Summer a Good Time for Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, Other In-Season Produce

I know that summer is a great time to get fresh sweet corn and juicy watermelons, but what else is in season now?

Photo: Getty Images

Summer heat and long days make it a good time to indulge in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables like berries, melons, sweet corn and tomatoes, among a wide range of plentiful produce. Not only are these items extremely fresh and flavorful because they’re in season, they’re also widely discounted because of the abundance of supply based on the time of year.

As mentioned in a previous “Chow Line,” improved technology and agricultural innovations mean that consumers can access fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.

But because fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during a certain season, produce typically is fresher and tastes best when ripe. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are also typically cheaper to buy because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

In fact, the top advertised items on sale in local grocery stores this week were fruits and vegetables, accounting for some 99 percent of sale ads, according to the July 20 edition of the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Blueberries, cantaloupes, cherries, grapes, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, plums, strawberries and watermelons were the top 10 fruit items advertised in grocery store sale ads for the week, according to the report. The top 10 veggies on sale in grocery ads for the week included sweet corn, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, potatoes, salad, squash and tomatoes.

Summer is also a good time for agritourism, where farmers and producers open their farms to the public for consumers to hand-choose their own produce. Also known as U-Pick farms, these operations not only provide consumers with fresh, locally grown produce but also teach them about the farming industry.

Experts with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University offer a variety of educational programming for producers who want to incorporate agritourism on their farms. CFAES also offers tips for consumers when visiting agritourism operations.

There are several varieties of fruits and vegetables in season now in Ohio.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce (among others) is in season in Ohio during the summer, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau:

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Lima beans
  • Snap beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Collards
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Currants
  • Dill
  • Eggplant
  • Endive and escarole
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Parsley
  • Peaches
  • Sweet peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Black raspberries
  • Red raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnip greens

So, now’s the time to enjoy fresh summer produce and, if you are able, to get out there and enjoy learning more about agriculture as you pick some fresh produce yourself.

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 Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension

Yes, Nonperishable Foods can Become Contaminated With Pathogens That cause Foodborne Illnesses

I never knew that nonperishable foods like breakfast cereal can become contaminated with salmonella – how is that possible?

Photo: Getty Images.

While many people are aware that fresh produce and raw meat can become contaminated with pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses, fewer people think about nonperishable foods like breakfast cereal becoming contaminated with the same kind of pathogens.

Such is the case in the recent outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka that has been traced back to a popular sweetened puffed wheat breakfast cereal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning last week advising consumers “do not eat any Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal because it has been linked to a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections.”

As of July 12, the CDC said that some 100 consumers in 33 states, including Ohio, have been sickened from eating the cereal. Of those, 30 people have required hospitalization.

Although the CDC warning first advised consumers to throw out Honey Smacks cereal with a specific “use-by” date, the warning was later updated to include any and all packages of the cereal, regardless of the date label.

According to the CDC, there are some 2,000 different strains of salmonella, some of which are “relatively resistant to (the dehydration process) and can survive for long periods of time in dry environments such as cereal.”

The origin of the Honey Smacks salmonella outbreak has been traced back to the contract manufacturing facility that produces the cereal, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Pathogens such as salmonella often initially contaminate foods through contact with fecal matter, said Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

So, for example, if a food is made from grain or produce that has come into contact with animal feces in the field or in the soil in which it is grown, or if the grain comes into contact with water that contains the pathogen, salmonella can be transferred from the feces onto the grain, she said.

Salmonella can also spread at the food manufacturing plant if a contaminated ingredient comes into contact with equipment that then touches other foods.

“Preventing cross-contamination in production environments for low-moisture foods is a real challenge,” Snyder said. “The application of effective cleaning and sanitation strategies is an area the food industry continues to address.”

Other types of nonperishable foods that have been implicated in salmonella outbreaks include dried milk, infant cereal and other dry cereals, according to the CDC.

So if you still have Honey Smacks in your pantry, the CDC says you should throw it out, even if you’ve already eaten some and haven’t gotten sick. The agency also advises that consumers who’ve stored the affected cereal in a container outside the original packaging should wash the container with warm, soapy water before using it again.

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 edited by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Chow Line: BBQ Safely: Be Careful when Using Steel Grill Brushes

I clean my grill each time after I cook on it, using a steel wire grill brush to keep the grease and grime from building up on the grill racks. I’ve used the same brush for a couple of years now because I love how it cleans, but I’m wondering if I should get a new one this year.

Photo: Thinkstock

That depends on just how old your grill brush is and what condition it’s in. If your grill brush is worn down, warped or has some missing bristles, you may want to consider throwing it out.

This is because you’ll want to be careful that you don’t inadvertently leave behind any wire bristles from the grill-cleaning brush that could end up in the meat or vegetables that you are grilling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been several reported cases of internal injuries following unintentional ingestions of wire grill-cleaning brush bristles by both children and adults. The severities of the injuries have ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract requiring emergency surgery, CDC said.

In fact, an estimated 1,698 consumers have gone to emergency rooms between 2002 and 2014 after having ingested wire bristles in grilled foods, according to a 2016 study in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

The study authors said that while wire-bristle grill brush injuries aren’t common, they do tend to increase during the grilling season, which makes sense, of course. The months with the highest number of reported injuries are June, July and August, they said.

More detailed information on wire grill brush injuries can be found at saferproducts.gov, which allows consumers to list information on what their injuries were and how they occurred.

Consumer Reports last week offered these tips to help consumers avoid accidental ingestion of wire bristles when barbecuing:

  • Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking.
  • If you use a wire-bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking for the presence of bristles that might have dislodged from the grill brush and could embed in cooked food.
  • Depending on the type of grill you have, you may be able to clean it using a pumice stone or a coil-shaped bristle-free bush.
  • You may try using crumpled-up aluminum foil to brush loose food particles off a warm — but not hot! — grill rack or grate.

Another important grilling safety tip to remember is to always use a food thermometer to ensure that your meat is cooked to the correct internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella that may be present, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For meats such as steak and pork, that temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For ground meats, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, the correct temperature is 160 degrees, USDA says. And poultry such as chicken and turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) 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 Candace J. Heer, a Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension.

 

USDA Warns: Wash Your Hands Properly to Prevent Foodborne Illness

My husband gets frustrated with me because I’m always reminding him to wash his hands multiple times when cooking. He says washing before he cooks is enough. Which one of us is right?

Photo: Thinkstock

In this case, you are right.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture just sent out a warning last week urging people to wash their hands throughout the food preparation process, not just at the beginning of cooking.

And when you wash your hands, the USDA is urging people to take their time and wash their hands properly.

This warning comes as a new USDA study in collaboration with North Carolina State University and RTI International, a North Carolina-based nonprofit research institute, found that people are failing to properly wash their hands 97 percent of the time when they are cooking, and instead are rushing through the process.

The study was conducted in six test kitchen facilities. It found that most people failed to wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds, and most did not dry their hands with a clean towel. Many, instead, wiped their hands on their clothes or other objects.

Rushed handwashing can lead to cross-contamination of food and other surfaces, resulting in foodborne illness. For example, the study found that 48 percent of participants spread bacteria from raw meat on their hands onto spice containers; 11 percent spread bacteria to refrigerator handles; and 5 percent of the time, bacteria was spread to salads.

One way to avoid cross-contamination is to always follow handwashing recommendations as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  • Apply soap and lather to your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds — the amount of time it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dry them.

If soap and water are not available, you might alternatively use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol, CDC says. However, it is important to note that while these sanitizers can reduce the number of pathogens on your hands in many situations, they don’t remove all types of pathogens.

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 edited by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Certain Tick Bites Can Cause Food Allergies

Can you really develop an allergy to red meat from a tick bite?

Close up of lone star. Photo: Thinkstock.

That depends.

In certain cases, with a certain tick, in some people and in some states, including Ohio, yes.

According to a recent article about a study on lone star ticks and allergies that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, some people who have been bitten by a lone star tick have gone on to develop an allergy to eating red meat, and in some cases, dairy.

The study, done by researchers with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, found that, in rare cases, some people have developed life-threatening allergic reactions to red meat after being bitten by a lone star tick. The study attributes the allergic reaction to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal), which is a type of sugar that animals make in their bodies. As a result, it’s found in red meats, including beef, pork and lamb, the exception being primates.

According to published reports, humans don’t have alpha-gal, but have an immune response to it. Symptoms of the allergy can include itching, swelling, abdominal cramps, and in some people, anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.

While the association between lone star tick bites and the allergy are clear, more research is needed to understand why these alpha-gal allergies develop in some people and not in others, according to the JAMA report.

The timing of the study is significant, however, considering that the tick season — April through September — is expected to be tough this year, according to Glen Needham, a retired entomologist and tick expert formerly with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

Ohio has several tick pest species, including American dog ticks, blacklegged ticks, and lone star ticks, all of which can pose a threat to humans because of the diseases they can transmit. While Jackson, Scioto and Vinton counties have especially high populations of Lone Star ticks, the species can be found in any Ohio county, he said.

To prevent tick bites when in areas where they may be active, Needham recommends that you should:

  • Wear light-colored clothes including long-sleeve shirts tucked into your pants and long pants tucked into your socks or boots.
  • Apply a tick repellent according to label instructions.
  • Do frequent tick checks of your body while outside and a thorough inspection at shower time.
  • Protect your pets with an anti-tick product recommended by a veterinarian.
  • Keep dogs on a leash and avoid weedy areas.

And if you find a tick attached, do not crush or puncture it. Instead, use your pointy tweezers, tick removal tool or protected thumb and finger to carefully remove the tick by pulling it straight up with steady even pressure.

“Folk methods, such as using oil to smother the tick or using a flame to burn the tick, do not work, may be dangerous and delay removal,” he said. “You should wash your hands and the tick bite site with warm soapy water and keep the specimen in a container of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to take it with you to a healthcare professional if you develop any health-related symptoms or rashes.”

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 Glen Needham, a retired entomologist and tick expert formerly with Ohio State University Extension.