New research shows washing raw poultry dangers

I just can’t stomach the idea of not washing raw chicken before cooking it. The slime on it is really off-putting. Isn’t rinsing out my sink afterward good enough to prevent spreading any germs?

Photo: Getty Images.

No, it’s not.

You shouldn’t wash or rinse raw chicken or any other raw poultry before cooking it, because doing so doesn’t kill any bacterial pathogens such as Campylobacter, salmonella, or other bacteria that might be on the inside and outside of raw chicken.

When you wash or rinse raw chicken, you are likely splashing chicken juices that can spread those pathogens in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some estimates say the splatter can spread out and land on surfaces up to 3 feet away.

In fact, a new report issued last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service showed dangerous levels of contamination between bacteria from raw poultry and other surfaces, and foods being prepared nearby.

The study involved 300 people who prepared a meal of chicken thighs and salad in a test kitchen. Of those who washed the chicken before cooking it, 60% were found to have left a trail of bacteria in the sinks and surrounding areas.

Even after washing out the sinks, 14% of the sinks were still contaminated with bacteria. Even worse, of the salads that were prepared in the test kitchen where participants washed the raw chicken, 26% were contaminated with bacteria from the raw chicken.

That’s a problem because pathogens such as Campylobacter and salmonella can survive on surfaces such as countertops for up to 32 hours, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The only way to kill these potentially dangerous bacteria is to cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Practicing sound, safe food handling is important, considering that 48 million Americans get sick with a foodborne illness every year, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, according to the CDC.

“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” according to a USDA written statement. “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

“Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”

To lessen your chances of developing a foodborne illness, the USDA says to:

  • prepare foods that will be served uncooked, such as vegetables and salads, before handling raw meat or poultry.
  • clean and sanitize thoroughly any surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices. To do this, clean sinks and countertops with hot, soapy water, let them dry, and then apply a sanitizer to them.
  • wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, rinse them under warm running water, and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel after handling raw poultry or any other raw meat.

Lastly, be sure to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, using a food thermometer to measure the temperature. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, roasts, and chops are safe to eat at 145 degrees, while ground meats are safe to eat at 160 degrees, the USDA says.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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, state food safety specialist, OSU Extension.

Healthy, safe lunch options for back to school

School is back in session for my fourth grader, and he’s decided this year that he wants to pack lunch for the first time. Any tips on how to make sure his packed lunch is safe and healthy?

Photo: Getty Images

Considering that nearly 40% of school-aged kids bring their lunches to school on a given day, it’s important to take some simple precautions to ensure that your son has a safe, nutritious meal to eat and enjoy.

When deciding what to pack, it’s a good idea to include lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products in his lunch. If you want to pack your son a sandwich, opt for whole-grain bread and veggies for toppings. If you want to be a little fun and adventurous, use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwich into fun shapes for your child.

As a timesaving measure, you can prepare snack-sized bags of fruits and veggies in advance, store them in the fridge, and let your child choose which ones he wants to put in his lunch that day. In-season whole fruits such as apples, peaches, pears, bananas, and tangerines are also good choices, said Shari Gallup, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

When packing a lunch for your child to take to school, remember that cold foods need to stay cold and hot foods need to stay hot, she said. This will help to avoid the development of harmful bacteria that could cause a foodborne illness. When a food’s temperature reaches between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, also called the “Danger Zone,” bacteria grows rapidly.

To help avoid that from happening and make sure your child’s perishable foods stay cold until lunchtime, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that you pack two cold sources in his lunch.

Frozen water bottles or frozen juice boxes can count as a cold source, as well as a freezer pack that you stick into the lunchbox. Lunches that contain perishable food items such as luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt can be kept cold this way. Be sure to place the cold sources onto the top and the bottom of the perishable food items to keep them cold.

If you plan to pack soup, stew, or chili for your child’s lunch, you will need to use an insulated container. Before adding in the hot item, you can fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty it, and then add the hot food, advises the USDA. Also, tell your child to keep the lid on the container closed until lunchtime to help prevent bacterial contamination and growth.

The USDA also advises the following:

  • If you pack your son’s lunch the night before, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed into the lunchbox.
  • If possible, your child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival at school. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
  • After lunch, make sure your child discards any leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Don’t reuse the packaging, because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
  • Once home, you should clean the insulated lunchbox or bag with hot, soapy water after each use.

Lastly, while it’s best that kids wash their hands before eating their lunch, we all know that there is a possibility that they won’t be able to do so right before lunch. With that in mind, you can pack disposable wipes in your son’s lunch bag or container so that he can at least wipe his hands before and after eating lunch.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University 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 Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu. 

Editor: This column was reviewed by Shari Gallup, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

FDA warns consumers to stop drinking sodium chlorite products

I just saw a social media post warning against drinking Miracle Mineral Solution. What is it, and why shouldn’t I drink it?

Photo: Getty Images

Miracle Mineral Solution is a mixture of distilled water and sodium chlorite. It is sold online as a purported treatment for several diseases and conditions, according to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.

But, instead of helping consumers, the product has sickened numerous people who’ve ingested it, the FDA said

As a result, the federal agency this week warned consumers to stop drinking the product, which is also known by several names including Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide Protocol, and Water Purification Solution, according to the FDA.

“Some distributors are making false—and dangerous—claims that Miracle Mineral Supplement mixed with citric acid is an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial liquid that is a remedy for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, and other conditions,” the FDA said. “But the FDA is not aware of any research showing that these products are safe or effective for treating any illness.”

Although the agency first issued a warning against consuming these products in 2010, the warning was reissued this week after the FDA said it has received reports of consumers who have suffered from severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure after drinking these products.

“Drinking any of these chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration,” the FDA warned. “Some product labels claim that vomiting and diarrhea are common after ingesting the product. They even maintain that such reactions are evidence that the product is working. That claim is false.”

Of particular concern for the FDA is that the more concentrated the product is, the more severe the consumer’s reaction can be.

For example, “product directions instruct people to mix the sodium chlorite solution with a citric acid, such as lemon or lime juice, or another acid before drinking. In many instances, the sodium chlorite is sold with a citric acid ‘activator.’ When the acid is added, the mixture becomes chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleaching agent,” the FDA said.

“Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them,” the FDA warned.

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, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Fall vegetable options plentiful

I love to eat seasonal produce such as strawberries in the spring and sweet corn in the summer, but besides apples, I’m not sure what’s in season now. Can you tell me which fruits and vegetables are seasonal in the fall?

Homemade Organic Green Collard Greens with Pepper and Ginger. Photo: Getty Images.

Your question is very similar to another that was asked in a “Chow Line” column from September 2017, so it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

Fall is a good time to start looking to buy pears, apples, and hard squash, among many other seasonal fruits and vegetables. In fact, those are some of the items that many grocery stores typically start to promote heavily at discounted prices in their grocery aisles, according to the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While improved technology and agricultural innovations mean that consumers can access fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during specific seasons. When ripe, produce is fresher and typically has its best taste. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are also typically cheaper to purchase because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

So how do you know which fruits and vegetables are in season?

To find seasonal foods near you, try using the app and website developed by Grace Communications Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sustainable foods. The app compiles data from the USDA and the Natural Resources Defense Council on over 140 varieties of produce to show users which fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts are in season on a state-by-state basis.

Called the Seasonal Food Guide, the app and website allow users to check which produce is in season in half-month increments in each state. Other sources to check for what’s in season include the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and Ohio Proud, among others.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce (among others) is in season in Ohio in the fall:

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University 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 Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor:This column was originally reviewed by Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Food safety and homemade fruit- or vegetable-infused water

I’m planning to add either fresh strawberry or cucumber slices to a pitcher of water to serve with a lunch I’m hosting. Are there any food safety concerns that I need to be aware of when making fruit- or vegetable-infused water?

Glasses of infused water with fresh strawberries, lime, cucumber and mint leaves, lemon and orange.  Photo: Getty Images.Food safety and homemade fruit- or vegetable-infused water

Infusing water with fruits or vegetables is a wonderful, healthy, and delicious way to add flavor to water without adding sugar. Not only is infused water a simple way to stay hydrated, but it has also become increasingly popular among consumers who are seeking healthy alternatives to sugary drinks.

However, when preparing fruit- or vegetable-infused water, it’s important to keep food safety in mind to prevent the potential of developing a foodborne illness. In fact, you should handle infused water as you would any perishable food, according to Infused Water with Ohio Local Foods, a recent Ohioline fact sheet written by Patrice Powers-Barker, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Because you are adding fresh fruits or vegetables, the infused water is perishable. When serving infused water at a party or on a buffet table, treat it like other perishable foods. Add ice to the water and remember that perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. After two hours at room temperature, the food can enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

“For food safety, store the infused water in the refrigerator,” writes Powers-Barker. “As in any food or beverage preparation, do not forget to wash hands with soap and water before handling the food, as well as wash all produce with clean running water.”

“Use clean containers and sanitize preparation surfaces before starting,” she writes.

Also, cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid using any produce that looks rotten, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Because fruits and vegetables can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria, rinse all produce under clear running water before preparing or eating it. When washing firm produce such as melons and cucumbers, clean it with a produce brush and pat it dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that might be present on the surface, the FDA says.

For example, cantaloupe skin has nooks and crannies that can house dirt particles. Therefore, give cantaloupes a good rinse and scrub them with a clean brush before cutting through them with a knife. Peeling or cutting unwashed produce can transfer dirt or other contaminates from the surface of the produce to the portion of the fruit or vegetable that you plan to eat or add to your water.

It’s important to note, however, that washing the produce will not get rid of all bacteria or viruses. And washing it with soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes is no more effective than washing it with water, the FDA says.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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 Patrice Powers-Barker, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Multiple ways to disinfect drinking water in an emergency

The water supply for my household has been disrupted twice this summer due to historic rainfall levels, leaving us faced with boil alerts due to floodwaters. But since our power was also out because of the storms, we had to buy bottled water instead. Is there any other way to clean the water in a situation like that?

Water boiling in a clear glass pot.

Many people in Ohio and throughout the Midwest have experienced similar situations due to the excessive rainfall that has hit the region recently.

In fact, May 2018 to April 2019 was the wettest year on record nationwide, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. An average of 36.20 inches of precipitation fell nationwide, which was 6.25 inches above the mean, the agency said.

As a result, several communities in Ohio at one point or another this season have had to issue boil-water advisories or boil-water orders, which is a directive given by health authorities to consumers when a community’s drinking water is, or could be, contaminated by pathogens.

These alerts can be issued for multiple reasons, including as the result of storms, flooding, and waterline breaks that cause a disruption in drinking water supplies. And while boiling water is the standard recommendation, there are other methods to disinfect water in an emergency situation, according to Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is Ohio State University Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Boiling water for just a minute is extremely effective at killing bacteria and parasites that can make people sick, writes Karen Mancl, a professor in CFAES’ Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering and a specialist with OSU Extension.

In many circumstances, “the boil water call is for good reason, since consuming contaminated water can make people very sick,” she writes. “When in doubt, drink boiled water.

“Any heat source—electric or gas range, camp stove, wood fire, and even a microwave oven—heats water to boiling temperatures and kills disease-causing microbes.”

But, as in your case, there are other measures that can be used for emergency disinfection of drinking water when the power is out, Mancl said, including:

  • Chlorine bleach, which can be added to water to kill microbes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can add 1/8 teaspoon for every 1 gallon of clear water. It’s important to note that chlorine does not kill microbes on contact, so you must wait at least 30 minutes before drinking the water. After disinfection, the water will have a strong chlorine smell and taste. If the water you are trying to disinfect is cloudy, you can add 1/4 teaspoon for everyone 1 gallon of water. This is because particles in cloudy water help protect and hide microbes from disinfection, increasing the chance they will not be killed by the chlorine and will make you sick. If the water source is cloudy, more chlorine will be needed to disinfect it.
  • Disinfection tablets containing chlorine or iodine are available for campers and travelers to disinfect a small volume of water. Many different companies market disinfection tablets that can be easily added to water bottles. Always follow the directions on the package.
  • Sunlight is an amazing disinfectant and is the key to solar disinfection. Ultraviolet light kills pathogens on contact. To use sunlight to disinfect water, the water must be very clear and placed in the sun in clear containers. Clear plastic water bottles, plastic bags, or specialized commercial solar bags can be used for solar disinfection. The water should be exposed to sunlight for at least four and up to 10 hours to kill microbes.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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 Karen Mancl, OSU Extension.

Advanced meal planning one way to benefit from Community Supported Agriculture

I joined a CSA this spring for the first time, and now I’m getting so many vegetables in my weekly shares that I don’t know what to do with them all. Some of the produce spoils before I get around to using it. How can I better manage this bounty of fresh foods?

Photo: Getty Images.

It’s great that you’ve joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSAs are a wonderful way to access fresh, locally grown produce and other foods.

While every CSA has some slight differences in how it operates, all work by allowing consumers to purchase a share—some call it a subscription—to a farm in return for weekly deliveries of farm-fresh, local produce, goods, and foods. Farmers benefit because they are able to derive income from the shares, which are often used for payment for their supplies, seeds, and labor costs.

Joining a CSA can be exciting, yet challenging. An abundance of weekly, fresh produce might be something new to a household, according to Using a Community Supported Agriculture Share to Plan Family Meals, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is Ohio State University Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Although some might struggle to find ways to use their entire CSA share each week, meal planning can be an effective tool to better family health, according to Patrice Powers-Barker, an OSU Extension educator.

“Some CSA farmers preview the weekly produce shares in a newsletter or on social media, which allows members to think ahead on meal preparation,” she wrote. “Members can anticipate the produce and then create a grocery store list of items to complement the CSA share.”

Here are some other tips Powers-Barker suggests for using the produce in your CSA share:

  • Prepare simple “go-to” meals that can be made quickly, without much planning. Meals such as these can be changed up depending on the produce you receive in your CSA share. Meals such as frittatas and stir-fry are convenient because they can be made using a wide variety of vegetables depending on which produce you receive in your CSA share.
  • Review the types of vegetables in your CSA share, then plan several recipes per vegetable. For example, tomatoes can be used in spaghetti sauce for dinner, salsa for snacking with nachos, BLTs for lunch, and bruschetta for an appetizer.
  • Sometimes seemingly unusual vegetables can appear in your weekly shares. You can substitute those vegetables for your familiar produce in your favorite recipes. For some people, vegetables such as kohlrabi, chard, and fennel might seem intimidating at first, but the more you research, the more you will find that many vegetables can replace or complement other more commonly used vegetables. For example, try adding shaved kohlrabi to slaw recipes, or substitute lettuce with a mix of kale and chard.
  • Review the selection of produce in your share to determine which vegetables need to be used sooner than later. For example, if you get lettuce, spinach, or other delicate greens, they should be used within the first couple days of harvest. But radishes and other root vegetables such as beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips can be stored in the refrigerator crisper one to two weeks if the green tops have been removed.

Hopefully these ideas will help you stick with your CSA. Multiple studies have shown that being part of a CSA can have a positive impact on health. In fact, one study showed that CSA members increased their servings of fruits and vegetables by 2.2 times per week. Another found that joining a CSA contributed to 4.9 more home-cooked meals per month.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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 Patrice Powers-Barker, educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension.

Help for family members dealing with diabetes

My dad was diagnosed with diabetes last year, but it seems he hasn’t really embraced what that means. For example, he hasn’t made any changes to his eating habits at all. How can I help him better understand his diagnosis and make healthier food choices?

Photo: Getty Images

While it might seem that your dad hasn’t accepted his new reality of living with diabetes, it might just be that he doesn’t know where or how to start in terms of making changes to accommodate his new health situation.

Changing and maintaining a new behavior can be difficult, especially when you’ve received a new diagnosis of diabetes that might require you to change several behaviors all at once, according to Communication Strategies to Support a Family Member with Diabetes, a new Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is Ohio State University Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Behavior change experts suggest that people go through six stages of change,” according to the authors of the fact sheet.

“Our personal motivations ‘pull’ us through the stages towards adopting a health behavior such as healthy eating or physical activity,” the authors write. “Being aware of the six stages can help family members find ways to support or encourage the person with diabetes, motivating them to change towards healthier behaviors.”

The six stages of change could be applied to helping a family member living with diabetes in the following ways.

  1. Precontemplation: A person with diabetes has no inclination how to change a behavior related to diabetes management. He or she does not view that there is problem or is unaware of the problem.
  2. Contemplation: A person is aware of a problem with his or her diabetes management and the consequences of not changing or not adopting self-management behaviors, but still is not committed or motivated to change. The person weighs the pros and cons of changing his or her behavior.
  3. Preparation: A person is motivated to change but has not yet started. He or she is making plans, looking into strategies, or setting concrete goals.
  4. Action: A person has started to change and has maintained the behavior for fewer than six months.
  5. Maintenance: A person has maintained the behavior for six months and beyond, and the adopted behavior has become a habit.
  6. Relapse: A person returns to his or her previous behavior of poor diabetes management.

So how can you help?

The authors suggest the following:

  • During the precontemplation stage, you could talk to your dad about why change is important for him now that he has diabetes. You can ask him open-ended questions that being with “who, what, when, where, why, and how,” to help him begin to think about the changes he will need to make.
  • In the contemplation stage, you can encourage the change that you want your dad to make and be an active listener to his needs and offer encouragement and support.
  • In the preparation stage, you can help your dad make the changes that need to happen by helping him set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals.
  • In the action stage, you can help create opportunities for your dad to be successful in his diabetes management.
  • In the maintenance stage, you can continue to support your dad’s behavior changes and offer him praise for his accomplishments.

If you get to the relapse stage, you can help your dad identify the cause of his relapse and begin his diabetes living plan again, the authors suggest.

“It’s important for you to understand that relapses are common, and that doesn’t have to mean that your dad can’t get back on his healthy living plan,” the authors write. “Using non-judgement statements such as ‘I understand it’s hard to make these changes, what can I do to help,’ is one way you can offer your support.”

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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 OSU Extension.

No such thing as male and female bell peppers

I saw a link on Facebook saying that male bell peppers have three bumps on the bottom and are better for cooking, while female bell peppers have four bumps and are sweeter and better for eating raw. Is that true?

Chopped bell pepers on cutting board wood.

No.

Although the myth that bell peppers are either male or female continues to spread, bell peppers do not have genders.

According to the myth, “male” bell peppers have three lobes and are more bitter, while “female” bell peppers have four or more lobes, have more seeds, and are sweeter to eat.

However, bell peppers grow from flowers that have both male and female parts. The peppers, which are the fruits of a pepper plant, each contain ovaries that produce the seeds inside the peppers. Each pepper is produced through self-fertilization. The seeds are formed in each pepper after pollination, with those seeds then able to form new pepper plants.

Peppers are warm-season vegetables and are part of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, along with tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes, according to Growing Peppers in the Home Garden, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is Ohio State University Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Peppers are easily grown, can be prolific producers, and can be grown in a variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. For instance, green bell peppers are green when they are in their immature stage. Bell peppers that ripen on the plant longer will develop a red, orange, yellow, or purple color.

Just like many other fruits and vegetables, the degree of sweetness is generally a factor of how ripe the fruit or vegetable is. Bell peppers start out green, then ripen to yellow, then orange, then red, and in some cases turn purple. Thus red, orange, yellow, and purple bell peppers are generally sweeter than green bell peppers. And the lobes on peppers are determined by growing conditions and genetics, so they don’t indicate the sweetness factor of the pepper in any way.

Bell peppers are an excellent, healthy dietary option. They are a great source of vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene. They also provide essential minerals including iron, copper, zinc, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. And they are a great-tasting, low-cost vegetable.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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 Timothy McDermott, educator, OSU Extension.

Barbecue safely this Fourth of July

I’m ready to use my grill for the first time this summer for a July Fourth cookout. Is it OK to use a steel wire grill brush to clean the grease and grime that’s built up since the last time I used it? 

Grill with hot coals ready to bbq with the brush cleaning it.

Your question is similar to another that was asked in a “Chow Line” column from July 2018, so it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

When using a wire grill brush, it’s important to take note of 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 might 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 upon swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, requiring emergency surgery, the CDC said.

In fact, an estimated 1,698 consumers visited 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 Reportsoffered 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 might be able to clean it using a pumice stone or a coil-shaped, bristle-free bush.
  • You might 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 might 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, the 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, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.