No April Fools’ on Easter Food Safety

I’m making ham for Easter dinner this year, and I’m relatively new to this whole cooking thing. Any tips on how I can do this safely?

 

Easter falls on April Fools’ Day this year. If you want to make sure you don’t prank your guests with a stomachache, there are some food safety rules you can follow to ensure a safe, delicious meal.

Because ham is one of the traditional meats served at Easter, let’s start there.

Ham, which is the leg of pork, can be fresh, cured, or cured-and-smoked. Fresh ham bears the label “fresh,” which is an indication that the product is not cured, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Curing is the process of add

ing salt, sodium or potassium nitrate, nitrites, and sometimes sugar, seasonings, phosphates, and cure accelerators to pork for preservation, color development, and flavor enhancement.

It is important to know whether your ham is ready-to-eat or requires cooking. You can find this information clearly labeled on the package. While many hams purchased from the grocery store are cured and sold as fully cooked, make sure you check whether the ham you’ve chosen is fully cooked, or fresh and raw.

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Fo

odSafety.gov, some hams have the appearance of ready-to-eat products, but they might, in fact, require cooking before eating. Those hams should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F and held before slicing or eating for a three-minute rest period.

Hams from federally inspected plants that are cooked can be eaten cold or can be warmed to an internal temperature of 140 F or more, according to FoodSafety.gov.

If you also plan to have Easter eggs at your celebration, keep the eggs r

 

efrigerated and discard any with cracks or that are visibly dirty. Salmonella can be found on both the outsides and insides of eggs. One way to reduce your risk of Salmonella exposure is to purchase in-shell, pasteurized eggs.

Hard-boil the eggs thoroughly until both the yolks and whites are firm. You can do that by placing the eggs in a saucepan covered with at least 1 inch of water. When the water is at a full boil, remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs sit in the water for 12–18 minutes, depending on the sizes of the eggs, advises Stop Foodborne

Illness, a Chicago-based nonprofit public health organization. Then, run cold water over the eggs and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to decorate them.

Here are some other safety tips concerning eggs:

  • Use food coloring or food-grade dyes to color eggs if you plan to eat them.
  • Boiled eggs can be safely kept out of the refrigerator for a maximum of two hours before they become hazardous to eat. If you’re hosting an egg hunt, that two-hour window includes the time it takes to both hide and find the eggs.
  • Boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for one week. After that, they are unsafe to eat.

Lastly, do not eat hard-boiled eggs used for an egg hunt or as decorations if they have been at a temperature above 40 degrees for more than two hours.

 

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Binge Drinking — How Much Is Too Much?

My friends and I go to happy hour after work sometimes for a drink. But one of my friends doesn’t stop at one or two drinks, instead sometimes having three or four drinks. Is that considered binge drinking?

Various cocktails at the bar.

That depends on if your friend is a man or a woman. (Either way, they shouldn’t drive afterward.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in about two hours. A binge drinker is someone who experiences at least one binge-drinking episode during a 30-day period.

A standard alcoholic drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, which is typically about 5 percent alcohol; 5 ounces of wine, which is typically 12 percent alcohol; or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, which is typically 40 percent alcohol, or 80 proof, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A new study released this week by the CDC shows that, in 2015, U.S. adults consumed more than 17 billion binge drinks, or more than 470 binge drinks per binge drinker. It also found that 1 in 6, or 37 million, adults binge drink about once a week, consuming an average of seven drinks per binge. The study appears in the April 2018 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

However, women of legal drinking age should have no more than one drink per day, while men of legal drinking age should consume no more than two drinks per day, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Why the different recommendations for men and women?

There are several reasons. One is that your body depends on substances known as enzymes to process and remove (metabolize) alcohol Women in general produce less of these substances. As a result, they take more unmetabolized alcohol straight into the blood, which can quickly build up and produce effects.

In addition, compared to men, women are generally smaller, have more body fat, and have less total body water. The alcohol they consume therefore doesn’t get diluted and becomes more concentrated in the blood.

Excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking can lead to long-term health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and liver failure. In fact, the CDC states that binge drinking is responsible for more than half the 88,000 alcohol-attributable deaths and three-quarters of the $249 billion in economic costs associated with excessive drinking in the United States annually.

Binge drinkers in Ohio average some 592 alcoholic drinks annually, according to the CDC study. That is more than the national average of 470 drinks per year per binge drinker. The study also found that about one-fifth of Ohioans are binge drinkers, averaging some 51.4 binge drinking episodes per year.

So what can be done to reduce binge drinking?

The study recommends that alcohol screening and intervention by health care providers become a routine part of clinical care. It also recommends the widespread use of community prevention strategies such as limiting the number of places that serve or sell alcohol in a geographic area as well as limiting the days and hours for alcohol sales.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension.

Why Is Corned Beef Pink?

Since corned beef is pink, how do you know if it’s fully cooked? And why is it pink anyway?

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Carrots and Potatoes.

Corned beef is a brined, tougher cut of meat that can be either the brisket, rump or round that many Americans traditionally like to eat on St. Patrick’s Day along with cabbage.

Corned beef got its name from the corning or curing process that was historically used to preserve meat before modern refrigeration . The beef cuts were dry-cured in coarse pellets of salt that were typically the size of a kernel of corn. The pellets were rubbed into the meat to keep it from spoiling. Hence the name “corned” beef.

Today’s corned beef is now brined or cured using a salt water or sodium nitrite mixture, which fixes the pigment in the meat and causes it to be pink in color.

That’s why corned beef remains pink after cooking, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. While many people think the color pink means that beef is not fully cooked, it’s important to note that this is not the case with corned beef.

However, because corned beef is a tougher cut of meat, it does take longer to fully cook. Corned beef is safe to eat once its internal temperature has reached at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and has stood for about 20 minutes after removing it from heat, USDA recommends.

If you purchase corned beef, it can be safely stored in a refrigerator for up to 7 days past its sell-by date. If your package has a use-by date, the meat can be stored unopened in the refrigerator until that date, USDA recommends.

Corned beef can be safely cooked several ways, USDA says, including:

  • In the oven set at 350 degrees, with the brisket fat-side up. The meat should be slightly covered with about 1 inch of water, with the container covered throughout the cooking time. Allow about 1 hour per pound.
  • On the stove with the brisket fat-side up in a large pot covered with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, allowing about 1 hour per pound. Vegetables may be added during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking.
  • In a slow cooker. If you plan to use vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, put them in the bottom of the slow cooker and then place the brisket on top of the vegetables. Add about enough water to cover the meat and cook on the high setting for the first hour of cooking. Then cook for 10 to 12 hours on the low setting or 5 to 6 hours on high. Cabbage wedges may be added on top of the brisket during the last 3 hours of cooking.
  • In a microwave oven, allowing 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time per pound. Place brisket in a large casserole dish and add enough water to cover the meat. Cover with a lid or vented plastic wrap and microwave on medium-low for half the estimated time. Turn the meat over and rotate the dish. Microwave on high for the remainder of time or until fork tender. Vegetables may be added during the final 30 minutes of cooking.

Leftover corned beef should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and can be eaten safely for up to 4 days. Frozen leftover corned beef can safely be eaten for up to 3 months, USDA says. To reheat leftover corned beef, the meat should be brought up to 165 degrees before eating.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, Field Specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

Wash Your Hands When Using Your Smartphone or Tablet While Cooking

I often watch video recipes on my smartphone while cooking. I always wash my hands before I start cooking, but it’s never occurred to me to wash them again each time I touch my phone. Can that make me sick?

The average smartphone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat.

YES!

I don’t want to totally gross you out, but the average smartphone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat.

In fact, the average person touches their smartphone 2,617 times a day, according to a study by dscout, a Chicago-based research firm. Because people often take their phones with them everywhere, including into the potty, various microbes are transferred when the phones are touched. Some of those microbes can survive for up to 16 months, according to research published in 2006 in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Research has also shown that smartphones and tablets can harbor bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, and even Escherichia coli or E. coli. Staphylococcus aureus is particularly harmful considering it is a bacterium that is growing increasingly impervious to antibiotics and has emerged as a top killer of hospitalized patients, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School.

So, if you are using your phone or tablet to watch cooking demonstrations or look up recipes while cooking, you really should wash your hands each time you touch your device.

“Consumers play an important role in the safety of the food they eat and are the last line of defense for preventing foodborne disease, because safe, in-home preparation and consumption practices can reduce the risk of illness,” according to a food safety study in the Journal of Food Protection.

However, the study found that 40 percent of people say they don’t wash their hands after using a device, like a smartphone or tablet, while cooking.

Another study, co-authored by Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), found that most consumers don’t pay much attention to clean hands between handling exposed foods and touching unsanitary electronic devices, body parts or hair, and surfaces.

That can lead to foodborne illnesses, including norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, and is the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. It’s estimated that the average person will get norovirus five times during his or her lifetime, according to a report in Food Safety News.

To avoid foodborne illness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that you wash your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds:

  • before and after handling food
  • after using the bathroom
  • after changing a diaper
  • after handling pets
  • after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
  • after handling raw eggs, meat, poultry, or fish

And remember to wash your hands each time you touch your smartphone or tablet while cooking!

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension

How to Get Kids to Adopt Healthier Eating Habits

I saw a recent report that says that childhood obesity is still on the rise, and that has me really worried. What can I do to help my child eat healthier?

Teaching kids to cook and eat healthy.

You are right. According to a new report released this week, the number of children in the United States between the ages of 2 to 19 who are obese reached 18.5 percent in 2015 and 2016. That’s an increase from 14 percent in 1999, according to the study that appears in the February issue of the Pediatrics journal.

Researchers studied data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination survey to come up with their findings. They also found that the percentage of children ages 2 to 5 who are obese hit nearly 14 percent during the same time period. That’s an increase from 9 percent in 1999.

So what can you do if you are a parent or caregiver of a child and want to get them to eat healthier?

You can first make sure that you serve them balanced meals and snacks that offer a variety of nutrient-rich foods, advises the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You can also eat meals together as a family, which helps to improve nutrition and promote healthy weight for children, the organization says.

Other tips the academy offers include:

  • Avoid pressuring or forcing children to eat, and allow them to signal when they are full.
  • Offer a healthy variety of foods from different cultures.
  • Cook more meals at home.
  • Take children to the grocery story when you shop for food and teach them information on food groups including grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and proteins.
  • Have children plant a garden with you and learn about how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Let kids help in the kitchen during meal preparation.
  • Have healthy snacks easily available to children, including kid-sized cut up fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid watching television while eating.
  • Older children can be taught to read and use the Nutrition Facts labels on food to understand what they are eating.
  • Model what you want your children to eat. If you eat healthier foods, they can learn to develop healthy eating habits as well.
  • Encourage children to drink more water and milk.

Additionally, you should limit sugar in your child’s diet. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that children ages 2 to 18 eat fewer than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That amount is equivalent to about 100 calories or 25 grams. It’s important to note that added sugars are any sugars — including table sugar, fructose and honey — either used in processing and preparing foods or beverages, added to foods at the table, or eaten separately.

The American Heart Association also estimates that calories needed by children range from 1,000 a day for a sedentary 2-year-old to 2,400 for an active 14- to 18-year-old girl and 3,200 for an active 16- to 18-year-old boy.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, state specialist in Community Nutrition for Ohio State University Extension.