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.