Chow Line: Spring Cleaning Checklist Should Include Your Fridge and Pantry, Too

I’ve noticed that sometimes, my refrigerator has a stale odor. How can I determine what’s causing the smell, and most importantly, how can I stop the problem from occurring?

One option is to clean your refrigerator with spray bottle of warm, soapy water and sponge. 

It’s likely that what you are smelling is either bacteria or mold that can thrive in moist conditions and are oftentimes found in refrigerators. Moist conditions in a fridge can be caused by condensation from the fridge, humidity from the outside and, yes, spilled foods, experts say. This issue is that once moisture gets into your refrigerator, microbes can multiply and eventually emit a foul smell.

There are several ways to deal with the issue, and with spring weather finally starting to occur, now is a good time to do so. When you plan your spring-cleaning regimen this season, including your fridge and pantry on your to-do list is a really good idea.

First things first, make sure your fridge is set to the right temperature in order to control the moisture content and to make sure your food is being preserved correctly.

Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit to safely preserve your food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises. Setting the temperature too low will cause your refrigerator to work overtime and could also freeze some of your foods.

Next, follow this simple rule: Clean any spills inside the fridge immediately with warm, soapy water and then rinse them with clear water. It’s not recommended that you use any cleaning solvents, as this could allow chemical fumes or tastes into your food and ice, making them unsafe to eat, the USDA says.

You also want to make sure you store your leftovers safely, and throw out any foods that have spoiled. Generally, leftovers shouldn’t be left in the refrigerator more than four days. If you plan to store raw poultry and ground meats for more than one or two days, it’s best to store them in your freezer rather than your fridge.

If need be, you can do a deep cleaning of your fridge. To do so, fill a cooler with ice to store the food from the fridge while you are cleaning it. Clean each shelf and compartment with warm, soapy water.

The exterior of your fridge also needs to be kept clean, which includes keeping it free of dust and lint. You can clean the condenser coil several times a year with a brush or vacuum cleaner to remove dirt, lint or other accumulations to ensure efficiency and maintain proper temperature, the USDA says.

Now that you’ve got your fridge all sparkly clean and fresh, you can move on to your pantry. It too should be included in your spring-cleaning regimen.

The USDA advises that you:

  • Check the canned goods in your pantry or kitchen cabinets. Throw out cans that are leaking, rusted, bulging or badly dented. You shouldn’t eat food from cracked jars, jars with loose or bulging lids, or any container that spurts liquid when you open it.
  • Throw out any food that you suspect is spoiled. Never taste the food to determine its safety.
  • Wipe off sticky containers, along with crumbs and spills on your pantry shelves, with all-purpose cleaner, vinegar, or warm soap and water.

USDA also advises that you check the dates on your foods, keeping in mind that:

  • “Best if used by/before” dates indicate when a product will be of best flavor or quality. They are not purchase or safety dates.
  • “Sell-by” dates tell the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. They also are not safety dates.
  • “Use-by” dates indicate the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. They are not safety dates except when used on infant formula.
  • High-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit and pineapple have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months beyond their listed dates.
  • Low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish and most vegetables can be kept for two to five years beyond their listed dates if the cans remain in good condition and have been stored in a cool, clean and dry place.

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.

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.

Food Safety Hotline Provides Answers to Consumers’ Food Questions

There seems to be a lot of information on food safety issues online. But I’m wondering, is there somewhere or someone I can call for help when I have questions about food safety?

CFAES Food Safety hotline offers expert opinions on food questions for consumers.

You can call 1-800-752-2751 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and a food safety expert from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University will likely have the answers to your food safety questions.

Created in 1985 by the CFAES Food Industries Center as a service to support the needs of Ohio-based food processors, the Food Safety Hotline is now a consumer resource for any popular food issue, according to Heather Dean, who serves as the hotline’s coordinator.

The hotline is now accessible by consumers nationwide, thanks to a partnership started with The Kroger Co. in 2009. Consumers can also email their food safety questions to foodsafety@osu.edu. Faculty and staff members from the Food Industries Center, CFAES’s Department of Food Science and Technology, and related programs will respond to those emails.

Trained CFAES staff and students answer the hotline, which averages about 100 calls per year, Dean. said.

The most common questions the hotline receives deal with food storage and safe temperatures for food. For example, a recent question was, “If a package of meat was accidentally left in the car after a grocery trip, is it safe to eat?”

“We get calls more frequently during the summer when people are canning food, and during the holidays when people have questions about Thanksgiving turkey,” Dean said. “This service is a reliable resource for people who don’t have access to the Internet or for someone who wants to validate information they’ve seen online.

“Sometimes it’s just as simple as someone going through their food pantries and asking questions about expiration dates.”

Calls to the hotline typically average about 5 minutes, and if the food safety experts don’t have the answer, they will take the caller’s contact information, research the correct answer and call back with the requested information.

The service is free and open to all. And calls made during off times are answered by voicemail and will also receive a call back.

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 Heather Dean, Food Safety Hotline coordinator for CFAES.

Are You Eating Out for Valentine’s Day?

With all the recent media reports of foodborne illness caused by eating at some restaurants, how can I know if the place I take my sweetie this year for Valentine’s Day won’t make us sick later?

Valentine’s Day is the 2nd most popular holiday for dining out after Mother’s Day, according to the National Restaurant Association. Photo: Thinkstock.

Good question!

With nearly 30 percent of consumers planning to dine out on Valentine’s Day this year, according to the National Restaurant Association, it’s good to know that health officials inspect these places to make sure they prepare food safely.

Local public health departments routinely inspect food establishments to ensure that they follow safe food handling procedures. Generally, inspectors check the restaurants to make sure that certain safeguards are being followed to prevent food contamination.

In Columbus, Ohio, for example, consumers can easily check to see if a licensed restaurant or other food establishment has passed inspection by viewing dated, color-coded signs posted in the restaurant. The colors indicate the results of the establishments’ most recent health inspections.

For example, a green sign indicates that standard inspections have been conducted and the business has met the standards of Columbus Public Health, according to the city of Columbus.

A yellow sign indicates that the establishment is in the enforcement process due to uncorrected critical violations found during follow-up inspections.

A white sign indicates that the business has been placed on an increased frequency of inspections. A red sign indicates that the eatery has been ordered closed by the Board of Health or the health commissioner.

You can check restaurants’ health inspection records in your area by contacting your local public health department or board of health. Some restaurant review websites even publish this information.

In order to make good nutrition choices once you’re at the restaurant, be aware of the nutritional content of the foods you order, including the calorie content, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can look up the menu’s nutritional information on the restaurant’s website, or in many cases, that information is posted on the menu or somewhere in the restaurant.

The CDC offers these other tips for a safe and heart-healthy Valentine’s Day celebration:

  • Ask before ordering. Raw or undercooked eggs can be a hidden hazard in foods, such as Caesar salad, custards and some sauces, unless they are commercially pasteurized.
  • Order it cooked to the recommended endpoint temperature. Certain foods, including eggs, meat, poultry and fish, need to be cooked to a temperature high enough to kill pathogens that may be present.
  • Know your sodium intake. More than 40 percent of the sodium we eat comes from these common foods: bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes, and snacks. Most restaurants offer lower sodium options for entrees and dressings, so check the menu or ask the staff for suggestions.
  • Consider ordering one entrée to share. Many restaurant servings are enough for two.

And lastly, if you end up with leftovers, remember to refrigerate them within two hours of being served, or one hour if the temperature outside is warmer than 90 F. If this isn’t possible, consider leaving the leftovers behind.

One more thing to take note of: in addition to having Valentine’s Day, February is also American Heart Month. Show your sweetie you care by getting active and eating healthier, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure. And if you smoke, try quitting.

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, and Barbara Kowalcyk, an assistant professor in Food Science and Technology for CFAES.

Raw or Lightly Cooked Sprouts not Safe to Eat for Certain Populations

I went to a hibachi grill last weekend and I really wanted to eat the sprouts, but my husband was adamant that I not eat them because I’m pregnant. Who was right – him or me?

Fresh bean sprouts. Photo: Thinkstock.

Technically, you both were right – it really depends on whether the sprouts were fully cooked or not.

Raw or undercooked sprouts pose a risk of foodborne infection because, unlike other fresh produce, seeds and beans need warm and humid conditions to sprout and grow. Bacteria that can make you sick, including SalmonellaListeria and E. coli thrive in such warm and humid conditions.

As such, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system to not eat any raw or lightly cooked sprouts at all. That includes alfalfa sprouts, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts. During pregnancy, women are at increased risk for contracting foodborne diseases, said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension.

“Listeriosis in pregnant women can have severe consequences for both mother and fetus,” she said.

Raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants in Illinois and Wisconsin were the likely source of the recent multistate Salmonella Montevideo outbreak that began Jan. 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak so far has included eight people in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota that ate raw clover sprouts.

According to FDA, raw and or lightly cooked sprouts have been associated with some 30 foodborne illness outbreaks since 1996, with the majority of the outbreaks caused by E. coli and Salmonella. Symptoms of these illnesses include abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea, which typically occur 12 to 72 hours after infection.

Sprouts begin as seeds that germinate into young plants that are then either eaten raw or lightly cooked. The seed is typically the source of the bacteria. And while there are several techniques used to kill harmful bacteria that may be present on seeds, the FDA says, there is no treatment that can fully guarantee that all harmful bacteria will be destroyed.

The most commonly eaten sprouts include alfalfa and mung bean sprouts, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So, if you want to eat sprouts, its best if you cook them thoroughly to reduce the risk of getting a foodborne illness, FDA says.

Other tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for consumers when buying, storing and eating fresh sprouts:

  • Buy only fresh sprouts that have been kept properly refrigerated.
  • Do not buy sprouts that have a musty smell or slimy appearance.
  • Refrigerate sprouts at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Rinse sprouts thoroughly under running water before use.

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.

“Raw” Water Trend Can Make You Sick

I’ve heard about a new trend that involves drinking “raw water.” What is it, and is it good for me?

While there are some foods and drinks that are safe to consume raw, water is not one of them. Photo: Thinkstock.

In a word, no.

“Raw” or “live” water is not treated to remove or reduce minerals, ions, particulate, or, importantly, potential pathogenic bacteria and parasites. Raw water is found in rivers and natural springs, and is being sold at premium prices by some companies, according to published reports.

According to those recent published reports, selling raw water is part of a natural foods or health trend. The idea is that because this water still retains its natural mineral concentration, comes directly from earth springs, is unfiltered, and is untreated with chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride, it is a healthy alternative.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while water flowing in streams and rivers of the backcountry might look pure, it can still be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemical contaminants. The agency warns that drinking contaminated water can increase the risk of developing certain infectious diseases caused by pathogens such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus, in addition to others.

In fact, there were some 42 waterborne disease outbreaks associated with drinking water in the United States from 2013 to 2014, resulting in at least 1,006 cases of illnesses, 124 hospitalizations, and 13 deaths, according to the CDC. Ohio was among those impacted states.

The biggest culprit was Legionella, which was associated with 57 percent of these outbreaks and all of the deaths, the CDC said.

One way to deter such waterborne disease outbreaks is through effective water treatment and regulations, which can protect public drinking water supplies in the United States, the CDC said.

And those consumers who want to take additional precautions when camping, hiking, or traveling to regions without strict water treatment programs can find additional information on filtration, boiling, and other practices from the CDC website.

It’s important to note that just because something is labeled natural, unprocessed, or raw, doesn’t automatically mean that it is healthy or better for you. And while there are some foods and drinks that are safe to consume raw, water is not one of them.

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.