will see evidence that it’s true. But it’s not.

The myth started because turkey contains tryptophan. With the help of iron, riboflavin and vitamin B6, the body can convert tryptophan into niacin, also known as vitamin B3. But more to the point, the body can also use tryptophan to make serotonin, a brain chemical that helps make melatonin, a hormone that can control your sleep/wake cycles. Since turkey provides tryptophan, which makes serotonin, which makes melatonin — it makes some sense to blame the turkey when you feel sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner.

The thing is, turkey doesn’t contain a large amount of tryptophan. Pork and cheddar cheese contain even more, and no one complains that they put you to sleep. Other foods that contain tryptophan include eggs, fish, milk, nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, soy and tofu.

Also, when you eat turkey or any other protein-rich food, tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids to get to the brain. For a person to become drowsy from tryptophan, it needs to be taken in higher doses and on an empty stomach.

Still, it’s likely that after dinner on Turkey Day, you may see some family members nodding off in front of the television. If it’s not the tryptophan, what’s going on?

Most scientists believe that the drowsiness is caused by the heavy portions of carbohydrates in the typical Thanksgiving meal: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce — and pumpkin pie to top it off. Those food items alone provide more carbohydrates — and calories — than most people eat in an average day. That kind of over-indulgence diverts the body’s blood supply to the digestive system and away from the brain and other parts of the body, and that’s what makes you feel sleepy.

If you need further proof for your cousin to believe you, check out a two-minute animated video produced last year by the National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society. It explains the myth and why scientists don’t believe it.

http://news.science360.gov/archives/20131127

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.

Is your turkey thawing yet?

76766178We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I’ve been worried about having enough space in the refrigerator to thaw the turkey. My husband suggested thawing it in our attached garage. Good idea or bad idea?

Bad idea. Take the time to clean out the refrigerator.

Even if you shiver when you step into the garage, you simply don’t have complete control over the temperature in that space. And temperature control is what it’s all about when it comes to thawing the turkey safely. You need to keep the bird below 40 degrees, and you can’t guarantee that outside of a refrigerator.

Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator is the simplest method. All you do is take the turkey, still completely wrapped, and put it in a big pan to catch any juices that might leak out during the thawing process.And, just in case, place the turkey on the bottom shelf so any stray juices don’t drip onto other foods.

Keep the bird refrigerated long enough to thaw. U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines are:

  • One to three days for 4- to 12-pound turkeys.
  • Three to four days for 12- to 16-pound turkeys.
  • Four to five days for 16- to 20-pound turkeys.
  • Five to six days for 20- to 24-pound turkeys.

Luckily, a thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for an additional one to two days before you put it in the oven, so place it in the refrigerator earlier rather than later to be sure it’s completely thawed.

Another way to safely thaw a turkey is to place it in cold water. But this method is more complex than it sounds: You have to be sure the turkey is completely submerged, and you have to replace the cold water every 30 minutes to be sure the water stays below 70 degrees F. It can take up to 12 hours to thaw a turkey using the cold water method, depending on the size of the turkey. That’s a long time to fill and drain (and fill and drain) a container with cold water.

You might think that thawing a turkey properly isn’t as important as cooking it thoroughly: After all, thorough cooking kills bacteria, right?

That’s true, but there’s a major flaw in that argument: Some foodborne pathogens produce toxins that remain in the food even after bacteria are destroyed. You simply don’t want to take the chance.

For more information on keeping your Thanksgiving dinner a safe one, check out Turkey Tips from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service at www.fsis.usda.gov.

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 Linnette Goard, field specialist in Food Safety, Selection and Management for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Dairy dilemmas fueled by headlines

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I’ve seen friends post information on social media saying dairy foods are bad for you. Is this hype or for real?

Despite some negative press, dairy products still get a thumbs-up from the nutrition community, particularly low-fat and fat-free varieties.

But that didn’t stop recent headlines from warning things such as “Drinking too much milk could kill you.” This particular round of news stories were based on a Swedish study and have added fuel to dairy denunciations from groups as disparate as plant-food-loving vegan diet advocates to meat-loving Paleo diet proponents.

In the study, researchers looked at dietary questionnaires completed by 61,000 Swedish women in the late 1980s and in 1997, and 45,000 Swedish men in 1997, and investigated health outcomes in 2010. They found that higher reports of milk consumption were not associated with lower risk of bone fractures and were associated with higher rates of death — hence the headlines that resulted.

But even the study’s authors said their results should be interpreted cautiously and shouldn’t be used for dietary recommendations. Critics went further, pointing out that the study didn’t differentiate between full-fat and low- or nonfat milk, and actually found that consumption of cheese, yogurt and other fermented dairy products was associated with a reduced risk of bone fractures. And there’s always concern about long-term studies that draw conclusions from dietary information taken at a single point in time.

That said, milk consumption is problematic for people who are lactose-intolerant. People with this condition have trouble digesting the type of sugar in milk and suffer bloating, cramps, diarrhea or nausea after drinking milk. It’s estimated that 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant to some extent, with very high rates among certain populations, including Asians, African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.

Despite the concerns, the majority of the nutrition community defends dairy as being an important part of an overall healthful diet. There’s just too much scientific evidence that supports the link between consumption of dairy products and bone health, and there are additional compelling indications that dairy has other health benefits, as well. Besides being high in calcium, dairy offers many nutrients, including vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin A, selenium, magnesium and zinc.

So, experts say, if the choice is between soda or another sugary drink and milk — take the milk.

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 Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.