Chow Line: Tick that causes meat allergies found in Ohio

Is there a tick that causes people to develop an allergy to red meat, and can it be found it Ohio?

Nymphal and adult forms of the lone star tick. Clockwise, from bottom left: unfed nymph, engorged nymph, adult male, unfed adult female, and engorged adult female. For size reference, the center dot is approximately 0.8 mm diameter. Photo by Jeffery Alfred, used with permission from Iowa State University Extension.

Nymphal and adult forms of the lone star tick. Clockwise, from bottom left: unfed nymph, engorged nymph, adult male, unfed adult female, and engorged adult female. For size reference, the center dot is approximately 0.8 mm diameter. Photo by Jeffery Alfred, used with permission from Iowa State University Extension.

Yes, to both of your questions.

The tick you are referring to is called the lone star tick, which, in certain cases, in some people, can cause an allergy to red meat after being bitten by the tick.

This species of tick entered Ohio over the last decade or so. It has since spread throughout the state, although it is more common in southern Ohio, said Tim McDermott, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

While the lone star tick prefers a wooded habitat, in many cases, it can also be found along the perimeter of pasture and hay fields that extend into the grass, he said.

“It’s known to be an aggressive biter of humans, and while this tick isn’t known to vector or transmit Lyme disease, it can vector other diseases such as ehrlichiosis, southern tick associated-rash illness, tularemia, as well as some viral diseases,” McDermott said. “It has also been associated with causing an allergic syndrome in some people after being bitten.”

According to a study by researchers with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, some people who have been bitten by a lone star tick have gone on to develop an allergy to eating red meat, and in some cases, dairy. The study found that, in rare cases, some people have developed life-threatening allergic reactions to red meat after being bitten by a lone star tick.

The study attributes the allergic reaction to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alpha-gal), which is a type of sugar that some animals make in their bodies. As a result, it’s found in red meats, including beef, pork, and lamb, the exception being primates.

According to published reports, humans don’t have alpha-gal, but they can have an immune response to it.

“If a person is bitten by the lone star tick and has an allergic reaction to the alpha-gal carbohydrate in the tick saliva, they can show food allergy symptoms including hives, itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and swelling, after eating mammalian muscle such as pork, beef, lamb, and venison,” McDermott said. “In severe cases, the individual may suffer anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.”

While the association between lone star tick bites and the allergy are clear, more research is needed to understand why these alpha-gal allergies develop in some people and not in others, according to the study.

“In Ohio, ticks are most active from April through September, although they can be active any time of the year,” McDermott said.

“The three most common ticks that can affect humans, companion animals, and livestock found in the Buckeye State include the blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick), the American dog tick, and the lone star tick,” he said.

To prevent tick bites when in areas where they may be active, McDermott recommend that you should do the following:

  • Wear light-colored clothes including a long-sleeved shirt tucked into your pants and long pants tucked into your socks or boots.
  • Apply a tick repellent according to label instructions.
  • Wear footwear and clothing that have been treated correctly with permethrin. These can be purchased through many outfitters and clothing companies.
  • Do frequent tick checks of your body while outside, and do a thorough inspection at shower time.
  • Protect your pets with an anti-tick product recommended by a veterinarian.
  • Keep dogs on a leash and avoid allowing them into weedy areas.
  • Do not crush or puncture a tick, if you find one attached. Instead, use pointy tweezers or a tick removal tool to carefully remove the tick by grasping the tick as close to your skin as possible and pulling it straight up with steady, even pressure. Then, disinfect the bite site, and wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Save the tick for identification.

“Lastly, if you think you may have been exposed to a tick bite or if you show symptoms of alpha-gal allergy, contact your physician right away to get a diagnosis,” McDermott said.

More information on lone star and other ticks can be found at Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases, an Ohioline fact sheet. Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu.

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 Tim McDermott, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

Peaches recalled due to salmonella

Last week it was onions, and now this week peaches have been recalled due to salmonella. What is salmonella, and how do fruits and vegetables get contaminated with it?

Bags of peaches. Photo: Getty Images. 

Good question. First, let’s look at the current recall that was linked to loose or bagged peaches packed or supplied by Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Company LLC, according to an Aug. 27 alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The peaches, which were sold in many large retailers, including Aldi, Target, Walmart, and Kroger, were recalled due to potential contamination with salmonella enteritidis. A list of the impacted fruit can be found here. The peaches recall occurs as a nationwide onion recall—also due to salmonella contamination—was expanded Aug. 18 to include more onions and some food made with onions.

So, what is salmonella and how does food become contaminated with it?

Salmonella are a group of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illness and fever called salmonellosis, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

And while there are many ways pathogens such as salmonella can contaminate foods, one frequent way is through contact with fecal matter, said Sanja Ilic, food safety state specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

This can happen on farm fields, where animal feces can spread disease to produce.

For example, if food is made from grain or produce that has come into contact with animal feces in the field or in the soil in which it is grown, or if the grain or produce comes into contact with water that contains the pathogen, salmonella can be transferred from the feces onto the grain or produce, Ilic said.

There are also numerous points along any supply chain where fruits and vegetables or other food produce can be infected with illness-causing bacteria. For example, salmonella can spread at the food manufacturing plant if a contaminated ingredient comes into contact with equipment that then touches other foods, she said.

In restaurants and other food service entities, for example, salmonella can be spread by food handlers who do not wash their hands and/or the surfaces and tools they use between food preparation steps, and when people eat raw or undercooked foods.

Salmonella can also be spread in one’s own home, where raw meat or eggs can cross-contaminate with other groceries, Ilic said.

Pets can also spread the bacteria within a home if they eat food contaminated with salmonella, the FDA says.

Foods that have been linked to salmonella outbreaks in the U.S. have included meat products, poultry products, raw or undercooked eggs and dough, flour, cereal, dairy products, fruits, leafy greens, raw sprouts, fresh vegetables, nut butters and spreads, and pet foods and treats, according to the FDA.

Cooking foods to their recommended minimal temperatures kills salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria, Ilic said.

“However, when fresh produce items become contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, this is of a particular concern, because these foods are consumed uncooked,” she said.

Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within six hours to six days after being exposed to the bacteria, with the symptoms typically lasting four to seven days. In some people, including children, elderly people, and those who might have compromised immune systems, the disease can be so severe that it leads to hospitalization or even death, the CDC says.

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, state specialist in food safety for OSU Extension.

Tips to save money on groceries

My grocery bill has risen by almost $80 a month since March and it’s becoming harder to keep spending so much more than we used to. Do you have any tips on how we can cut our food costs?

Photo: Getty Images.

You aren’t alone in noticing the increase in the price of some foods. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices increased some 5.6% in June as compared to the same time last year. Additionally, between March and June, the cost of poultry and eggs have increased more than 7%, while the costs of veal and meat has increased more than 20%.

Much of the increase, experts say, has been attributed to several reason, including the increased demand for groceries with more people buying food to eat at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as issues with disruptions across the food supply chain earlier in the pandemic.

With this in mind, there are ways for you to cut costs from your grocery bill, while still eating healthy. You can start by planning ahead for your grocery spending, which can allow you to make healthy food choices but still spend less.

As mentioned in a previous Chow line, one of the best ways to stick to a budget is to take inventory in your kitchen of the items that are needed for the week or the month and make a list of the foods you plan to purchase before you get to the grocery store. And once you are at the store, stick to your grocery list, bypassing the urge to buy any tempting items that you really don’t need.

That’s just one of the tips listed on the Celebrate Your Plate website offered by The Ohio State University’s SNAP-Ed program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by Ohio State University Extension, which is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The website offers tips on shopping, cooking, gardening and for in the kitchen, all designed to help people budget for, plan and create healthy, good-tasting meals.

Some other tips the website offers on how fruits and vegetables can fit into your budget include:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time and make a grocery list, then stick to your list. You’ll save money by buying only what you need.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Shopping after eating will make it easier to pass on tempting snack foods. You’ll have more of your food budget for vegetables and fruits.
  • When purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, buy those that are in season. In-season produce typically not only has more flavor and is fresher, it usually costs less.
  • Canned or frozen vegetables can offer costs savings. For canned items, choose fruit canned in 100 percent fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
  • Clip coupons from the local newspaper and online. Also, check weekly store ads for sales, coupons and specials that will cut food costs.
  • Some fresh vegetables and fruits don’t last long, so buying small amounts more often can help make sure you can eat the foods without throwing any away.
  • Choose store brands when possible. You’ll get the same or similar product for a cheaper price. If your grocery store has a membership card, sign up for even more savings.
  • Buy vegetables and fruits in their simplest form. Pre-cut, pre-washed, ready-to-eat and processed foods may be more convenient, but they often cost much more than fruits and vegetables that are purchased in their most basic forms.

Another way to save time and money while incorporating more fruits and veggies in your diet is to use leftover vegetables to make a casserole or soup. You can use your overripe fruit to make a smoothie or for baking. More cost-saving tips, recipes and information can be found at celebrateyourplate.org.

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, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Ana Claudia Zubieta, director of Ohio SNAP-Ed in CFAES.

Some onions, ready-to-eat meat, and poultry products recalled

How do I know if the onions or other food products in my pantry or fridge are part of a recall I just heard about?

Showing E coli culture plate with red onion. Photo: Getty Images.  

There are currently two recalls to which you might be referring. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning recently about onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. of Bakersfield, Calif., due to concerns that the products might be contaminated with salmonella Newport.

Likewise, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert this week for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products containing onions that were a part of the FDA warning.

According to the FDA, the onions, recalled on Aug. 1, include all of Thompson International’s red, white, yellow, and sweet yellow onions shipped from May 1 through the present. The onions were distributed to wholesalers, restaurants, and retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. A list of the recalled onions can be found on the FDA site.

The USDA-FSIS then issued their alert Aug. 5 for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that contain “onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. due to concerns that the products may be contaminated with salmonella,” according to a written statement.

The ready-to-eat meat and poultry products were produced by Taylor Farms on July 30 and 31. A specific list of recalled products can be found on the USDA site.

The move is to try to prevent consumers from developing a foodborne illness from salmonella, which typically causes a million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year, resulting in some hospitalizations and even some deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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.

As of Aug. 3, some 396 salmonellosis illnesses—including 59 hospitalizations—had been reported after consumers ate the contaminated foods, the CDC says. In Ohio, at least seven people have reported salmonella infections as part of this outbreak, the CDC says.

Consumers who aren’t sure if the onions in their pantry are a part of the recall should throw them out, the FDA says.

That’s one reason why this outbreak is a great example of the need for consumer traceability back to producers, said Kara Morgan, associate director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The center, which was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006 and became part of CFAES in September 2019, offers links to food safety-related research; food safety education and training resources; food safety online courses; consumer awareness and education information; information on food safety outreach and public service; links to foodborne safety organizations and resources; and a food safety blog.

“Consumers do not have any tools for knowing if the products in their pantries are from Thomson, so this outbreak led to a lot of needless food waste,” Morgan said. “The FDA and others are working on systems to improve this, and those solutions cannot come soon enough.”

More information on these recalls, in addition to any other recalls and food safety information can be found on the CFI website at foodsafety.osu.edu.

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, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Kara Morgan, associate, CFI, and an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.

CFAES center offers food safety resources, information

Is there a local source that I can use to find information and resources on food recalls?

While there are several online sources of information on food recalls, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University not only publishes information on the latest food recalls, it also provides multiple food safety resources, training, education, and information.

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006, CFI brought its 14-year record of protecting public health to Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) in September 2019.

The center, which is now housed within the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology, has a mission to advance a more scientific, risk-based food safety system that prevents foodborne illnesses and protects public health by translating science into policy and practice, said Barbara Kowalcyk, a recognized food safety expert and CFAES assistant professor of food safety and public health.

“In bringing CFI to Ohio State, we hope to build a stronger network of food safety experts who have the resources and talent to address existing and emerging food safety problems,” said Kowalcyk, who is also the center’s co-founder and director. “As knowledge brokers, we then work to translate science into practical, evidence-informed policies that protect public health and prevent foodborne disease.”

This is significant, considering the World Health Organization estimates that 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths are caused annually by 31 foodborne hazards worldwide. In the United States, serious foodborne bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause an estimated 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year, conservatively causing $77.7 billion in medical costs and lost productivity.

The CFI website can be found at foodsafety.osu.edu. Some of the information on the site includes:

  • Links to food safety-related research
  • Food safety education and training resources
  • Webinars
  • Food safety online courses
  • Consumer awareness and education information
  • Information on food safety training
  • Information on food safety outreach and public service
  • Links to foodborne safety organizations and resources
  • A food safety blog

Additionally, among its many contributions, the center collaborated with other groups to develop, pass, and implement the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA), which was the first major overhaul of food safety oversight at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in more than 70 years. FSMA shifts the focus from responding to foodborne illnesses to preventing them.

The center also joined multiple efforts to strengthen government resources for national and state food safety programs, and it led an effort to require mandatory labeling of mechanically tenderized beef products, which have been associated with foodborne illnesses, Kowalcyk said.

During its tenure at CFAES, the center “is working to connect the many people at Ohio State who are working on different aspects of food safety into an active network and help those outside Ohio State find the expertise they need within the university,” said Kara Morgan, associate director of CFI.

“Our inaugural event last November, ‘Translating Science into Policy and Practice: What are the food safety priorities?’ was our initial effort and brought together over 100 people from around Ohio,” Morgan said. “Also, a webinar was held in June about food safety and COVID-19 to commemorate World Food Safety Day.”

To subscribe to the CFI listserv, you can click on the red icon on the foodsafety.osu.edu site or at go.osu.edu/CFIsubscribe.

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, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Barbara Kowalcyk, director, CFI, and an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.

Meat thermometer is the best option to ensure food safety when grilling meat

Why should I use a meat thermometer while barbecuing steak on the grill? Can’t you just look at the steak to determine if it’s done by the color of the meat?

Grilling New York strip steak on outdoor gas grill. Photo: Getty Images.

Although many people use color as an indicator of doneness when grilling meats, to lessen your chance of developing a foodborne illness, it’s best to use a meat thermometer to ensure that your meat is cooked to the correct internal temperature.

Your question is very timely, considering that July is National Grilling Month, with July 4th generally accepted as the most popular U.S. holiday for grilling, surveys have shown. And because your question is very similar to one that was asked in a previous “Chow Line” column, it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

According to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, only 34% 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 might be present.

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

To gauge the most accurate temperature, place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the food.

In addition, the USDA says that 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, thereby helping to destroy any pathogens that might 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 might 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, the USDA says.

Here are some other tips for safe grilling from the USDA and the National Fire Protection Association:

  • When marinating meat or poultry, do so in a tightly sealed container kept in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or colder, or place the meat in an iced cooler if you are transporting the food. It’s important to keep the meat chilled because bacteria that can cause foodborne illness grow rapidly at room temperature.
  • Use propane and charcoal grills outdoors only.
  • Place your grill well away from your home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease and fat buildup from the grills and trays below the grills.
  • 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. Soak coals with water before throwing them away.

Keeping these safety tips in mind can help you have enjoyable barbecues without the worry of getting sick from eating undercooked meats.

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 Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

Avoid hand sanitizers that contain methanol alcohol

I’ve been searching for hand sanitizer and finally found a large bottle at a nearby store. The problem is, when I got home, I found out that it has methanol alcohol in it. Is it safe to use, and is it effective against COVID-19?

Bottle of a hand sanitizer. Photo: Getty Images.

No, it’s not safe to use, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a series of advisories posted over the past several days, the FDA has issued warnings about several hand sanitizers that contain methanol alcohol, because methanol can cause serious side effects when absorbed through the skin and can cause blindness or death when swallowed.

In fact, the FDA has published a list of hand sanitizers that it is advising consumers not to use because of potential methanol contamination. The federal agency said consumers should “check your hand sanitizer products to see if they are on this list and dispose of them immediately if they are.”

“Most hand sanitizers found to contain methanol do not list it as an ingredient on the label since it is not an acceptable ingredient in the product,” the FDA said in a written statement. “It’s important to check the FDA’s list to see if the company or product is included.”

The FDA said that some of the hand sanitizers on its published list have labels that say the product contains ethanol—also known as ethyl alcohol—but that have instead tested positive for methanol contamination.

Methanol, which is also known as wood alcohol, is not an acceptable active ingredient for hand sanitizers and must not be used due to its toxic effects, the FDA said.

“Consumers who have been exposed to hand sanitizer containing methanol and are experiencing symptoms should seek immediate treatment for potential reversal of toxic effects of methanol poisoning,” the federal agency said.

Substantial methanol exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system, or death, the FDA said.

“Hand sanitizers should contain 60% or more alcohol to be effective against coronavirus,” said Sanja Ilic, food safety state specialist with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“Also, your hands have to already be visibly clean in order for the hand sanitizer to be effective in killing germs, bacteria, and viruses,” she said. “Sanitizer kills on contact, but if your hands are already dirty, the sanitizer will not be effective against bacteria because it’s consumed by the organic matter (or dirt) as soon as it makes contact.”

“That prevents the sanitizer from even making contact with the bacteria you are trying to kill.”

Ilic said it’s best to wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, but if you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains 60% or more alcohol to clean your hands and then reuse it a second time right away to ensure your hands have been sanitized.

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, state specialist in food safety for OSU Extension.

Don’t bleach your food to protect against COVID-19

I’m really worried about COVID-19 and want to keep my family safe, so lately, I’ve been rinsing my fresh fruits and vegetables with a mixture of bleach and water. That’s safe, right?

Photo: Getty Images.

No, that is not safe. You should NEVER wash or rinse ANY food product with any form of bleach, disinfectant, or any other household cleaning chemicals.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a notice to consumers alerting them to the dangers of rinsing, soaking, or washing any food products with bleach or disinfectant, after a significant number of consumers have been doing just that.

Calls to poison centers around the country regarding exposures to cleaners and disinfectants have increased sharply since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC said.

This comes as 42% of consumers who responded to a May 2020 poll conducted by OnePoll on behalf of HelloFresh, said that they worry about the cleanliness of the products they buy and the overall environment while grocery shopping, according to published reports. The survey of 2,000 Americans polled how consumer views on grocery shopping have changed in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

And in a May 2020 online survey of 502 U.S. adults conducted by the CDC, 39% of respondents reported they engaged in at least one of the following high-risk practices with the intent of preventing COVID-19 transmission:

  • Intentionally inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants
  • Drinking or gargling diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, and other cleaning and disinfectant solutions
  • Using bleach on food products such as fruits and vegetables
  • Applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to hands or skin
  • Misting the body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray

Given the high percentage of individuals engaging in these unsafe practices, the CDC recommends that public messaging should continue to “emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as hand hygiene and recommended cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in household settings.”

“That messaging should also emphasize avoidance of high-risk practices such as unsafe preparation of cleaning and disinfectant solutions, use of bleach on food products, application of household cleaning and disinfectant products to skin, and inhalation or ingestion of cleaners and disinfectants,” the CDC said in a written statement.

It’s also important to understand that there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is a foodborne disease, Sanja Ilic, food safety state specialist with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), has said.

She said that COVID-19 transmits person-to-person through droplets that are produced when an infected individual, speaks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus is most often transferred to another individual when droplets directly reach their nose, mouth, or eyes, or through close contact such as a handshake.

The virus can also transmit when a person touches an object or surface with the virus on it and then touches their mouth or eyes before washing their hands, Ilic said.

However, fresh fruits and vegetables can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria, so you should rinse produce under running water before preparing or eating it, according to Barbara Kowalcyk, a food safety expert and an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology.

“The only exception is prewashed produce and raw meat and poultry products,” said Kowalcyk, who is also director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at CFAES. “Washing those products will actually increase the risk of foodborne illness because it can spread pathogens around.”

Fruits and vegetables that have skin should also be rinsed under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking them, even if you don’t plan to eat the skin, she said.

“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,” Kowalcyk said. “Firm produce such as melons, apples, and cucumbers should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush before peeling or cutting into them.

“They should then be dried off with a clean paper towel or cloth to further reduce harmful bacteria that might be present on the skin. Importantly, produce should be washed with water only. Never use soap, a bleach solution, or other sanitizers to wash produce.”

Lastly, don’t forget to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after food preparation and before eating.

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, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Barbara Kowalcyk, an assistant professor at CFAES’ Department of Food Science and Technology, and previously reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state specialist in food safety for OSU Extension.

Salad recall prompts questions of parasite

I read something about a salad recall due to cyclospora, but I’ve not really heard about cyclospora before – what is it?

Photo: Getty Images.

Cyclospora cayetanensis is a microscopic parasite that can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fatigue. When people eat food or drink water that’s contaminated with cyclospora, they can develop an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced June 19 that they are investigating a multistate outbreak of cyclospora potentially linked to ALDI Little Salad Bar Brand Garden Salad from ALDI grocery stores, Hy-Vee Brand Garden Salad from Hy-Vee grocery stores, and Signature Farms Brand Garden Salad from Jewel-Osco.

As of now, the recalled salad has not been sold in Ohio, but in stores locations in Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. However, the FDA said, “it is continuing this investigation and there may be additional retailers and products impacted by this outbreak.”

Thus far, at least 122 people across seven states have been sickened after consuming the salad mix, with at least 19 people hospitalized, FDA said.

According to the CDC, cyclospora is generally transmitted when food or water is contaminated by infected feces, noting that the parasite is, “unlikely to be transmitted directly from person to person because it needs several days to weeks after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person.”

“Some people may experience symptoms that last a few days to a month or longer,” said Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Cyclosporiasis affects an estimated 15,000 people in the United States each year, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Cyclospora infects the small intestine and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue.

People may also experience vomiting, body aches, headache, low-grade fever, and other flu-like symptoms, according to the CDC. Some people who are infected with the parasite don’t have any symptoms. If needed, treatment can include an antibiotic.

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 Sanja Ilic, state food safety specialist for OSU Extension.

First day of Summer? A look at what fruits and vegetables are in season now

Summer is finally here and I’m craving fresh cherries, sweet corn and delicious ripe tomatoes fresh off the vine. What other fruits and vegetables are in season during the summer?

Photo: Getty Images.

With tomorrow, June 20, being the first day of summer this year, now seems like a good time to revisit what fruits and vegetables are in season now.

As published in a previous “Chow Line,” summer heat and long days make it a good time to indulge in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables like berries, melons, sweet corn and tomatoes, among a wide range of plentiful produce. Not only are these items extremely fresh and flavorful because they’re in season, they’re also widely discounted because of the abundance of supply based on the time of year.

Improved technology and agricultural innovations mean that consumers can access fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.

But because fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during a certain season, produce typically is fresher and tastes best when ripe. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are also typically cheaper to buy because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

In fact, the top advertised items on sale in local grocery stores this week were fruits and vegetables, accounting for some 94 percent of sale ads, according to the June 12 edition of the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Apples, avocados, blueberries, grapes, miscellaneous berries, nectarines, peaches, raspberries, strawberries and watermelons were the top 10 fruit items advertised in grocery store sale ads for the week, according to the report. The top 10 veggies on sale in grocery ads for the week included sweet corn, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, bell peppers, potatoes, salad, squash, grape tomatoes and large plant tomatoes.

Summer is also a good time for agritourism, where farmers and producers open their farms to the public for consumers to hand-choose their own produce. Also known as U-Pick farms, these operations not only provide consumers with fresh, locally grown produce but also teach them about the farming industry.

Experts with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University offer a variety of educational programming for producers who want to incorporate agritourism on their farms. CFAES also offers tips for consumers when visiting agritourism operations.

There are several varieties of fruits and vegetables in season now in Ohio.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce (among others) is in season in Ohio during the summer, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau:

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Lima beans
  • Snap beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Collards
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Currants
  • Dill
  • Eggplant
  • Endive and escarole
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Parsley
  • Peaches
  • Sweet peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Black raspberries
  • Red raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Winter squash
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnip greens

So, now’s the time to enjoy fresh summer produce and, if you are able, to get out there and enjoy learning more about agriculture as you pick some fresh produce yourself.

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 Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension