Dietary supplements to gain increased federal scrutiny

I’ve been thinking about adding a dietary supplement as part of my daily routine. But I’m not sure how or if dietary supplements are regulated.

Photo: Getty Images.

Unlike over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements are regulated more like food products than like drugs. Supplements, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, will now be subject to “new enforcement strategies,” including a new rapid-response tool that can alert consumers to unsafe products, the FDA said in a written statement this week.

The move is “one of the most significant modernizations of dietary supplement regulation and oversight in more than 25 years,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said. “FDA’s priorities for dietary supplements are to ensure that they’re safe, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and are made according to quality standards.”

This is significant, considering that there are now close to 80,000 dietary supplements on the market, with three of every four American consumers now taking a dietary supplement regularly. For older Americans, the rate is four out of every five.

Dietary supplements regulated by the FDA include vitamins, minerals, and herbs. In the 25 years since Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which gave the FDA the authority to regulate dietary supplements, the dietary supplement market has grown significantly, the agency said.

“As the popularity of supplements has grown, so have the number of entities marketing potentially dangerous products, or making unproven or misleading claims about the health benefits they may deliver,” Gottlieb said.

Some of the new FDA oversight steps will include:

  • communicating to the public as soon as possible when there is a concern about a dietary supplement on the market.
  • ensuring that the FDA’s regulatory framework is flexible enough to evaluate product safety while promoting innovation.
  • developing new enforcement strategies.
  • continuing to engage in a public dialogue to get valuable feedback from dietary supplement stakeholders.

For example, the FDA recently sent 12 warning letters to certain supplement companies whose products the FDA considered as being “illegally marketed as unapproved, new drugs” because they claim to “prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, as well as health conditions like diabetes and cancer.”

Per Commissioner Gottlieb, “Dietary supplements can, when substantiated, claim a number of potential benefits to consumer health. They, however, cannot claim to prevent, treat, or cure diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for OSU Extension.

Protecting yourself from hepatitis A

I just heard about a recent health warning advising people who had visited a central Ohio restaurant last month to get a hepatitis A vaccine. What is hepatitis A, and why would people who were at the restaurant need a vaccine?

Photo: Getty Images

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious virus that infects a person’s liver. It can be spread through close contact with a person who has hepatitis A or by eating food prepared by a person with hepatitis A.

The recent warning concerns consumers who patronized Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, 479 N. High St. in Columbus, Ohio, from Jan. 1–16 of this year. Columbus Public Health issued the warning after a person who had direct contact with food at the restaurant was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

According to Columbus Public Health, consumers who ate at the restaurant from Jan. 1–16 are encouraged to get a hepatitis A vaccine as soon as possible. The agency also said that those same consumers should watch for symptoms of hepatitis A.

Symptoms can include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, fatigue, fever, a loss of appetite, joint pain, dark urine, and gray stool. These symptoms can develop from two to six weeks after the infection occurs. During that time, infected people can spread the virus to others.

There were 10,582 confirmed hepatitis A cases nationwide last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is part of an increase in reported cases in recent years, the government agency said.

Between 2015 and 2016, reported cases increased by 44.4 percent from 1,390 in 2015 to 2,007 cases in 2016. The 2016 increase was due to two hepatitis A outbreaks, each of which was linked to imported foods, CDC said. In Ohio alone, there have been at least 1,531 cases of hepatitis A last year, health officials said.

In fact, the Ohio Department of Health “has declared a statewide community outbreak of hepatitis A after observing an increase in cases linked to certain risk factors since the beginning of 2018. Outbreaks of hepatitis A are occurring in several states across the U.S., including neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and West Virginia,” the agency shared in a written statement.

Handwashing is one of the most effective means of preventing the spread of hepatitis A, especially for people who are preparing or serving foods or beverages, the CDC says. This is because food and beverages can become contaminated with the hepatitis A virus when microscopic amounts of feces are transferred from an infected person’s hands.

Additionally, the virus can survive on surfaces and isn’t killed when exposed to freezing temperatures, health experts say. 

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

Prep and freeze food for later use in oven, slow cooker

When I get home from work some nights, I am exhausted and simply don’t feel like cooking. Any tips on what I can do to still eat healthy those nights without having to go out to eat or spend a lot of time making a meal?

Photo: Getty Images.

On a nonworkday, you could make several meals in advance and then store them in your freezer to defrost at a later date. On a day when you don’t have the time or energy to make a full meal, you’ll have access to quick, easy, nutritious, homemade meal options.

Freezing meals in advance can be helpful anytime you need a ready-to-go meal or when you take a meal to someone in need, said Shannon Carter, an Ohio State University Extension educator with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Freezer meals can save you time by prepping all the ingredients ahead of time, and then only taking minutes to put in the oven or slow cooker after they are thawed,” she said. “Freezer meals can also save you money because you can purchase ingredients when they are on sale to enjoy them later.”

One way to get started is to plan both the amount and the kinds of meals you want to make in advance and freeze, Carter said in a recent blog post.

“Once you have an idea of what you want to prepare, you can make the entire meal and freeze it, precook a portion of the recipe to freeze, or assemble ingredients to freeze and cook later,” she said.

Here are some other tips from Carter:

  • Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate as a guide for your menu. Plan a variety of low-fat proteins and dairy along with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Consider avoiding ingredients that don’t freeze well, such as mayonnaise and lettuce.
  • Gather ahead of time all the ingredients and containers for freezing. Freezer bags or cartons work well. Label the bags or containers with a permanent marker before filling. Label with the name of the recipe, date, and instructions for cooking.
  • Lay freezer bags flat in the freezer so they are easier to thaw. Consider placing the freezer bags on a pan or baking sheet until frozen and then stacking them in the freezer, or stand the bags vertically once frozen.
  • Foods kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit are safe indefinitely, although quality might deteriorate after 3–6 months.
  • The safest way to thaw frozen foods is in the refrigerator. A gallon-sized bag of food will usually thaw in the refrigerator in about 24 hours.
  • You can also defrost frozen foods in the microwave and then cook them immediately.
  • When using a slow cooker, completely thaw the food before placing it into the slow cooker. This ensures that the food does not enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 edited by Shannon Carter, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Meal kits and other food delivery services should include a focus on food safety

I’m using a meal kit delivery service for the first time. What do I need to be aware of when ordering, and when the food arrives?

Photo: Getty Images.

Meal kit delivery and food preparation services have grown in popularity in recent years, with revenue in that sector expected to grow to over $10 billion in 2020, up from $1 billion in 2015, according to Statista, Inc., a New York-based market and consumer data firm.

Ease and convenience are some of the factors for that increase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But, it’s important that safe food handling methods are used when receiving food through a mail delivery service, especially when receiving perishable foods, food safety experts say.

Whether it be a subscription meal kit, mail-ordered food, or groceries delivered to your home from a local grocery store, home-delivered food must be handled properly to ensure food safety, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a posting this week.

Consumers are advised to research a company and its practices regarding food safety before placing an order. One thing to consider is whether the company offers instructions for safe handling and preparation of the food, including cooking temperature, with each shipment, the CDC said.

It’s also important to research, if possible, how the company deals with food that is delivered at an unsafe temperature. For example, perishable foods—especially meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs—should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. When this happens, the food can enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

“It can be difficult for consumers to gather information on the practices and policies of meal delivery services in order to make an informed decision regarding food safety,” said Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

“However, checking the temperature of perishable foods when they are received, cooking raw meat products to the appropriate USDA-recommended internal temperature, and checking the delivery for damage or leaks that can lead to cross-contamination are practices consumers can implement themselves,” she said.

Additionally, the CDC recommends that you:

  • arrange for the food to be delivered when someone is at home so that it can be refrigerated quickly instead of being left outside for extended periods of time.
  • find a safe space for delivery if no one will be at home when the food arrives.Food should be delivered to a cool, shaded, and secure location where pests and rodents can’t access it. Let the company know where you would like them to leave your box.
  • examine both the box and the packaging in which the food was delivered. If you ordered perishable food such as meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, or dairy, look for stickers on the box that say “Keep Refrigerated” or “Keep Frozen.”
  • make sure that the company used insulated packaging and materials such as dry ice or frozen gel packs to keep all of the perishable food cold in transit.
  • refrigerate or freeze your delivery as soon as possible until you are ready to prepare it. Remember, bacteria can multiply rapidly if food is kept in the danger zone between 40 and 140 degreesFahrenheit for more than two hours.

Lastly, use a food thermometer to accurately measure the delivered food’s temperature. If the food is warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t eat it. Instead, contact the company to find out whether they will offer you a replacement since you will not know how long the food has been in the danger zone.

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.

Some food allergies really aren’t food allergies

My husband has always assumed he is allergic to strawberries, but it turns out that he’s not allergic at all. He just has an intolerance to them. How common is that?

Milk and eggs are among the most common food allergies. Photo: Getty Images.

Very, it seems.

According to a new study published this week in the journal JAMA Network Open, nearly half of the people who think they have food allergies, really don’t. Instead, many people may suffer from food intolerance or celiac disease, which they may believe to be an allergic reaction to certain foods.

The study, which was done at Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University, was based on a nationally representative survey of over 40,443 adults. According to the study results, 19 percent of adults think they are currently food allergic, although their reported symptoms are inconsistent with a true food allergy—a situation that can trigger a life-threatening reaction.

The study found that only half of adults with a food allergy had a physician-confirmed diagnosis, with fewer than 25 percent having a current epinephrine prescription. Instead, the study authors said that while one in 10 adults have a food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods. But their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions instead.

According to the study authors, in order to have a true food allergy, respondents had to cite at least one of the following symptoms: hives, swelling of the lip or tongue, difficulty swallowing, chest tightness, trouble breathing, vomiting, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, or low blood pressure. Those who reported having only an itchy mouth or gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and cramps, were not considered to have a food allergy, because symptoms such as those don’t indicate the body’s immune system reacting to an allergen, the researchers said.

“It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet,” the researchers said in a written statement. “If a food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine.”

The study authors also found that nearly half of those with a food allergy developed it while an adult. Common foods identified as allergens among U.S. adults are:

  • shellfish, affecting 7.2 million adults
  • milk, affecting 4.7 million adults
  • peanut, affecting 4.5 million adults
  • tree nut, affecting 3 million adults
  • fin fish, affecting 2.2 million adults
  • egg, affecting 2 million adults
  • wheat, affecting 2 million adults
  • soy, affecting 1.5 million adults
  • sesame, affecting .5 million adults

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for OSU Extension.

Nontoxic Food Decorations Aren’t Always Edible

I’m making a batch of holiday goodies, and I’m using several kinds of festive decor on the cakes, cookies, and pies. Some of this glitter and sparkly stuff is very pretty, but I’m wondering if it’s really safe to eat.

Photo: Getty Images.

That depends on what the label on its packaging says.

When baking fancy cookies, cakes, cupcakes, or other foods for the holidays—or for any occasion—it’s important that you are aware of which decorations are edible and which ones aren’t.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer alert this week that some glitters and dusts promoted for use in foods might, in fact, contain materials that should not be eaten.

In fact, the FDA says consumers might want to avoid using glitter and dust to decorate cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, and other food items unless the products are specifically manufactured to be edible.

While some glitters and dusts are sold online and in craft and bakery supply stores under names such as luster dust, disco dust, twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, shimmer powder, pearl dust, and petal dust, not all are safe to eat, the FDA says.

Some of the decorations might be labeled nontoxic, but that doesn’t mean they are meant to be eaten.

“Some decorative glitters and dusts promoted for use on foods may, in fact, contain materials that should not be eaten,” the FDA said in a written statement.

So how can you distinguish between glitters and dusts that are safe to eat from those that are unsafe to eat?

Food decorations that are edible must be clearly labeled as such. Companies that make edible glitters and dusts are required by law to include a list of ingredients on the label, per the FDA. If the label simply says “nontoxic” or “for decorative purposes only” and does not include an ingredients list, you should not use the product directly on foods.

Nontoxic glitters and dust, which are typically used to make crafts sparkle, are made out of plastic.

In contrast, some of the most common ingredients used to make edible glitter or edible dust include sugar, acacia (gum arabic), maltodextrin, cornstarch, and color additives specifically approved for food use, including mica-based pearlescent pigments and FD&C colors such as FD&C Blue No. 1.

If you are purchasing a professionally decorated cake or other food item, specifically ask the baker or cook if all ingredients are edible. To ensure that the decorative products are edible, you can also ask to see their labels.

If you do decide to purchase or decorate a food item with decorations that are not edible, you should be sure that you remove the decorations before serving or eating the food. You don’t want anyone who eats your treats to have any adverse reactions to your creations.

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 Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Special Note: Chow Line is taking a two-week holiday hiatus. Look for fresh perspectives in the New Year on Jan. 11, 2019.

Picky Eating a Normal Part of Early Childhood

My 4-year-old REFUSES to eat anything that is the color red — no red apples, tomatoes, red peppers or even pepperoni on his pizza. He didn’t used to care what color his food was, but within the past couple weeks, he’s taken a distain for red foods. Is this normal?

Little Girl refusing to eat healthy lunch/snack of fruit and drink her milk. Photo: Getty Images.

As frustrating as that may be for you when planning family meals and deciding what to feed your little one, picky eating habits are considered a normal part of a child’s development, according to health professionals.

In fact, up to half of preschoolers have exhibited picky eating habits, from wanting their foods prepared only a certain way, to not wanting to try new foods, and to, yes, refusing to eat foods based on color, research has found.

This could be in part because as a child’s growth slows between the ages of 2 and 5, most children experience a decrease in appetite, says Carol Smathers, a field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Picky eating may also be part of establishing independence during the preschool years,” she said. “The good news is that as long as a child is growing normally and has plenty of energy, chances are that his or her diet is providing the necessary nutrients.

“And fortunately, most children will become willing to eat a much greater range of foods over time.”

There are ways to encourage your little ones to expand their palates and savor a wider range of foods. For example, Smathers says, you can:

  • Take your children grocery shopping and let them choose fruits and vegetables.
  • Offer taste-testing opportunities as a way to introduce your child to new foods before they are served in meals. For produce, you can show your child how the food is grown and let your child compare how it tastes both cooked and raw.
  • Include your children in meal preparation, giving them as much responsibility as appropriate for their age and ability. Let them wash fruits and vegetables, measure and add ingredients, or help stir.
  • Offer realistic options, such as, “Would you like carrots or peas tonight?” instead of asking something like, “Do you want peas?”
  • Talk about how much you enjoy the different foods that are being served and what you like about them.

It may also help if you can focus on making mealtime fun and meaningful for your children and family. Ask your kids how their day has gone, or if they did anything fun that day. If your focus is on the foods they won’t eat and how their picky tastes negatively impact the meal, it could lead to unhealthy attitudes toward food and eating habits.

However, if you have a lingering concern about your child’s picky eating habits, it’s best not to scold your child or argue with them to eat. You could instead have a conversation with your pediatrician, nutritionist or other healthcare provider about your concerns. 

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Carol Smathers, field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

Holiday Indulgence in Moderation?

Do you have any tips on how I can indulge in all the holiday food festivities without overdoing it?

Photo: Getty Images.

You aren’t the only one wondering about this issue. With the holidays approaching, many people are concerned about trying to stay healthy while also enjoying all the delicious foods and traditions associated with the many celebrations that are or will be soon occurring.

Many people are looking for ways to either avoid temptation or make better choices that will allow them to maintain a healthy weight while they navigate all the indulgence of the season, said Jenny Lobb, a family and consumer sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

With that in mind, Lobb offers the following tips that can help you enjoy the holidays and still meet your food-related health goals.

  • Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary guidelines as your guide to healthy eating. MyPlate encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, including advocating that people make half of the food on their plate fruits and vegetables. So look for fruits and vegetables when you go to holiday gatherings and when you are planning your own meals. Filling up on those foods first might help you eat less of the other richer foods that you might encounter later.
  • Plan ahead—whether you are packing a lunch or snacks—for your workday. When you bring your own food, you might be less likely to pass through the break room and indulge in some of the sweets that other people bring in. Plan ahead for any parties you might attend as well. Doing so might help you avoid some of the sweets or rich foods offered there.
  • Survey your options. If you go to a party, take a look to see what is available before filling up your plate. Then, strategically choose what you want to indulge in.
  • Keep an eye on your portions. In the words of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “enjoy your foods, but eat less.” You can still enjoy those special holiday treats, but keep an eye on the portions and try not to overdo it. Filling up on fruits and vegetables first might help you stick to smaller portions of the richer foods you choose to eat.
  • Limit your liquid calories. Lots of holiday drinks such as alcoholic beverages, eggnog, and festive coffee drinks contain more calories and sugar than some desserts. So keep an eye on the beverages that you’re choosing, try to fill up on water first, and then treat those richer drinks more like desserts or sweets.

Lastly, try to understand that not all of your holiday eating habits are going to be perfect, so cut yourself some slack and enjoy the season. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day.

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.

A Year or Two is not Too Long to Use Uncooked Frozen Turkey

I bought two turkeys last November, with the intent to cook one at Thanksgiving and the second one for New Year’s Day. We ended up going to a friend’s house on New Year’s instead, so now I still have the frozen turkey from last year in my freezer. Is it safe to cook it for our Thanksgiving meal this year?

Photo: Getty Images

Great question!

Yes, you can still safely cook that turkey as long as it has been stored in the freezer unopened and uninterrupted and stored at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

That’s because freezing keeps food safe by slowing the movement of molecules, causing microbes to enter a dormant stage, USDA says. Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.

However, in order to safeguard against the potential growth of harmful bacteria that may have been present on the bird before it was frozen, it’s important to use safe methods to thaw the turkey before cooking, said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University (CFAES).

There are three safe ways to thaw a frozen turkey: in the refrigerator, in a container of cold water or in a microwave.

The best method is to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator even though it is also the longest method, Ilic says. This allows the turkey to thaw in a controlled environment out of the temperature “danger zone” — between 40 and 140 degrees — where bacteria can multiply rapidly.

Turkeys thawed in the refrigerator take one day for each 4-5 pounds of weight. So, for example, if your turkey weighs 15 pounds, it can take three days to thaw. And, once thawed, you should cook the turkey within two days to ensure safety.

If you need to thaw the turkey faster, you can place it in a container or sink and submerge it in cold water. But it’s important that the turkey stay cold, so you need to ensure that the turkey is completely submerged in cold water by replacing the water with fresh cold water every 30 minutes. Turkeys thawed using this method will need 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound.

You can also thaw your turkey in the microwave by taking it out of its packaging and placing it on a microwave-safe dish. Use the defrost function based on the turkey’s weight, USDA says. Generally, allow six minutes per pound to thaw. Once the turkey has thawed, you should cook it immediately.

When cooking your turkey, it’s best not to stuff it with dressing (or stuffing depending on what you call it), because uncooked poultry can harbor bacterial pathogens, which can be present both on the inside and outside of a raw turkey.

To ensure that you’ve destroyed the bacteria, which can cause foodborne illnesses, cook your turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before you serve it. Otherwise, it will not be safe to eat, USDA says.

And, be sure to use a digital tip-sensitive food thermometer to determine its actual temperature. While other methods have been used in many a kitchen, such as how golden brown the turkey looks or if the juices run clear, they don’t provide an accurate measurement of how safely done the bird is.

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, specialist in Food Safety for Ohio State University Extension.

Less Screen Time During Meals Can Help Promote Healthier Eating in Children

My kids love to watch TV or view their cellphones or tablets while they eat. I used to eat cereal on Saturday mornings and watch cartoons when I was a kid, but my children prefer to watch a screen at every meal, every day. Is this something I should be worried about?

Research has shown that children who have family mealtimes at least three or more times a week are more likely to be of normal weight and have healthier eating habits. And children who have family meals are more likely to feel better about themselves, experience less depression, are less likely to use illegal drugs and tend to get better grades at school.

And while 63 percent of consumers believe that eating at home with their families is important, only 30 percent actually share dinner every night, according to a September report published by the Food Marketing Institute Foundation.

One of the reasons cited in the poll — too many distractions, including TV and social media.

With that in mind, researchers recommend that parents hold screen-free family meals as often as possible.

When compared to meals eaten in front of a screen, screen-free meals provide an opportunity for important social interactions between parents and children, says Ingrid Adams, an Ohio State University Extension specialist in Food, Health and Human Behavior in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

“Some studies have shown that family meals help prevent obesity and lower the chances that children will engage in risky behaviors,” she said. “Increases in screen time have been linked with unhealthy habits, such as eating more junk food, physical inactivity, poor sleep patterns and decreased social interaction.

“As a family, it is important to set healthy limits and boundaries for screen use, particularly when it comes to meal times.”

So how can you lessen the screen time at mealtimes with your kids? Adams suggests:

  • Eat your meals at the table. Have everyone sit at the table together rather than in front of the television while eating dinner. Have kids come to the kitchen when eating other meals and snacks as well.
  • Turn off the television during mealtime.
  • Create boundaries. Make firm rules about not using or viewing screens during meals. Set limits on screen time and where screen time can occur.
  • Remove distractions. Don’t bring phones, tablets or other devices to the dinner table. Consider removing any screens from the eating area.
  • Take turns sharing ideas. Have everyone take a turn sharing what he or she did during the day. This might help spark conversation and lessen the desire for distractions such as TV or phones.

Another tip? Set a good example yourself by not using any screens at mealtime and limiting your total screen time, especially when you are with your family.

Chow Line is a service of the 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 Ingrid Adams, field specialist in Food, Health and Human Behavior for OSU Extension.