Safety first at u-pick farms

492022639I’m taking my children to pick-your-own farms for the first time this summer. Any tips?

First — have fun! Of course, that’s the whole point, with the added benefit of getting the freshest produce possible.

But you also need to keep in mind some food safety considerations. Although consuming fruits and vegetables is associated with all sorts of health benefits, it’s also possible to be exposed to bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause foodborne illness.

The most important thing to remember is for you and your children to wash your hands, and do it often and properly. Here are some guidelines:

  • Wash hands before picking fruit, after going to the bathroom, after eating, and after any hand-to-face contact, such as after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • When washing your hands, first wet your hands, then lather up with soap and wash for 20 seconds. That’s a lot longer than you might think. A common piece of advice is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while rubbing your hands together, especially around your fingernails and knuckles. Scrub well.
  • Rinse thoroughly, and dry your hands and wrists with a fresh paper towel.

If there’s no water available, use hand wipes to remove any surface dirt, and follow up with a hand sanitizer.

Some other considerations include:

  • Don’t pick fruit that has fallen on the ground.
  • Use clean containers. Some operations provide containers; others ask that you bring your own.
  • Leave Fido at home. Dogs and other pets can’t be expected to be sanitary in the great outdoors.
  • Bring a cooler with ice or cold packs with you so you can start chilling the fruit quickly. After being picked, berries and other perishable foods shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours — one hour if it’s hotter than 90 degrees (like it can get in a hot car).
  • At home, rinse the fruit thoroughly under running water — use the spray for fragile produce, like berries — before storing in the refrigerator. Use a colander for smaller pieces.

For more information, Ohio State University Extension offers two fact sheets free online: Food Safety in Berry Patch, at go.osu.edu/fdsfberry, and Safe Handling of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, atgo.osu.edu/fdsffrtveg.

Other tips for visiting pick-your-own operations are available at pickyourown.org/pickingtips.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.

Find what terms on meat labels mean

452468129I’m seeing more local meat at the farmers market. Do words like  “no hormones,” “grass-fed” and “organic” all mean pretty much the same thing?

Not really. Each term has a specific meaning, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates their use.

One piece of background: Rules about the labeling of different foods are complex. For one thing, the USDA is in charge of only meat, poultry and processed egg products. Other foods are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That might seem straightforward, but it can quickly get complicated.

For example, FDA regulates eggs in the shell, but USDA regulates processed egg products. FDA regulates fruits and vegetables, but USDA runs the National Organic Program that regulates organic crops, including organic fruits and vegetables.

All this is important because if you look on the FDA’s website for organic information, for example, you’ll find that the agency has no regulations regarding the use of the term “organic” on food labels. But if you turn to the USDA, you’ll learn exactly what that term means.

Searching the USDA website (usda.gov), you’ll find the following definitions for claims used on meat and poultry:

  • “No hormones administered” may be used on a beef label if the producer can supply documentation showing that no hormones were used in raising the animals. Since hormones cannot be used in raising any swine or poultry, a label on pork and poultry saying “no hormones” must also say “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones,” just to make it clear that no pork or poultry at all is raised with hormones.
  • “Grass-fed” means that grass and forage are the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the animal, with the exception of milk consumed before the animal is weaned. Grass-fed cattle aren’t necessarily organically raised, and organic beef isn’t necessarily grass-fed.
  • “Organic” livestock must meet animal health and welfare standards, must not be raised with antibiotics or growth hormones, must be given 100 percent organic feed, and must have received access to the outdoors.

To learn more about terms used on meat and poultry products, a good first step would be to “Ask FSIS,” a service that provides answers to questions about inspection, labeling, importing and more. Just go toaskfsis.custhelp.com. If the answer to your question is not already in the system, you can submit it as a new question and a staff officer will answer.

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.

 

Diabetes can cause serious issues

185831476My father has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I’m surprised to learn about all of the complications that can result. What’s the best way we can help him reduce his risk?

You’re right. Diabetes — really, the high blood sugar that results — can cause all sorts of complications.

When glucose stays in your bloodstream instead of entering cells, that means it can’t be used by cells for energy, causing you to feel tired or lethargic. All that sugar running through your bloodstream also damages blood vessels. That includes small blood vessels such as those in the eyes, which can cause blindness, and in the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure. It also includes large blood vessels, leading to heart attack and stroke. High blood sugar can also cause nerve damage, particularly in the feet, which can lead to amputation.

Given all that, keeping blood sugar under control should be the top priority for anyone with diabetes.

Recently, researchers offered one bit of good news. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the incidence of five major diabetes complications declined between 1990 and 2010. Heart attacks and other cardiac problems declined by 60 percent; stroke and amputations declined by about half; and end-stage kidney failure dropped by about 30 percent.

Still, the researchers warned that the incidence of all of these complications remains high. And with so many more Americans contracting diabetes — nearly 26 million today compared with 6.5 million in 1990 — many more people are experiencing serious diabetes-related issues despite the impressive declines in percentages reported in the study.

To help your father stay on top of his diabetes, be sure he has an A1C blood test at least twice a year. The A1C test measures overall blood glucose levels from the past two to three months, and it should be below 7.0. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels should also be monitored and kept at healthy levels. Encourage him to keep his appointments and follow medical advice.

What else? Help him focus on eating a healthful diet, centered on fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meat, dry peas or beans, whole grains and low- or nonfat dairy, combined with 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity nearly every day.

See more practical guidance from the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org. Also, Ohio State University Extension offers diabetes-related healthy cooking schools in many communities. Seefcs.osu.edu/nutrition/dining-diabetes/ for details.

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.