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.

How to Carve Pumpkins Safely

Since I’m not crafty in the least bit, I don’t know the best way to carve a pumpkin. Can you help?

Photo: Getty Images

Carving a pumpkin can be a fun, festive, fall family event — as long as you know what you’re doing. Even though pumpkins are a beautiful, tasty vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask), carving them can result in injuries if you aren’t careful.

One thing to keep in mind is choosing the right pumpkin to carve.

There are several kinds of pumpkins — some that you eat, and some that are typically used for carving, said Jenny Lobb, a Family and Consumer Sciences educator 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).

Varieties include jack-o’-lanterns, colored pumpkins, pie pumpkins and specialty pumpkins, such as the Rouge Vif d’Etampes, or Cinderella, pumpkin.

“Pie pumpkins, which are smaller and sweeter in flavor, are typically used for baking and cooking, while jack-o’-lanterns are typically used for carving,” Lobb said.

Once you’ve chosen the pumpkin, it’s important to know how to hold them in order to avoid injury when carving. Because pumpkins are round, tough and slippery, carving them can sometimes result in slice, puncture, cut or stab wounds to hands and fingers that could result in a quick trip to the hospital, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH).

To reduce the risk of injury, safety experts with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASSH offer these tips:

  • Dry your hands and the pumpkin before carving.
  • Use the right tools. If you can, use a pumpkin carving kit that has specialty tools designed to carve through rinds, poke holes, and scoop out the pumpkin seeds and innards.
  • Stabilize the pumpkin by placing one hand on top of the pumpkin and carve working your way down. You can also cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin to scoop out the insides.
  • Use a spoon to remove the seeds.
  • Work in a clean, dry, well-lit area when you carve the pumpkin.
  • Don’t let young kids carve the pumpkin. You can have them draw the pattern that you plan to cut and scoop out the insides, but kids 14 and under shouldn’t use the cutting tools to carve.
  • Stand at least two arms’ lengths away if you are watching someone else carve the pumpkin.
  • To prevent fires, consider using a flashlight instead of a candle in your pumpkin.

If you do cut yourself, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean, dry cloth. Clean the wound with an antibiotic and a bandage. If the bleeding doesn’t stop in 15 minutes, seek medical attention.

You can also opt out of carving altogether and instead used paint or permanent markers to decorate your pumpkins, said Kate Shumaker, an OSU Extension educator and registered dietitian.

“These options can both be weather-resistant and child-friendly,” she said. “And since you haven’t damaged the integrity of the pumpkin, it will last longer and not rot on your porch.”

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 OSU Extension, and Kate Shumaker, an OSU Extension educator and registered dietitian.

Newly Updated Foodkeeper App Helps Reduce Food Waste

How do I know when an item of food is spoiled?

Photo: Getty Images.

That really depends on the food item in question.

Food spoilage refers to a decrease in quality beyond what is acceptable to consumers, said Abby Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University (CFAES).

Signs of food spoilage can include a change in color or texture. The food may also emit a foul odor or develop an unpleasant taste, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“The quality of food products often decreases over time,” Snyder said, “and the point at which a food is considered ‘spoiled’ varies by product, how it has been processed and packaged, and storage conditions.”

Food spoilage can occur more quickly in perishable foods depending on the impact of temperature, heat, humidity, light exposure, oxygen and the growth of microorganisms, all of which could cause a food item to be unpleasant to eat.

Microbial spoilage can occur more quickly when foods are exposed to unsuitable conditions, which can result in the growth of bacteria, molds and yeast.

“While these microorganisms may or may not be harmful, the waste products they produce when growing on or in food may be unpleasant to taste,” according to the USDA.

One way to prevent or lessen the chance of your food spoiling before you get a chance to eat it is to follow proper food storage methods. Storing foods properly can greatly impact their quality and safety over time.

For easy access to specific storage information, you can use the USDA Foodkeeper app. The app, which was just updated this month to include 85 more food items, helps consumers know how to avoid food waste through its information on how to store foods for maximum quality and information on how long certain foods last.

The app includes tips on how to store more than 650 food and beverage items that are available in an online data feed. Each time a user opens the Foodkeeper app, it will check the data feed for updates on food safety issues. The app also provides guidance on how to store condiments and sauces.

The app offers storage timelines for each product if it is stored in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry and cooking information for several types of food. The storage of unopened and opened food packages is also addressed.

The app can also send reminder alerts to your smartphone when a food item you’ve listed may soon spoil and can alert you to food safety recalls. Users can access cooking tips, safe food handling information, and cooking temperatures for various types of meat, poultry and seafood products.

The app offers mobile accessibility and is available for Android and IOS devices. It can also be accessed online at FoodSafety.gov/FoodKeeper. The app provides information in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was edited by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Some Synthetic Food Flavoring Additives Banned

What are synthetic food flavoring additives and why have some of them banned from use?

Photo: Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it was banning the use of seven commonly used synthetic food-flavoring additives that have been linked to the development of cancer in laboratory studies of animals.

The flavorings, many of which are used in many brands of chewing gum, candy, breakfast cereals, beer, packaged ice cream and some baked goods, were removed from the FDA’s approved usage list based on the findings of several studies. Those findings were used as the basis of petitions asking the government to stop allowing the synthetic food flavoring additives to be used in food, the government agency said.

The petitions were generated from several groups including the Consumers Union, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Center for Environmental Health, the Breast Cancer Fund and the Center for Food Safety, FDA said.

While the flavoring were previously approved as safe to use in food during the 1960s based on research done during that time, new data now suggests otherwise.

The banned flavorings include: synthetically-derived benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone, and pyridine and are often used to imitate the flavor of cinnamon, citrus and natural mint.

However, the FDA said that, although those synthetic flavorings have been banned, the agency “has concluded that these substances are otherwise safe.”

“The synthetic flavoring substances that are the subject of this petition are typically used in foods available in the U.S. marketplace in very small amounts and their use results in very low levels of exposures and low risk,” FDA said in a statement. “While the FDA’s recent exposure assessment of these substances does not indicate that they pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use, the petitioners provided evidence that these substances caused cancer in animals which were exposed to much higher doses.”

So why would the FDA revoke the usage of these flavorings by food manufactures if they don’t pose a high health risk when used in low amounts to flavor food?

The FDA is required by law to remove any food additive that has been shown to cause cancer in animals or humans, due to the Delaney Clause of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That 1958 clause requires that FDA cannot approve the use of any food additive that has been found to induce cancer in humans or animals at any dose.

As a result of the directive from FDA, food manufactures will have 24 months to, “identify suitable replacement ingredients and reformulate their food products,” FDA said.

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.

Food Safety Techniques Important for Dogs, too

Is raw pet food ok to serve to my dog?

Photo: Getty Images

While many pet owners may prefer to feed their furry family members raw pet food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that’s not such a good idea.

This is because pathogens like salmonella and listeria have been found in some raw pet foods, even in some of those brands that are sold pre-packaged in stores, CDC says. Since these germs can make your pet sick, it’s best not to feed them to your dog.

Studies from the U.S. Department of Food and Drug Administration have found that there are more harmful germs in raw pet food than any other type of pet food. And, if you handle these raw pet foods and don’t wash your hands afterwards, they can make you and your family sick as well.

Such was the case in February 2018 when two children in Minnesota suffered salmonella infections and illnesses after coming into contact with bacteria from contaminated raw pet food that included raw ground turkey, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The exposure to the salmonella caused septicemia, which is a blood infection, in one child and osteomyelitis, a painful and serious bone infection, in the other child, according to a report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Dry dog food can also pose a risk in some instances, CDC says. In fact, CDC says that it is possible for dry and canned pet foods to become contaminated with salmonella pathogens in certain circumstances, noting that there have been outbreaks of salmonella infections have been reported that were linked to dry dog food.

However, CDC says there are ways to lessen your chance of illness when handling dog food, including:

  • You wash your hands right after handling pet food or treats
  • Store pet food and treats away from where human food is stored or prepared and away from reach of young children.
  • Store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a lid, or keep the top of the bag folded or closed.
  • Do not use your pet’s feeding bowl to scoop food — use a dedicated scoop, spoon, or cup.
  • Keep dry pet food and treats stored in a cool dry place.
  • Promptly discard, refrigerate, or store any leftover food.

If you choose to feed your doggie raw pet food, (which CDC doesn’t recommend) CDC says you should:

  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces that the raw food touched, like countertops, microwaves, refrigerators and objects like knives, forks, and bowls.
  • Keep raw pet food away from other food in your refrigerator or freezer.
  • Freeze raw pet food until you are ready to use it.
  • Do not thaw frozen raw pet foods on a countertop or in a sink.
  • Throw away any food your pet does not eat.

And lastly, when you play with your doggie after he or she eats:

  • Don’t let your pet lick around your mouth and face
  • Wash your hands, and any other parts of your body they licked, with soap and water.
  • Don’t let your pet lick any of your open wounds or areas with broken skin.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was edited by Valerie J. Parker, DVM, DACVIM, DACVN, and Associate Professor – Clinical, at The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Chow Line: Internal Temperature of 165 F Needed for Chicken to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Does chicken have to be cooked to one uniform temperature, or can it be eaten like steak — rare, medium rare, medium or well done?

Photo: Getty Images

Great question, considering that American consumers eat more chicken than any other meat, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

However, unlike steak, all chicken dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to ensure that they are cooked thoroughly enough to kill any pathogens that could cause a foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s best to use a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Raw chicken can be contaminated with the bacterial pathogens Campylobacter, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens, the CDC says. So if you eat undercooked chicken or other foods or beverages contaminated by raw chicken or its juices, you could get a foodborne illness.

In fact, about 1 million people get sick from eating poultry that’s contaminated with harmful pathogens every year, according to CDC estimates.

To lessen your risk of developing a foodborne illness when cooking or eating chicken, the CDC recommends:

  • When shopping, place any packages of raw chicken into a disposable bag before putting it in your shopping cart or refrigerator to prevent raw juices from getting onto other foods.
  • Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken.
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken.
  • Never place cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, cutting board or other surface that held raw chicken.
  • Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing chicken and before you prepare the next item.
  • If you think the chicken you are served at a restaurant or anywhere else is not fully cooked, send it back for more cooking.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours or within 1 hour if the temperature outside is higher than 90 degrees F.

It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t wash raw chicken before cooking it. Rinsing or washing chicken doesn’t kill any pathogens that may be on the chicken. But when you wash or rinse raw chicken, you are likely splashing chicken juices that can spread pathogens in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils and countertops, the CDC says.

This is a problem because pathogens such as Campylobacter and Salmonella can survive on surfaces like countertops for up to 32 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was edited by Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist for CFAES.

Fridge Organization Key to Lessening Foodborne Illness Risk

I’ve always stored fresh eggs in the little “egg caddy” tray in the door of my refrigerator. But my husband says we should put the eggs in the actual fridge itself. Who’s right, him or me?

Photo: Getty Images

 In this case, your hubby wins the point.

Because eggs are a perishable food, they should be stored in the main compartment of the fridge because the temperature is more stable there, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, other perishable items such as raw meat and other dairy products should be stored in the main part of the fridge as well, USDA says.

That’s because when a refrigerator is opened, food stored on the inside of the door is most exposed to the warmer temperatures in the kitchen.

Keeping a clean and organized fridge is key to ensuring that the foods you’ve spent all that money on don’t spoil prematurely. Also, proper food placement can help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses by guaranteeing that the right foods are in the right places and are kept at the right temperatures to ensure freshness and safety.

With that in mind, when organizing your fridge, it’s important to make sure it’s set to the proper temperature to make sure your food is being preserved correctly. Proper refrigeration slows bacterial growth on food, so it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer at a temperature that will keep your food safe and help it to stay fresher longer.

Refrigerators should be set to maintain a temperature between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit to safely preserve your food, USDA advises. Setting the temperature too low will cause your refrigerator to work overtime and could also freeze some of your foods. Your freezer should be set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Here are some more food placement tips to follow from USDA:

  • Avoid storing perishable foods in the doors of the fridge as the temperature fluctuates in this location each time the door is opened and closed. Instead, store water, juice and or condiments there.
  • Fruits and vegetables can be stored in the sealed crisper drawers in the fridge. If your fridge allows you to customize each drawer’s humidity levels, you should set the vegetable drawer to a higher humidity, while setting the fruit drawer to a lower humidity.
  • Raw meat, poultry and seafood should always be stored on the lowest shelf of the main compartment of the refrigerator. These items should also be well wrapped or in a sealed container to prevent juices from leaking onto other foods.
  • When storing cooked leftovers, place them on the top shelves in the main compartment of the fridge, above uncooked foods. Refrigerated leftovers are safe to eat up for up to four days.
  • To help keep your fridge clean smelling and to absorb odors of other foods, you can place an open box of baking soda on a shelf in the main compartment.

Lastly, you should try to clean spills in the fridge immediately with hot, soapy water. You can also sanitize your fridge with a diluted bleach solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1gallon of water.

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 Kate Shumaker, an Ohio State University Extension educator and registered dietitian.