Don’t Eat Uncooked Flour

Is it true that you can get sick from ingesting uncooked flour?

While many people are well aware of the warnings against eating foods with raw eggs for fear of contracting salmonella or other foodborne illnesses, fewer people are aware of the dangers of eating uncooked flour.

Caution: Eating raw flour can make you sick. Photo: Thinkstock.

It too can cause a mean case of foodborne illness.

In fact, eating raw dough or raw batter could make you sick, in part, because flour can contain bacteria that cause disease, according to a warning from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recent incidents in the U.S. and Canada underscore the issue.

Between December 2015 and September 2016, some 63 people across the U.S. developed an E. coli infection after eating raw flour. And in Canada, 30 people became sick between November 2016 and April 2017 after eating raw or uncooked flour contaminated with E. coli, according to published reports.

What is the cause of the problem?

“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” Leslie Smoot, a senior FDA advisor said in a written statement. “So if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.”

The issue was significant enough that the FDA issued a warning to consumers last summer to not eat any raw dough. Consumer Reports and FDA lists the following ways to avoid ingesting uncooked flour:

  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Avoid giving homemade modeling clay, playdough, papier-mâché or ornaments with flour as the main ingredient to young children who may, inadvertently, put these objects in their mouths.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily due to its powdery nature.
  • Make sure you throw out any old flour and thoroughly wash out the container or bin that you use to store flour in, before adding in a new bag of flour.
  • Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.

While most of these tips may sound intuitive, even the smallest of precautions such as washing your hands after handling any uncooked flour or any raw dough or batter, can make a huge difference in helping you prevent contracting a foodborne illness.

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 Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for Ohio State University Extension

Reusable Water Bottles Need to Be Washed Between Uses

I heard recently that reusable water bottles can sometimes be a hotbed of germs. Is that true?

Yes, at least according to a recent analysis from Treadmill Reviews that found that unwashed reusable water bottles could harbor significantly high levels of bacteria that are harmful to humans.

Wash reusable water bottles after each use to avoid harmful bacteria.

In fact, the report goes as far as to say that “drinking from the average refillable bottle can be many times worse than licking your dog’s toy.” According to the study, the average athlete’s water bottle has 313,499 colony-forming units, or CFUs, of bacteria per square centimeter while the average pet toy has 2,937 CFUs.

Yuck.

The study, which was performed by EmLab P&K, a New Jersey-based environmental testing firm, analyzed 12 types of water bottles and found differing amounts of CFUs based on the design of the bottle.

For example, slide-top bottles harbored 933,340 CFUs, compared to squeeze-top bottles at 161,971 CFUs and screw-top bottles at 159,060 CFUs. The bottle type that harbored the fewest bacteria was the kind with a straw top, which measured 25.4 CFUs.

But, that doesn’t mean you should toss your reusable water bottles and opt exclusively for store-bottled water instead. The report offers the following options for consumers to still get their required daily water intake while lessening their chances to encounter harmful bacteria and limiting their consumption of single-use containers:

  • After every use, wash your bottle in hot water with a teaspoon of unscented dish soap added. Soak it for a few minutes, rinse it well using warm water, and allow it to dry completely before the next use.
  • Occasionally use a weak bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water to sanitize the bottle.
  • Avoid letting your water bottle sit half full for long periods in between use.
  • Opt for using a straw-top water bottle. In the study, these types of bottles were found to have a lower prevalence of bacteria.
  • Opt for a stainless steel bottle.
  • Try to find a water bottle that doesn’t contain crevices and harder-to-clean spots. This will lessen the potential for harboring harmful bacteria, the study says.

Whatever you decide to do with your water bottle, it is important to remember that staying hydrated is a key part of staying healthy. Consuming an adequate amount of fluids helps to maintain body functions, including those of your heart, brain and muscles. Fluids also serve to carry nutrients to your cells, keep your temperature normal, digest food, flush bacteria from your bladder and prevent constipation.

Healthy people should get 30 to 50 ounces of water per day, which translates to about 4 to 6 cups or 1 to 1.5 liters, according to recommendations from doctors at Harvard Medical School. In addition to water, milk is also a good option to help in hydration.

So clean those water bottles and keep up your daily fluid intake. Your body will thank you later.

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 Carol Smathers, field specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

Eating Healthy at the Amusement Park

My friends and I are planning to spend the day at an amusement park. Do you have any tips on how to avoid the sugar and calorie overload and eat as healthy as possible while there?

Amusement parks can still be a fun, wonderful way to enjoy a summer day without overindulging in the sugary, deep-fried, calorie-laden foods that the parks are traditionally known for.

Eating healthy at the amusement park is possible.

Despite the temptation to feast on mounds of cotton candy, deep-fried candy bars, funnel cakes, snow cones, chili cheese fries and, of course, those infamous giant turkey legs, you can have nutritious foods and drinks at the park that taste good and are better for your health.

One of the best ways to eat healthy at the park is to pack some nutritious meals to bring with you. While many amusement parks won’t let you bring in outside food, you can pack a cooler with ice in your car and fill it with nutritious, portable foods that you can eat throughout the day. Some ideas for the cooler include fruit, nuts, yogurt, sandwiches, and veggies such as carrots and celery sticks, among others.

If you’d prefer to eat at the park, below are some suggestions for healthy food choices from Eatinghealthy.org and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Instead of hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries, opt for something like a grilled chicken breast with a side salad or fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid super-sized sodas, lemonades and other sugary drinks. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk or chocolate milk instead or a nice cold glass of water.
  • If you are looking for something sweet, try a candy apple. While they do pack about 300 calories each, the fiber in the apple will help keep you full.
  • Meat and vegetable kabobs allow you to indulge in the food-on-a-stick tradition of amusement park foods without the extra sugar and calories.
  • Corn on the cob is also a good option, preferably without the mounds of butter.

Another thing to remember about spending the day at an amusement park – you need to stay hydrated. It’s important that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. One tip is to bring a water bottle with you and drink it frequently throughout the day. If you don’t want to carry it around with you, another option is to request a cup of ice water from any food vendor at the park and drink it in between rides.

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.

Chow Line: Safe, Healthier Options for Picnics

I’m planning to pack a picnic for our 4th of July celebration in the park. To save time, can I partially cook the ribs at home and finish cooking them later on the grill during the picnic?

While it’s understandable that you’d want to save time by partially cooking your meats before heading to the park, doing so could result in a case of foodborne illness. This is because partial cooking does not destroy bacteria that can cause illness. The added heat during partial cooking can allow these bacteria to grow to unsafe levels. A safer option is to fully cook the meats to a safe internal temperature on the grill at the picnic.

You should also use a meat thermometer to judge the doneness of the meat — don’t rely on the color of the food as an indicator of whether it is done. Beef and pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, while chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

With July being designated as National Picnic Month, now is a good time to familiarize yourself with some other food safety tips to ensure you, your family and friends can enjoy months of summer picnics and barbecues without the potential for foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella or Listeria.

For example, did you know that it is better to store your cooler in the air-conditioned car as you drive to the park or beach for your picnic rather than placing it in a hot trunk? Or if you plan to buy takeout foods such as fried chicken for your picnic, you need to eat the food within two hours of purchase to avoid developing foodborne illness?

Or if you plan to make potato, egg or pasta salad, you should cool the potatoes, eggs or pasta and other ingredients to refrigerator temperature (below 40 degrees) before assembling? This prevents the salad from going into the temperature “danger zone” —between 40 and 140 degrees — where bacteria multiply rapidly during prep or storage.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service offer these other tips for safe, healthy picnics and barbecues:

  • Always use an insulated cooler with a cold source, such as ice, frozen gel packs or frozen foods.
  • Pack cold food first, right from the refrigerator. Keep food cold until ready to cook.
  • Cold salads, such as potato, chicken or pasta, should be kept cold until serving.
  • Plan to keep hot foods hot with a thermos or insulated dish.
  • Pack uncooked meat, poultry and seafood separately from all ready-to-eat foods, such as beverages, fruits and side dishes. A separate cooler for uncooked meats is an even better idea!
  • Avoid produce that’s bruised or damaged.
  • When choosing fresh-cut produce, such as half a melon or bagged mixed greens, pick only items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
  • Store perishable produce, including berries, lettuce, herbs and mushrooms, as well as all cut or peeled produce, at 40 degrees or below.
  • Use a fresh, clean plate for serving cooked food. Don’t let raw meat juices touch other food.
  • Place leftovers promptly in the cooler and store it in the shade to stay cool. Discard any perishable food left out for more than two hours.

Remember, although most perishable foods are safe to be left out for two hours, in hot weather, especially in temperatures above 90 degrees, food should not sit out for more than an hour. And while this may seem intuitive, it’s important that you wash your hands, your work area and all utensils before, during and after preparing food.

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.

It’s the age-old question: How do you choose the best melon?

Whether it’s watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or other melons, summer days (or any day!) is a wonderful time to indulge in these delicious, nutritious fruits.

Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melons.

Not only do these fruits taste wonderful, they are healthy low-calorie treats that are packed with vitamins. For example, a cup of cantaloupe has 60 calories and is rich in vitamins A and C, while a cup of honeydew has 64 calories and is rich in vitamin C and potassium and provides B vitamins. A cup of watermelon has about 45 calories and has significant amounts of vitamins A and C.

Watermelon is also 93 percent water, and the red variety is a good source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that gives watermelon its color. Lycopene appears to protect the body against a growing list of cancers, which include prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancers, according to an Ohio State University Extension Ohioline fact sheet.

Another benefit is that lycopene helps protect cells in the body from damage associated with heart disease as well.

When choosing the perfect cantaloupe, it is important to make sure the melon has no bruises or discolorations, a smooth, slightly sunken and well rounded stem end, a sweet, musky aroma and a prominent, an evenly distributed corky web-pattern that is buff or a light tan color on either a green, yellow or gray background.

Ripe honeydew should have a creamy yellow color when picked — if the melon is green when picked, it will never ripen, according to the OSU Extension factsheet. The skin should have the feeling of velvet and the blossom end should feel slightly springy.

When it comes to watermelons, here are a few tips from OSU Extension, the Watermelon Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how to pick the best one:

  • Look at the spot where the melon has been resting on the ground. A pale yellow or cream spot indicates ripeness, while a pale green or white spot indicates immaturity.
  • Scratch the surface of the rind with your thumbnail. If the outer layer slips back with little resistance showing the green-white under the rind, the watermelon is ripe. Scratching unripe melons only leaves a darker depressed line.
  • Choose a melon with a smooth surface, dull sheen, and well-rounded ends.
  • Choose a melon that doesn’t have bruises, cuts or dents.
  • Pick up the watermelon – it should be heavy for its size. As a watermelon is 93 percent water, most of the weight is water.
  • If you are choosing pre-cut watermelons, the more red flesh and less white rind, the riper the melon.

And remember, even though you typically don’t eat the peel from most melons, it is important that you wash the melon under running water before cutting into them. Melons are grown on the ground and can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria. Peeling or cutting unwashed produce can transfer dirt or other contaminates from the surface of the produce to the portion of the fruit or vegetable you plan to eat.

In fact, firm produce such as melons should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush before peeling or cutting into them. And they should then be dried off with a clean paper towel or cloth to further reduce harmful bacteria that may be on the skin, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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 Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for Ohio State University Extension

Eating More Vegetables, Lean Proteins Could Help With Fertility

I want to have children at some point in the near future. My mom says that the types of foods both my husband and I eat could help impact my chances of conceiving. Is that true?

Healthy foods that are good for the heart and overall health.

It’s well-known that eating healthy, incorporating plenty of exercise into your normal routine and maintaining a healthy weight contributes to your overall health and well-being. And, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nutrition and a healthy body weight for both partners can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive.

The issue is significant for many people considering that some 10 percent of the population is impacted by infertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The Alabama-based multidisciplinary organization says that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can increase a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. For example, women who are underweight, with a body mass index below 18.5, may experience irregular menstrual cycles or stop ovulating, the organization said.

And for women who are overweight, losing as little as five to 10 percent of their weight could improve fertility, according to researchers with the National Institutes of Health.

Following an overall healthy lifestyle including eating a nutritious diet, limiting — or eliminating — alcohol and caffeine consumption, and getting regular physical activity is especially important for women who wish to become pregnant. Achieving a healthy weight before conception also reduces risks for both mother and child. Be sure to talk with your doctor about these issues and potentially any others if you’re experiencing problems becoming pregnant.

Foods like fruits and vegetables, foods rich in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados, lean meats rich in iron, and foods rich in complex carbs such as whole grains and legumes are also healthy choices for women who are preparing to become pregnant, according to the Nurses’ Health Study published by a team of Harvard University researchers.

Smart diet and lifestyle decisions can also help with men’s fertility as well, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those smart choices that can impact the health of a man’s sperm include eating more colorful fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, blueberries and leafy greens.

Other smart choices for potential fathers include eating whole grains; low-fat dairy; lean protein such as fish, turkey and chicken; limiting saturated fats and fried foods; and adding almonds, walnuts and olive oil to the diet.

While neither having a healthy diet nor taking other precautions can guarantee a pregnancy, making smart food choices can help in some cases, and can improve your overall health in general.

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

Healthy Breakfast Choices Include Whole Grains, Protein

I often find myself running out the door to avoid being late to work, so oftentimes that doesn’t leave me much time to eat in the mornings. What are some quick, easy breakfast ideas on a busy morning?

Eating a meal in the morning helps your body fuel up for the day, especially if you make that first meal a healthy one.

Eating a meal in the morning helps your body fuel up for the day, especially if you make that first meal a healthy one. The best options for breakfast are those that include whole grains, protein, and fruits or vegetables, according to researchers at Harvard University Medical School.

Healthy breakfast options also include low-fat or fat-free milk and other dairy items, meats, and meat alternatives, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The benefits to eating breakfast are many. Adults who regularly eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to control their weight, control their blood sugar levels, eat fewer foods that are high in fat and cholesterol, and perform better at work, according to the Mayo Clinic. Kids who regularly eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to have better concentration, miss fewer days of school, maintain a healthy body weight and better meet daily nutrient requirements, the Mayo Clinic says.

So how can you eat healthier in the mornings?

Try adding whole grains to your morning meal, such as whole-grain rolls, bagels, English muffins or waffles. You can also get a good source of whole grains from hot or cold cereal — just make sure it lists whole grains, has 5 grams or more of fiber per serving, less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving, and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving, Harvard researchers advise.

You should also make sure you include proteins in your meal, such as eggs, lean meat, nuts, legumes or even peanut butter. For low-fat dairy options, you can include skim or 1 percent milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. Don’t forget to include fruits and vegetables in your meal.

And if you choose to include juice, be sure to choose 100 percent juice without added sugar. You shouldn’t have more than an 8-ounce glass, which is a standard serving, because juice is still high in calories.

Some other tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include:

  • Smoothies can be a good choice, including those that combine fruit, juice, yogurt, wheat germ or tofu.
  • Get organized the night before. Set the table with bowls and spoons for cereal. Get out a pan for pancakes or a blender for smoothies. Prepare muffin or waffle mix so it’s ready to cook in the morning.
  • Keep breakfast simple.
  • Pack your breakfast to go.

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 Fresh Produce Before Eating to Ensure Food Safety

My boyfriend insists that we have to rinse off all fruit before eating it – even watermelon, kiwi and cantaloupe. I say fruit that I cut to eat, like melons, doesn’t need to be rinsed first, and it’s OK to just wipe off an apple or grape before popping it into your mouth. Who’s right? 

Close-up of various fruits and vegetables.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a great choice that promotes a healthy diet. As such, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest you should fill half your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal.

But, because fruits and vegetables can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria, it is important that you rinse all produce under running water before preparing or eating it.

That includes fresh produce that was purchased from a grocery store, a farmers market or even grown at home.

And, yes, even some fruits and vegetables that have skin need to be rinsed under running water before preparing or eating them, even if you do not plan to eat the skin.

For example, cantaloupe skin has nooks and crannies that can house dirt particles. You should give cantaloupes a good rinse and scrub them with a clean brush before you cut through them with a knife. That is because peeling or cutting unwashed produce can transfer dirt or other contaminates from the surface of the produce to the portion of the fruit or vegetable you plan to eat.

In fact, firm produce such as melons, apples and cucumbers should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush before peeling or cutting into them. And they should then be dried off with a clean paper towel or cloth to further reduce harmful bacteria that may be present on the skin, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Sprouts are among the vegetables that cause a high number of outbreaks. They have to be thoroughly washed before consuming. Vegetables like broccoli, lettuce and leafy kale should be rinsed under cold water just before you intend to eat them. However, don’t wash berries before putting them in the fridge because that will increase moisture and accelerate growth of spoilage bacteria and molds.

It is important to note that most fresh produce is eaten uncooked and there is no way to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. This is where proper food safety handling comes into play. To lessen your chance for contracting foodborne illness, it is important that you not only wash fresh produce before preparing or eating it, but you should also wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after preparation, FDA says.

So even though it may be quick and easy to just shine that apple on your shirt or wipe off those grapes and cherries with a quick swipe of your hands, don’t do it. Take the extra step to avoid the potential for foodborne illness.

Understanding food safety is an important step to avoiding foodborne illness. Some 48 million people get foodborne illnesses, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several groups of microorganisms can colonize or contaminate fruits and vegetables at any point in the food supply chain, according to food safety experts. Pathogenic bacteria such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and viruses such as norovirus are commonly associated with consumption of fresh produce.

While washing produce is important, washing will not get rid of all bacteria or viruses. And washing with soap, detergent or commercial produce washes is no more effective than water. In fact, those products aren’t recommended at all, FDA says.

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

Grilling this Weekend? Use Meat Thermometer to Increase Food Safety

My dad considers himself a grill master, but I think some of his techniques are questionable, like marinating the meat in a dish on the countertop or checking the doneness of burgers or chicken by color. What can I tell him to convince him these methods aren’t safe?

Pork on skewers cooked on barbecue grill. USDA advises consumers to use a food thermometer to accurately measure if meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria. Photo: Thinkstock.

Your dad is not alone — many people use color as an indicator of doneness when grilling meats. In fact, according to recent research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, only 34 percent of the public uses a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers.

But, in order to avoid foodborne illness, the USDA advises consumers to use a food thermometer to accurately measure if meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli that may be present.

The safe minimum cooking temperature for ground meats, including beef, pork, veal and lamb, is 160 degrees. Turkey and chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, according to USDA. Steak and pork can be safely cooked to 145 degrees.

To get the most accurate temperature reading, you should place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the food to gauge its temperature.

In addition, USDA says you should allow a three-minute rest time after removing the meat from the heat source. During this rest time, the temperature of the meat remains constant or continues to rise and destroys any pathogens that may be present.

The problem with using color as an indicator of doneness for ground beef, for instance, is if raw ground beef is somewhat brown already, it may look fully cooked before it reaches a safe temperature. Different levels of oxygenation at different locations inside and on the surface of the meat can cause the meat to look red on the outside and brown on the inside.

So if the meat is already brown, it won’t change color during cooking, USDA says.

On the question of marinating meats and poultry, it’s safest to do so in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator kept at 40 degrees or colder, or in an iced cooler if you are transporting the food. This is because bacteria that can cause foodborne illness grow rapidly at room temperature.

Keeping these safety tips in mind can help you have enjoyable backyard BBQs this spring and summer without the worry of getting sick from eating undercooked meats.

Other tips for safe grilling from USDA and the National Fire Protection Association include:

  • Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should be used only outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • For charcoal grills, use only lighter fluid designed for grilling. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids, and never add more lighter fluid once the fire has started.
  • Don’t cover or store your grill until it has cooled, and soak coals with water before throwing them away.

Wedding Season Food Safety Tips

My fiancé and I are getting married in June and we want to make sure our guests have a wonderful experience. But I’ve heard some horror stories about people getting sick from food during wedding receptions. What can we do to make sure that doesn’t happen at our wedding?

Adhering to good food safety guidelines during a wedding reception will help ensure that your guests leave your wedding with only happy memories.

Adhering to good food safety guidelines during a wedding reception will help ensure that your guests leave your wedding with only happy memories. No one wants a bad case of food poisoning that could leave them sick for days or even land them in the hospital as a wedding favor.

That has been the case for some wedding guests, according to published reports.

More than 300 guests were sickened during a 2014 wedding in Sullivan, Mo. after consuming gravy that was not cooled and reheated correctly. That allowed Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium that can be harmful to humans, to develop, leaving guests with abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

Guests at a 2016 Alabama wedding contracted Salmonella poisoning from eating green beans and improperly cooked chicken. Cross contamination was likely caused by using the same serving utensils for the green beans and the chicken, authorities there said.

And in July 2015, some 35 wedding guests in Brewerton, N.Y., were sickened by Staphylococcus aureus — a salt-tolerant bacteria that can grow in foods such as ham and in gravies and sauces — after eating food served at a wedding reception.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year. To help prevent that from happing at your wedding, the U.S Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service offers these food safety questions brides and grooms should ask their caterer before the reception:

  • Is the catering staff properly trained on safe food handling?
  • When and where is the food prepared? If the food is prepared off-site, ensure the food is transported safely. If the food is prepared on-site, appropriate tools are needed to prepare and serve the food including multiple knives, serving spoons, cutting boards and towels.
  • How is food transported to the venue? Cold foods should stay cold and hot foods stay hot. Use sealable containers for food – transporting unsealed food containers in the same compartment could result in spillage and cross-contamination.
  • How long after food—especially meat, poultry, seafood and eggs—is cooked is it brought out to guests? Perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • How long does the buffet remain open and how will the caterer avoid food from entering the “danger zone” — between 40 and 140 degrees, where bacteria multiply rapidly? Chafing dishes or warming trays should be used to keep hot foods hot, and ice or other cold sources should be used to keep cold foods cold. Never leave perishable foods in the “danger zone” for more than two hours or longer than one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees. After two hours, food that has been sitting out without temperature control should be replaced with fresh food.
  • Are there any potential allergens used in the preparation of the food, including nuts, soy, milk, eggs, wheat and fish or shellfish? If there are, guests should be notified in advance. Allergens should also be noted on the buffet.
  • Is a food thermometer used to check that all foods have been properly cooked and are held at safe temperatures? No one can tell if meat is properly cooked by its color – using a thermometer is a must.

For brides and grooms who choose to prepare the wedding food on their own without a caterer, in addition to the above food safety tips, keep in mind the following:

  • Separate raw foods from cooked foods.
  • Do not use utensils on cooked foods that were previously used on raw foods.
  • Chill foods promptly after preparing and when transporting from one place to another.

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