Posts

Stocking up in case of emergency

I keep hearing that people should have an emergency supply of foods on hand in case of emergency, but I have no clue what to get. What food supplies should I stock up on in case of emergency?

Photo: Getty Images

Good question. Some consumers in certain areas of Washington State have found grocery stores with empty shelves, as many people responded to coronavirus fears and went out in what some have described as a panic, to stock up on supplies.

But that’s not a good idea, because panic-buying could lead to shortages of supplies for others if people overbuy items they otherwise really don’t need. To avoid scenarios like that, it’s a good idea to always have on hand at least a three-day supply of nonperishable essentials such as canned foods, dry mixes, and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water, or special preparation, according to Ready.gov.

Additionally, you should have at least three days’ worth of water on hand, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The average person needs 1 gallon of water per day, depending on their age, physical activity and health, FEMA says. And don’t forget your pets. It’s recommended that you should also have on hand dry or wet food in cans or sealed containers or bags, in addition to enough water for each pet.

Ready.gov, which is run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, advises consumers to choose foods your family will eat and items that won’t make you thirsty, when planning your three-day emergency food supply. The site also offers an emergency supply list that you can download and take with you when shopping so that you’ll know what they recommend you purchase.

Some of the foods Ready.gov and FEMA suggest include:

  • milk in either shelf-stable or powdered form in case you lose power.
  • cans of soups, stews, vegetables, beans, and other items that can be eaten hot or cold.
  • dried meats such as beef jerky and canned or vacuum-sealed pouches of tuna, chicken, potted meat, or sausages.
  • snack foods such as whole-grain crackers and cereal, granola bars, dried fruit, applesauce, fruit cups, trail mix, nuts, and peanut or other nut butters.
  • fresh fruit that has a longer shelf life, such as apples, oranges, and pears.
  • protein or fruit bars.
  • dried fruit.
  • canned juices.
  • food for infants.

Also, it’s important that you have a manual can opener as part of your emergency supply list, officials say, in case of a power outage.

If the emergency you are experiencing involves a power outage, remember to keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service advises. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours, or at least 24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed.

You should throw out refrigerated, perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, and leftovers if they’ve been without power for more than four hours. That’s because perishable foods left out longer than two hours can rapidly grow bacteria that will leave the food unsafe to eat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer 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.

New nutrition labels reflect more accurate serving sizes

There seems to be something different about the nutrition label on some of the foods I’ve purchased lately. Did the labels change?

Yes. In fact, the nutrition labels on some foods have changed and will soon change on other food products, thanks to new rules instituted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA announced the updated nutrition label design in 2016 as part of an effort to reflect updated scientific findings to help consumers make better-informed decisions about food choices and maintain healthy diets, the government agency said.

One of the biggest changes consumers can expect to see is a larger, bolder typeface for both calories and serving sizes. The typeface will be easier for people to see and read. And the serving sizes have been updated to better reflect the amounts of food and drink that people typically consume, not how much they should consume, the FDA said.

The change was based on more up-to-date food consumption data, which shows that people have typically been eating larger serving sizes than they previously had.

While the new labels were already placed on about 10% of food packages being sold last year, the FDA required food manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales to have the labels on all of their products by this year. Manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have until 2021 to put the new labels on all of their food products, the FDA said.

“The new label reflects updated scientific information, including our greater understanding of the links between diet and chronic disease,” the FDA said in a written statement. “It is also more realistic about how people eat today.”

Other changes you’ll see on the labels, in addition to the more realistic serving sizes, are that some packages are listing nutrition information per serving as well as per package. For example, the FDA said that on a pint of ice cream, you will see calories and nutrients listed for one serving and for the whole container.

The labels will also list added sugars, which are either added during the processing of foods or are packaged as such.

The scientific evidence underlying the 2010 and the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans supports reducing caloric intake from added sugars. Consuming too much added sugars can make it difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits, the FDA said.

Vitamin D and potassium will also be added to the list of nutrients required on the labels, whereas vitamins A and C are no longer required to be listed.

“Vitamin D and potassium are nutrients American’s don’t always get enough of, according to nationwide food consumption surveys, and when lacking, are associated with increased risk of chronic disease,” 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).

“Manufacturers can still list vitamins A and C if they wish, but deficiencies of these vitamins are rare,” she said.

The information on daily values for nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D has also been updated and is used to calculate the percentage of Daily Value (DV) that is on the labels. The percentage of DV provides nutrition information in the context of a daily diet based on 2,000 calories per day.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University 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 writer 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.

Going out for Valentine’s Day? Pay attention to the details when dining out

Valentine’s Day is tonight and I plan to take my date out to dinner. Got any food safety tips on dinning out? I don’t want the evening to end on a bad note.

Photo: Getty Images.

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday this year, you’re likely to run into a crowd at almost any restaurant you choose to dine in. In fact, Valentine’s Day is the most popular reservation day of the year for most restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association. For example, consumers plan to spend $4.3 billion on an evening out this year for Valentine’s day, according to the National Retail Federation.

With that in mind, making sure that your food is cooked thoroughly is just one way to protect yourself when eating out at a restaurant, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a Feb. 5 posting from the CDC, consumers are advised to follow these suggestions to prevent developing a foodborne illness from a night out to dinner:

  • Check the restaurant’s inspection scores before you dine. You can find this information at your health department’s website, ask the health department for a copy of the report, or look for it when you get to the restaurant. In Columbus, Ohio, for example, consumers can easily check to see if a licensed restaurant or other food establishment has passed inspection by viewing dated, color-coded signs posted in the restaurant. The colors indicate the results of the establishments’ most recent health inspections.

  • Ask before ordering. Raw or undercooked eggs can be a hidden hazard in foods, such as Caesar salad, custards and some sauces, unless they are commercially pasteurized.

  • Order your food cooked to the recommended endpoint temperature. Certain foods, including eggs, meat, poultry and fish, need to be cooked to a temperature high enough to kill pathogens that may be present.

  • Avoid food served lukewarm. Cold food should be served cold, and hot food should be served hot. If you’re selecting food from a buffet or salad bar, make sure the hot food is steaming and the cold food is chilled. Germs that cause food poisoning grow quickly when food is in the danger zone, which is between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Look for certificates that show kitchen managers have completed food safety training. Proper food safety training can help improve practices that reduce the chance of spreading foodborne germs and illnesses.

  • Look for safe food-handling practices. Sick food workers can spread their illness to customers. If you can see food being prepared, check to make sure workers are using gloves or utensils to handle foods that will not be cooked further, such as deli meats and salad greens.

  • If you end up with leftovers, remember to refrigerate them within two hours of being served, or one hour if the temperature outside is warmer than 90 F. If this isn’t possible, consider leaving the leftovers behind, no matter how delicious the meal was.

While Valentine’s Day is held as a romantic time for couples, it’s important to remember basic food safety tips to avoid developing a foodborne illness, which impacts thousands of consumers each year.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer 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.

The difference between broth and stock

My dad asked me to pick up chicken stock from the store for a meal that he wants to make for dinner. When I got to the store, I bought chicken broth and brought it home. He sent me back to the store because he said stock and broth aren’t the same thing. But aren’t they really?

Photo: Getty Images

No, they’re not.

Your dad is correct. There is a difference between broth and stock, and depending on which recipe he was making, the difference between the two could have an impact on the outcome of the meal. This is because, generally speaking, broth is lighter and more flavorful, while stock is thicker.

To understand the difference, it’s important to understand what stocks and broths are. Stocks and broths are liquids used to make sauces, soups, stews, and other recipes.

The main differences between stock and broth are the use of bones or meat, the length of cooking time, and the type of seasonings added, writes Jenny Lobb, an educator in family and consumer sciences for Ohio State University Extension.

“Unless it’s a vegetable stock, stock is made using bones, water, and a mixture of aromatic vegetables including onions, carrots, and celery. It’s simmered for two to six hours and generally has added seasonings,” Lobb wrote in Broth versus Stock, a blog posted at Live Healthy Live Well.

The site, which can be found at livehealthyosu.com, is a free information resource that offers science-based consumer information and insights. It’s written by OSU Extension educators and specialists in family and consumer sciences who are concerned with health and wellness. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The boiling of the bones—generally chicken, beef, or pork—allows the bone marrow and collagen to be released from the bones, thus making stock much thicker than broth.

However, “broth, on the other hand,” Lobb writes, “takes less time to make, and contains meat (unless it’s a vegetable broth), vegetables, and seasonings, and is generally simmered on the stove top for no more than two hours.”

Stock is typically used in sauces, gravies, stews, and as a braising liquid for meat, while broth works well as a base for soups, stir-fry dishes, dumplings, stuffing, and for cooking grains and legumes, she said.

“Although broths and stocks can be purchased in cans and cartons at the grocery store, it is fairly easy to make your own at home,” Lobb said, noting that, “making broths and stocks from scratch can be a cost-saving activity if you save and utilize meat and vegetable scraps that would otherwise be thrown away.”

And with the cold days ahead during the remainder of this winter, soups and stews are a great comfort food to keep you warm on the inside!

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer 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.

Super-safe food for Super Bowl Sunday

We’re hosting a Super Bowl feast this weekend. Got any tips about how to do so safely?

Super bowl food. Photo: Getty Images

You’re not alone. Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest food consumption day of the year, second only to Thanksgiving, according to the National Chicken Council.

There are several steps you can take to ensure that your guests enjoy the game and the delicious foods you’re serving while not walking away from the buffet with a nasty case of food poisoning. Because your question is very similar to another that was asked in a “Chow Line” column from January 2017, it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several tips to help ensure that your guests have a good meal without the fear of food poisoning.

The first step is to wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food. Also, if you’re using a cutting board to prepare vegetables for your veggie tray, wash the cutting board and utensils with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. And make sure that you rinse fruits and vegetables—even those you plan to peel—under running water.

Now for the meats. The No. 1 food typically served during a Super Bowl party is chicken wings. In fact, 1.33 billion chicken wings are expected to be consumed Feb. 2 when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, the National Chicken Council says.

Make sure your guests don’t get a foodborne illness, such as salmonella poisoning, by ensuring you cook the wings—whether they are baked or fried—to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, recommends the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the wing for the most accurate reading. If you are preparing hamburgers using ground beef, make sure the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees before serving.

Here are some tips for putting food on the buffet table:

  • Keep hot foods at least 140 degrees or warmer using a chafing dish, a slow cooker, or warming trays.
  • Keep cold foods at least 40 degrees or colder by using small service trays or serving dishes in bowls of ice, making sure to replace the ice often.
  • Avoid double-dipping (George Costanza!) by providing your guests small plates so that they aren’t eating directly from the bowls containing your dips and salsa.
  • Make sure you don’t keep any perishable food out on the buffet at room temperature for more than two hours. Cooked food left out longer than two hours can rapidly grow bacteria that will leave the food unsafe to eat, according to the CDC.

Food safety is also important after the party.

Leftovers (if you have any food remaining from your hungry guests) can be placed in a shallow container and stored in the refrigerator for no more than three to four days. If you don’t plan to eat them within that time frame, the CDC says you can freeze them. Leftover cooked meat or poultry can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

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

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Sanja Ilic, specialist in food safety for Ohio State University Extension.

Binge drinking on the rise in certain populations

Is there a difference between heavy drinking and binge drinking? And do these have any effect on my health?

Photo: Getty Images

Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines heavy drinking as the consumption of 15 drinks or more per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women. On the other hand, they define binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women, in about two hours. A binge drinker is someone who experiences at least one binge-drinking episode during a 30-day period.

Per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard alcoholic drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, which is typically about 5% alcohol; 5 ounces of wine, which is typically 12% alcohol; or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, which is typically 40% alcohol, or 80 proof.

According to a new study released this week by the CDC, U.S. adults who binge drink have significantly increased their alcohol intake in recent years. The study found that U.S. adults consumed more than 529 binge drinks per binge drinker in 2017 compared to 472 in 2011. Binge drinkers in Ohio average some 764 alcoholic drinks per person annually, according to the study.

The CDC says this is a concern because excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking can lead to long-term health problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and liver failure. In fact, the CDC states that binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the 88,000 alcohol-attributable deaths and three-quarters of the $249 billion in economic costs associated with excessive drinking in the United States annually.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that women of legal drinking age should have no more than one drink per day, while men of legal drinking age should consume no more than two drinks per day.

Why are there different recommendations for men and women?

Well, the body depends on substances known as enzymes to process alcohol, said Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“And women generally produce less enzymes compared to men, thereby causing more unprocessed alcohol to go straight into their blood, thus quickly building up and producing effects,” she said.

In addition, compared to men, women are generally smaller, have more body fat, and have less total body water. The alcohol they consume, therefore, doesn’t get diluted and becomes more concentrated in the blood.

So, what can be done at the community level to reduce binge drinking?

The CDC recommends that alcohol screening and intervention by health care providers become a routine part of clinical care. It also recommends the widespread use of community prevention strategies such as limiting the number of places that serve or sell alcohol in a geographic area, as well as limiting the days and hours of alcohol sales.

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

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for OSU Extension.

Is drinking more water your New Year’s resolution? If so, here’s how to do it.

As part of my 2020 New Year’s resolution, I’ve pledged to drink more water this year. Do you have any tips on how I can stick to my goal and keep up my water intake?

Photo: Getty Images

If drinking more water was one of your New Year’s resolutions, you’re not alone. Not only is increasing the amount of water one drinks one of the top consumer resolutions for 2020, but increased water intake continues to be a growing trend as more people seek to boost their hydration rates as part of a healthy lifestyle.

For example, bottled water beat soft drinks as the top beverage in the United States by volume in 2017, with sales increasing 7% over sales in 2016, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a New York-based beverage consulting firm.

And on any given day, the average adult U.S. citizen drinks an average of 39 ounces of water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So why is getting an adequate amount of water consumption so important?

Not only is drinking enough water every day good for your overall health, but water can help you manage or lose weight considering that it adds zero calories when substituted for drinks that have calories, such as regular soda. Additionally, drinking water can prevent dehydration, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, result in mood changes, cause your body to overheat, lead to constipation, and cause kidney stones, the CDC said.

Although there is no set recommendation for how much water adults and youth should drink daily, there are recommendations for daily total water intake that can be obtained from a variety of beverages and foods, the CDC said.

For example, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies set general recommendations for water intake based on detailed national data, which showed that women who appear to be adequately hydrated consume an average of approximately 91 ounces of water from all beverages and foods each day, while men average approximately 125 ounces daily.

“‘Choose water first for thirst’ is a good way to make the better choice more automatic,” said Carol Smathers, field specialist in youth nutrition and wellness for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the statewide outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“When you are at home, at events, or at restaurants, choose water first, before reaching for other drinks or snacks,” she said. “You’ll be refreshed and cut costs and calories at the same time.”

So how can you increase your water intake? Smathers and other nutritionists and healthcare experts offer the following tips:

  • Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Don’t stock the fridge with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
  • Serve water with meals.
  • Infuse water with flavor by adding fruits such as berries, cucumbers, lemons, and limes.
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
  • Freeze some freezer-safe water bottles for ice-cold water all day long.
  • Choose water instead of other beverages when eating out, which is also a money-saver.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, field specialist in youth nutrition and wellness for OSU Extension.

Winter flooding potential leads to food safety concerns

The forecast this weekend calls for warm temperatures, thunderstorms, and the potential for a couple of inches of heavy rain here in Ohio, even though it’s January! I’ve recently moved into a new home in an area that’s been subject to flash floods. If my home floods, what do I do with the food in my fridge and pantry?

Photo: Getty Images

Your question is very similar to another that was asked in a “Chow Line” column from May 2017, so it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

If your home becomes flooded, it is important that you throw away any food that might have come into contact with floodwater. That includes cartons of milk, juice, or eggs and any raw vegetables and fruits. In fact, unless they were in a waterproof container, any foods in your home that came into contact with floodwater need to be thrown out.

Floodwater can seep into and contaminate foods packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or stored in containers with screw-on caps, snap lids, or pull tops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The best way to avoid the potential for foodborne illness in such cases is to throw away all foods not contained in waterproof packaging. That includes any foods in your pantry, cabinets, fridge, and freezer that came into contact with floodwater.

Canned goods also need to be inspected for damage due to flooding. Throw away any cans with swelling, leakage, punctures, or deep rusting, or those that are crushed or severely dented and can’t be opened with a can opener.

Foodborne bacteria can cause illness. Symptoms will occur usually within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, symptoms can also occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the case of a power outage without flooding, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. If not opened, a refrigerator without power will keep food cold for about four hours. A half-full freezer will hold its temperature for about 24 hours, and for 48 hours if the freezer is full, the USDA says.

If the power is out more than four hours, you can store refrigerated foods in a cooler with dry ice or block ice. You can also use dry ice or block ice in the fridge to keep it as cold as possible during an extended power outage, according to the FDA.

The USDA and the FDA offer these other tips for safe food handling after a power outage:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Throw away any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or leftovers that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw away any food that feels warm to the touch or has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed can be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees or below.

Remember, when in doubt about the safety of the food item, throw it out. Never taste the food to decide if it is safe to eat, the USDA says. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than four hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut, according to the FDA.

Experts agree: One way to be prepared in the event of an extended power outage is to keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking or cooling. And keep a supply of bottled water stored where it will be safe from floodwater.

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

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Sanja Ilic, specialist in food safety for Ohio State University Extension.

Hold the raw, unpasteurized eggs from your holiday recipes

I love to drink eggnog this time of year, and hollandaise sauce is a rich indulgence that puts me in the holiday mood. While I typically make my own eggnog and hollandaise sauce using raw eggs, this year my wife has asked me to avoid the raw eggs. What’s wrong with using raw eggs in those recipes?

Eggnog. Traditional Christmas drink made from raw chicken eggs and milk with cinnamon in glass.

Count me in among those hundreds of thousands of consumers who indulge in rich, creamy, delicious eggnog this time of year! In fact, some 135 pounds of eggnog is consumed in this country each year, according to research from Indiana University.

But, if you are making your own eggnog—which is a sweetened, dairy-based drink traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, and spices—you should make sure that it is safe to drink. You can do this by using pasteurized eggs, which you can find in any grocery store, next to the regular eggs.

Another way to ensure safety is by cooking the egg mixture for homemade eggnog to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Foodsafety.gov, which offers food safety information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is because raw eggs can contain salmonella, said Sanja Ilic, Food Safety State Specialist, Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Cooking the egg mixture for homemade eggnog, hollandaise sauce, and other egg-based treats will kill dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning,” Ilic said.

That’s an important step, considering that salmonella typically causes a million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year, resulting in some hospitalizations and even some deaths, according to the CDC.

Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection, with the symptoms typically lasting four to seven days. In some people, the disease can be so severe that it leads to hospitalization or even death, the CDC says.

So how do eggs become contaminated with salmonella?

Poultry can carry bacteria such as salmonella, which can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Eggshells can also become contaminated with salmonella from poultry droppings (feces) or from the area where they are laid, according to the CDC.

“However, it’s important to know that eggs are safe and nutritious when you cook and handle them properly,” Ilic said.

The CDC advises that you avoid using raw, or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs as part of your holiday treats. The agency instead recommends that you use pasteurized eggs in your recipes that call for raw eggs. Pasteurized eggs are those that have been heat-treated to kill harmful microorganisms.

Here are some other CDC suggestions when using raw eggs:

  • Cook eggs until both the yolks and the whites are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees or hotter.
  • Make sure that foods containing raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu, are made only with pasteurized eggs.
  • Eat or refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs or foods made with eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or hotter.
  • Wash your hands and all items that come into contact with raw eggs—including countertops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards—with soap and water.

Please note: Don’t lick the bowl or eat raw dough when you are making cakes, cookies, brownies, or other foods that contain raw, unpasteurized eggs!

Although you might be tempted to lick a batter-laden spoon or a bowl filled with raw dough or batter, it’s best to avoid this practice to lessen your chances of getting 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 writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, Food Safety State Specialist, Ohio State University Extension.

Romaine lettuce alert affects Ohio, other states

I saw that there’s been another alert about romaine lettuce. How do I know whether what’s in my fridge is part of the impacted varieties?

E coli bacterial culture plate with romaine lettuce in laboratory. Photo: Getty Images.

Unless you can verify whether the romaine lettuce that’s in your fridge was NOT harvested from Salinas, California, you should throw it out.

That’s per the latest warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued an updated food safety alert on Dec.4. The alert advises consumers, restaurants, and retailers to avoid eating or selling any romaine lettuce grown in the Salinas, California, growing region. This includes all use-by dates and brands of romaine lettuce from the area.

The warning is the result of the recent multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7) infections linked to romaine lettuce from the region. Since Dec. 4, some 102 reported cases of illness in 23 states including Ohio have been associated with this outbreak, the CDC said. Some 58 hospitalizations have been reported due to the outbreak, with 10 people having developed kidney failure, although, thankfully, no deaths have been reported, the CDC said.

Of the 67 reported cases of illnesses, 12 were reported in Ohio, the CDC said.

“We had a similar situation just before Thanksgiving holiday last year, when Romaine lettuce that was grown in the Yuma, AZ agricultural region was implicated in an outbreak,” said Sanja Ilic, Food Safety State Specialist, Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“As a result, all Romaine lettuce was recalled then to prevent illnesses,” she said.

The difference between that recall and the current one this year, is that the growers are since using traceability labels with the origin of the farm, which has helped to narrow down where the impacted lettuce originated, Ilic said.

“Every lettuce head or a package of lettuce you buy should have a sticker stating where it was produced,” she said. “Unless you can see it where it was grown, do not serve it. This is important when eating at home, as well when eating out in a restaurant. You can ask your server to verify that the restaurant is not serving contaminated lettuce before ordering anything that contains lettuce.”

This is the fourth time in two years that romaine lettuce has been associated with an E. coli outbreak. That begs the question, just how does a leafy green vegetable such as lettuce become infected with a pathogen such as this?

As noted in a previous edition of Chow Line, if animal feces are in the irrigation water, the field or in the soil in which the lettuce is grown, or if the lettuce comes into contact with water that contains the pathogen, E. coli can be transferred from the feces onto the lettuce.

It can also be spread if a person who carries the pathogen doesn’t wash his or her hands after using the bathroom, and then that person processes or prepares food.

It’s important to note that washing contaminated greens doesn’t remove all bacteria, food safety experts say. While cooking can eliminate E. coli, most people don’t cook their leafy green salads. For that reason, avoidance is sometimes recommended when the source of an outbreak is identified.

Symptoms of E. coli infection can begin as soon as 24 to 48 hours—or as long as 10 days—after eating contaminated food. Those symptoms include vomiting, severe or bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

So, if you have—or have had—the affected romaine lettuce in your fridge, you should wash and sanitize the drawer, shelf, or other removable part in your refrigerator where the romaine lettuce was stored. You can wash the drawer, shelf, or other removable part by hand with hot, soapy water, the CDC says. You can then sanitize that part using a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach in 1 gallon 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 writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

 Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, Food Safety State Specialist, Ohio State University Extension.