OSU Extension delivers answers during, after botulism crisis

The need for food preservation classes offered by Shannon Carter, left, and other Extension professionals rose sharply in 2015 after botulism struck a church potluck.

The need for food preservation classes offered by Shannon Carter, left, and other Extension professionals rose sharply in 2015 after botulism struck a church potluck.

It was a church potluck like any other. But within days, botulism from improperly home-canned potatoes killed one woman and hospitalized 24 others.

Shannon Carter, Fairfield County family and consumer sciences educator, and other Ohio State University Extension professionals jumped into action in April 2015, providing urgently needed information to the community, media and health department officials.

Food safety is a prime focus of Extension, with specialist Sanja Ilic working with produce growers and restaurants to reduce risks in food handling and on projects helping high-risk consumers, including the blind and cancer survivors.

In Fairfield County, Carter increased fivefold the number of food preservation classes she offered in 2015.

Aubry Shaw, daughter-in-law of Kim Shaw, who died from the botulism outbreak, participated in several of the classes.

“As soon as it happened, people were relying on the Extension office to get education out about canning and botulism,” Shaw said. “Even people who have canned for a long time can still learn something new. That’s why these classes are so important.”

Deb Kilbarger, registered sanitarian and food program supervisor with the Fairfield Department of Health, agrees.

“Anyone who cans (food) should take the class,” Kilbarger said. “Even if you’ve done it forever, there might be a safer way. Extension is the only place I’m aware of that offers classes like this. Hopefully, these classes will prevent anything like this from happening again.”


In 2014, OSU Extension offered 181 food safety classes to 2,458 participants in 50 counties. Of those who took home food preservation classes:

  • 78 percent reported they would always use current, official canning recommendations, which is up from 16 percent who, before attending the class, said they would always do so.
  • 67 percent reported they would always acidify tomatoes before water-bath canning them — a vital food safety precaution — which is up from 16 percent before the class.
  • 66 percent reported they would always use a pressure canner to process low-acid foods, which is up from 22 percent before the class

High cost of foodborne illnesses: OARDC researcher provides state-by-state breakdown

Public health policymakers view the work of Robert Scharff, right, as invaluable when determining how to direct tight resources to fight foodborne illnesses.

Public health policymakers view the work of Robert Scharff, right, as invaluable when determining how to direct tight resources to fight foodborne illnesses.

Foodborne illnesses cost Ohio up to $2.9 billion every year. In other states, such costs range from just $181 million all the way to $12 billion, according to a 2015 study by Robert Scharff, economist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

Costs fluctuate between states for a variety of reasons, including population, cost of medical care, climate and other factors, Scharff said. Those variations can have a significant impact on local decision making.

Scharff’s Journal of Food Protection study is a first-of-its-kind economic analysis designed to offer public health authorities detailed information to help evaluate the cost-effectiveness of food-safety education efforts and how best to prioritize resources.

“Take an illness from a pathogen like Vibrio,” Scharff said. “It’s associated with seafood, particularly raw seafood in summer. States with higher shellfish consumption — those in coastal areas — have a higher incidence, and so it makes sense for them to devote more resources to battling it.”

Scharff’s analyses have gotten the attention of public health authorities nationwide.

“Scharff’s work has been indispensable to our efforts,” said Sandra B. Eskin, director of food safety with The Pew Charitable Trusts. “His estimates of the economic impact of these illnesses — considered both on a nationwide and state-by-state basis — help make the case that the benefits from policies aimed at preventing food safety problems clearly outweigh costs.”

Robert Scharff’s study, “State Estimates for the Annual Cost of Foodborne Illness,” provides both conservative cost estimates — following the model typically used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — as well as higher estimates that include loss of quality of life, which is the model used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Using those models, the costs related to foodborne illnesses in Ohio are estimated to be:
  • $1,039 to $1,666 per case
  • $156 to $250 per resident, annually
  • $1.8 billion to $2.9 billion in total annual costs

More: go.osu.edu/fdillcost

4-H water projects are making a splash in Ohio, around nation

OSU, CFAES, 4-H, AG Innovators Experience

Ohio 4-H is leading efforts to help youths gain a deeper understanding of one of the most vital 21st century concerns: assuring access to fresh, clean water.

Water is rising in prominence in Ohio 4-H youth development activities.

In the Water Windmill Challenge, teams create mock-ups of wind-operated water supply systems.

“There are many possibilities of how to meet the challenge,” said creator Bob Horton, Ohio 4-H specialist. “If their structure fails, students quickly want to reinvent it. They don’t realize it, but this activity introduces them to engineering.”

 In Ways of Knowing Water, a project idea starter for individual 4-H members, activities help youths sharpen awareness about their local watershed and where their household water originates.
Meera Nadathur, 15, of Hamilton County, took the Ways of Knowing Water project and plans to study environmental sciences in college
“With 4-H, you get to actually experience what you’re learning
about,” she said. “You don’t just learn by reading about it. It really enhances the whole experience.”

In a new idea starter, Field to Faucet: Nutrients, Sediment and Water Quality, activities focus on preventing harmful algal blooms. Co-author and 4-H educator Jackie Krieger said, “For many around the world who have little access to fresh, clean water, we owe our best science and dedicated action to understanding this basic human need. Who knows what spark might be ignited in the minds of 4-H members by these activities?”


OSU Extension’s 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program is making a mark regionally and nationally by developing projects including:

  • The Water Windmill Challenge. In 2015, nearly 10,000 youths in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin participated in this challenge as part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, sponsored by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto.
  • The Fish Farm Challenge, which was named as the 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience. More than 8,000 youths engineered a system to evenly dispense soy-based fish food pellets in an aquaculture tank.
  • The 4-H National Youth Science Experiment, the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. Ohio 4-H created the activities used in this program in 2008 and 2012.

More: go.osu.edu/oh4hsci

‘I want to be a scientist,’ thanks to 4-H Agri-science in the City

Not a teacher. Not a fireman.

When he grows up, 8-year-old Jamir Green wants to be a scientist.

“It seems fun,” he said. “You can make chemicals and medicines.”

As a second-grader at George Washington Carver STEM Elementary School on Cleveland’s East Side, Green was inspired by Rob Isner, who has led the school’s 4-H Agri-science in the City program since it began in 2014.

In Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Tony Staubach offers the same program at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy.

As 4-H staff members, Isner and Staubach integrate food- and farm-related science activities during school, in after-school programs, in 4-H clubs and at summer day camps.

Thanks to a new 4-H program, many students at George Washington Carver STEM Elementary School in Cleveland now say science is their favorite subject.

Thanks to a new 4-H program, many students at George Washington Carver STEM Elementary School in Cleveland now say science is their favorite subject.

“When I started the program, most students said science was their least favorite subject,” Isner said. “Now, more than half say it is their favorite. They only have the agri-science program once a week, but we’re having an impact.”

Annette DiGirolamo, a recently retired second-grade teacher at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, said the program is “invaluable.”
“The students have watched chicks hatch, explored the properties of air, and conducted experiments with force and motion, sound and vibration,” she said. “The scientific process is continually reinforced, fostering skills of observation, critical thinking, accurate data collection and cooperation.”
Agri-science in the City programs provided by Ohio 4-H focus on students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
  • In Cincinnati, nearly 500 students participated from March 2014 through May 2015, when students who say they believe it is possible to farm in the city increased from 54 percent to 74 percent, and students indicating they want to work in food or farming increased from 15 percent to 31 percent.
  • In Cleveland, nearly 600 students participated during the 2014–15 school year. At the end of the year, 83 percent gave the program an “A;” 67 percent said they wanted to learn more about agriculture the next year; and 42 percent said it was “very likely” they would attend a career tech program in agri-science in high school.

Heart-Healthy Garden Program: ‘The Gift that Keeps on Giving’

Don Tedrow in Ross Heart Garden

Don Tedrow assists another Ross Heart Hospital Community Garden participant harvest radishes after a summer 2015 healthy living class.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Don Tedrow’s heart is full of gratitude.

In January 2015, Tedrow was shopping at a home improvement store when he began feeling “strange, feeling some pressure,” he said.

He went home, and he and his wife headed to the Emergency Department at the The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“They kept me overnight, did some tests, and found out I had an 80 percent blockage in my main artery,” Tedrow said.

After a stent was inserted to open the blockage, Tedrow participated in the medical center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

“That was excellent,” he said. “A life-changer.”

While there, Tedrow learned about the new Ross Heart Hospital Community Garden program, a collaboration between the medical center and Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), which he participated in during the summer.

“It was the perfect follow-up,” Tedrow said, “because I had learned how to exercise in rehab, but I didn’t know what to do with my diet.”

The program, which combines gardening with healthy-living classes, started in 2015. It was the brainchild of Jim Warner, food and nutrition program director with the medical center’s food service administration. Warner also is involved with a similar program with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

To read more: http://go.osu.edu/heartgarden


Collegiate 4-H Group Puts ‘Heart’ in 4-H

IMG_4901COLUMBUS, Ohio — The heart of 4-H is loyalty. Literally.

In the second line of the 4-H Pledge, members vow to pledge “My Heart to greater loyalty.” And as Valentine’s Day approaches, Danielle Coleman, president of Collegiate 4-H at The Ohio State University, reflected on what that means to her.

“I joined in third grade, when someone from 4-H came to our school and talked about it,” Coleman said. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. My mom was in 4-H when she was growing up, and so were a bunch of other family members, so I got involved and was a member for 10 years.”

Coleman, a senior majoring in animal science in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), grew up near Tiffin in rural Seneca County. Although her uncles are in agriculture, her immediate family isn’t.

“I wanted to take a cow project, but my parents wouldn’t let me because we didn’t have a farm. So, I settled on rabbits and really developed a love for them. I showed rabbits all 10 years I was in 4-H.”

Coleman also attended 4-H camp, became a camp counselor, and participated in junior fair board and other leadership activities.

“I’ve always loved 4-H and the sense of community that it creates,” Coleman said. “You get to know a bunch of people who have similar interests. Coming down here to Ohio State, I knew I wanted to stay involved somehow.”

Ohio 4-H is the youth development program of Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of CFAES. In 2014, more than 216,000 young Ohioans participated in traditional 4-H clubs, camps and school enrichment programs, and in other Extension youth groups and educational activities.

At the collegiate level, 4-H focuses on service and outreach, said Coleman.

Ohio State’s group sponsors “Carving New Ideas,” a team-building camp for younger 4-H leaders, and hosts “Plowboy Prom,” a square dance after the annual Ohio 4-H leadership conference in Columbus each year. The collegiate members, numbering about three dozen, have also been involved in Habitat for Humanity, 4-H counselor training, and the university’s BuckeyeThon, a dance marathon that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Coleman says the values that 4-H promotes, starting with its motto “To make the best better,” inspires loyalty that often lasts far beyond the final day of 4-H camp.

“Four-H offers so many opportunities with projects to get involved in. It’s a lot of fun. You develop leadership skills, life skills, responsibility, and it instills good values. And it’s a great way to meet new people — you create some lifelong friends.”

For more about Ohio 4-H, see ohio4h.org.

OSU Extension helps communities prepare for shale-related impacts


Shale workers keep area hotels filled to capacity. While that’s an economic boost, leaders like Norm Blanchard work to minimize the drawback of potential tourists being turned away.

In 2010, Guernsey County’s unemployment rate was 14.7 percent. Thanks to shale development, it tumbled to 5.7 percent by May 2014.

That’s all well and good, but the shale-related boom has other implications.

“A gas and oil guy from Midland, Texas, came to speak and told us to be prepared for our population to grow from about 11,500 to 100,000 in the next 15 years — at least, that’s what happened in Midland,” said Norm Blanchard, president of the Cambridge-Guernsey County Community Improvement Corporation. “When that hit the newspaper, we got calls. What are we doing to plan for this? How would we handle that kind of growth?” On the flip side, how should the region prepare for when shale development declines?

To help, Ohio State University Extension is tapping a $200,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to work with four regional EDA offices representing 25 eastern Ohio counties. Together they are examining shale’s economic, social and environmental impacts and developing plans for sustainable development.


The OSU Extension project is:

  • gathering and analyzing volumes of data to track the area’s economic, social and environmental conditions, including measurements on employment, population, income, charitable giving, school enrollment, crime, housing, noise, traffic counts, air quality, and water quantity and quality.
  • examining the growth and contraction of specific industry segments. This will allow targeted actions to help local businesses adjust when the active shale construction phase ends.
  • identifying sectors that need local investment. In some areas, the focus might be on infrastructure; others might zero in on housing, community amenities, entrepreneurship or workforce training.
  • working with regional EDA offices to foster long-term planning across community and county lines.
  • piloting educational materials in Guernsey County, thanks to another $20,000 grant. Community leaders across the Midwest will be able to use the materials to incorporate shale development into their strategic planning.

“OSU Extension is not only giving us guidance, but they’ve been in touch with other states that have already been through shale development, and they’re providing us with that experience and expertise,” Blanchard said.  “It’s been invaluable.”

More: go.osu.edu/shalecommdev

‘It blows their minds’: Challenges inspire youth to seek STEM careers

The Ohio State University is a partner of Global Impact STEM Academy, which offers hands-on learning in agbioscience fields, including food science, environmental sustainability, and biobased energy and products.

The Ohio State University is a partner of Global Impact STEM Academy, which offers hands-on learning in agbioscience fields, including food science, environmental sustainability, and biobased energy and products.

In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology predicted that over the next decade, U.S. industries will need one million more STEM graduates than the nation will have.

In 2013, Ohio State University Extension created the STEM Pathways signature program to spark enthusiasm in young people about science, technology, engineering and math. “STEM isn’t dry and boring. It’s fun, it’s exciting,” said Patty House, 4-H youth development educator and program leader. “You can use it to help solve real-world problems.” In its first year, STEM Pathways developed a dozen 30- to 60-minute challenges and attracted an estimated 8,500 participants across Ohio. Challenges were piloted at the Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield, where director Josh Jennings is a huge proponent. “There’s no real prescribed step-by-step procedure they follow, because that’s the important thing: The students have to solve the problem on their own,” Jennings said. “When something happens they don’t expect, it kind of blows their minds.”


STEM Pathways Challenge topics include diabetes, ergonomics, animal behavior, chemical spills, mining and bioproducts. One, the Fish Farm Challenge, was selected by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto to be the 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience for eight midwestern states. Leaders estimate 10,000 youth will participate in the challenge, designed to explore how to boost food production through aquaculture.

Here are some other 4-H initiatives:

  • Nearly 5,000 children and teens in Cleveland learn a lifelong appreciation of nature and understanding of natural resources through Youth Outdoors, a unique collaboration between Ohio 4-H, the City of Cleveland Division of Recreation, and Cleveland Metroparks: go.osu.edu/youthoutdoors.
  • Two urban schools, one each in Cleveland and in Cincinnati, host “4-H Agri-science in the City,” which provides hands-on classroom instruction as a complement to regular coursework, as well as afterschool and summer programs: go.osu.edu/cityagriscience.

“The whole idea of STEM is not just taking a rigorous engineering or mathematics course,” Jennings said. “STEM is a whole different process of looking at things. You present students with a problem, and they use their creativity and critical thinking skills to figure it out.”

More: ohio4h.org/STEM-Pathways


Opening doors for new research into cancer-fighting food dyes

Colorful anthocyanins offer health benefits and a natural alternative for use as food dyes. Monica Giusti's innovations could accelerate research and development in the field.

Colorful anthocyanins offer health benefits and a natural alternative for use as food dyes. Monica Giusti’s innovations could accelerate research and development in the field.

Monica Giusti’s lab budget wasn’t limitless. And the anthocyanins she studied weren’t cheap. So she made her own — slashing costs 10- to 20-fold. Now, her patented process will be commercialized by newly formed Anthocyantific LLC. Giusti is chief scientist.

Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that also give color to most red, orange, purple and blue fruits and vegetables. Giusti is internationally known for her research on their potential as cancer-fighters and as natural food dyes.

“Most companies sell anthocyanin standards, one anthocyanin at a time. And only a small portion of the 700 anthocyanins known to exist is available as pure standards,” Giusti said. “What we produce is unique.”

The process provides a complete blend of anthocyanins from specific foods: the single primary anthocyanin from strawberries, for example, or the 15-plus anthocyanins from blueberries. Giusti hopes the new products’ availability and low cost will galvanize new research into the pigments.


  • Giusti’s anthocyanins research has garnered more than $500,000 in private industry support since 2009. The result: two patents, with five more pending.
  • Guisti was named The Ohio State University’s Early Career Innovator of the Year in 2013, and is co-editor of “Anthocyanins in Health and Disease,” the first book to summarize advances in research of anthocyanins’ role in disease prevention.
  • Giusti is a member of CAFFRE, the Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship, which focuses on developing health-promoting functional foods and ingredients. CAFFRE combines efforts of 44 university scientists and has resulted in 250-plus collaborative research publications and a total of $18 million in support related to foods, nutrients and health between 2006–2014, including $2 million from 21 industry partners:

“Monica Giusti’s work is both cost-effective and innovative — a powerful combination that’s attractive to industry partners,”  said Melissa Kelly, licensing manager, The Ohio State University Technology Commercialization Office. “Companies are working with Ohio State not only to fund her research but to commercialize it as well.”

More: go.osu.edu/colorcodes