How to thaw a frozen turkey safely

I’m making a turkey for the first time because, this year, we’re staying home for Thanksgiving and avoiding our traditional large holiday gathering due to the pandemic. However, as a novice, I’m not sure how to thaw the turkey. What do I do?

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Good question!

It’s very important that you thaw and cook your turkey safely to help avoid developing foodborne illnesses. Thawing a frozen turkey correctly helps minimize the growth of bacteria, which can cause foodborne illnesses. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. However, as soon as it begins to thaw, any bacteria that might have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

There are three safe ways to thaw a frozen turkey: in the refrigerator, in a container of cold water, or in a microwave.

The USDA recommends thawing it in the refrigerator because doing so allows the turkey to thaw in a controlled environment out of the temperature “danger zone”—between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit—where bacteria can multiply rapidly.

A turkey thawed in the refrigerator takes one day for each 4–5 pounds of weight. So, for example, if your turkey weighs 12 pounds, it can take three days to thaw. But, once thawed, you should cook the turkey within two days to ensure safety, 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).

“If you find yourself needing to thaw the turkey using a faster method, you can place it in a container or sink and submerge it in cold water,” she said. “It’s important that the turkey stays cold, so you need to ensure that the turkey is completely submerged in cold water by replacing the water with fresh, cold water every 30 minutes.

“Turkeys thawed using this method will need 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound.”

Also, keep the turkey in its original wrapping while it is being thawed, the USDA advises, and consider a secondary container to catch juices and condensation as the bird defrosts.

If you want to thaw your turkey in the microwave, you will need to take it out of its packaging and place it on a microwave-safe dish. Use the defrost function based on the turkey’s weight, the USDA says. Generally, allow six minutes per pound to thaw. Once the turkey has thawed, you should cook it immediately.

Here are some other safe turkey tips from the USDA:

  • Don’t wash your turkey! Why? Because bacterial pathogens, which can be present both on the inside and outside of a raw turkey, cannot be washed off. The only way to destroy this potentially dangerous bacteria is to cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Washing your turkey or other raw poultry will increase the chance that you spray pathogens over other parts of your kitchen, potentially contaminating your cooking area and sink.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check that the temperature of your cooked turkey reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You should insert the thermometer into three areas of the turkey to measure its internal temperature: in the thickest part of the turkey breast, in the innermost part of the wing, and in the innermost part of the turkey thigh.
  • Refrigerate your Thanksgiving leftovers within one hour of eating to prevent any pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses from growing.

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 Ohio State University Extension.

Safe holiday celebrations

With the COVID-19 pandemic still a major issue in my area, how can I celebrate the holiday season while keeping myself and my family safe?

Photo: Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic is still a major issue in many areas, with the nation reporting more than 100,000 new cases in a day this week. In Ohio, for example, 4,229 new COVID-19 cases were reported Tuesday.

With that in mind, health experts have released guidance on how to have safe holiday celebrations in the midst of the pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered recommendations on what people need to know before traveling, hosting, attending parties, or gathering with family and friends during the holiday season.

When planning to host a holiday celebration, the CDC says the most important thing is to assess the current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees to your gathering.

Also, if you are hosting or attending a holiday gathering, the CDC says you should do the following:

  • Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities, if possible. If hosting an outdoor event is not possible and you choose to host an indoor event, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces. Also, wear a mask when around people outside of your household.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible based on the weather.
  • Host activities with only people from your local area, if possible. The fewer people you are with, the lower the overall risk.
  • Limit the number of attendees. Keep your indoor get-together under 10 people, and limit it to one hour.
  • Have supplies on hand to help you and others stay healthy, including masks and hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • If you are planning an in-person holiday gathering with people outside of your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.
  • Try staggered eating times so that people from the same household can eat together at the same table. Consider eating with spaced-out seating.
  • Use paper plates and disposable utensils, as they are safer to use than regular dishes and flatware.
  • Wipe and sanitize common areas.
  • Avoid having multiple people pass dishes to one another.
  • Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items such as salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils, and condiments.
  • Avoid any self-serve food or drink options such as buffets or buffet-style potlucks, salad bars, and condiment or drink stations.

Additionally, make sure that everyone washes their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after preparing, serving, and eating food, 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).

While holidays are times when families and friends gather to celebrate, the lowest risk for contracting COVID-19 is to celebrate the holidays with members of your own household, Lobb said. However, there are other ways to celebrate without being in the same location, she said.

“One way to include members outside of your household in your celebration is to share recipes with family and friends and have a virtual dinner using a digital platform such as Zoom,” Lobb said. “Create new, virtual traditions like hosting a virtual game night or watching your favorite holiday movie simultaneously using a service like Netflix Party.

“And remember, make sure to include healthy food and beverage options such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low- or no-calorie beverages to help you and your family maintain good health.”

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, OSU Extension.

Kale can be a crunchy, healthy snack

I know that kale is healthy for you, but I’m having a hard time getting my kiddos to eat it. Got any tips?

Kale chips with sea salt. Photo: Getty Images

You are correct: Kale is a very nutritious food! It contains vitamins A, C, B6, and K in addition to manganese, calcium, potassium, and iron.

Additionally, kale is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food that is high in antioxidants and rich in brain-healthy nutrients such as lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collards can help slow cognitive decline.

“Kale is a healthy fall vegetable that can keep growing deep into cold weather,” 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).

McDermott, who runs the Growing Franklin food production blog, recently posted a video that he and fellow OSU Extension educator Jenny Lobb produced on how to dry kale into a crunchy snack that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Kale, which comes in many shapes and sizes, including Lacinato, Red Russian, flat leaf, and curly leaf, is easy to grow from seed and can be started indoors under LED lighting or started directly in the ground, McDermott said. The seedlings can be transplanted outdoors after about a month of growing, and harvesting can start as soon as the plant has produced several true leaves.

The video demonstrates how to make kale into a crunchy snack, including tearing the leaves of a stalk of fresh kale into bite-sized pieces seasoned with olive oil and salt, and placing it in a single layer into a dehydrator for about three hours to dry into crunchy kale chips.

“In the absence of a dehydrator, kale chips can be baked in the oven using a recipe such as the one found at foodhero.org/recipes/crunchy-baked-kale-chips,” Lobb said. “Kale chips are a crunchy snack that are easy to make, are full of vitamins, calcium, iron, and fiber, and are a delicious way to enjoy your harvest.”

There are several other ways to enjoy kale, including adding it to a smoothie, salad, or soup; sautéing it with olive oil, garlic, and lemon; mixing it into your pasta; or boiling it with smoked meat. Any way you choose to make it, adding kale to your diet is a smart, healthy choice.

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 and Jenny Lobb, educators, OSU Extension.

Chow Line: Grow your own produce year-round in Ohio

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused me to rethink how I access food, including a push to grow my own food, kind of like a victory garden. Where can I find tips and information on how to grow my own food in Ohio, even in the winter?

You aren’t alone in your desire to take more control over your food this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to express a desire to grow their own food. In fact, more consumers nationwide are expected to plant gardens this year. For example, online searches for “growing vegetables from scraps” increased 4,650% in March compared the same time last year, according to Google Trends.

The good thing about Ohio is that the Buckeye state is a four-season growing environment, 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).

McDermott, who runs the Growing Franklin food-producing blog, says it’s possible to grow a fresh, healthy harvest of vegetables all 12 months of the year in Ohio. In addition to offering growing tips on the blog, he’s also recorded a virtual class on how to grow during winter as well as produced an informative article with a step-by-step video of how to do so.

“Growing over winter is a great way to utilize all four seasons for food production in Ohio,” McDermott said. “We’re experiencing a tremendous drive and resurgence of folks that want to provide for their own personal and family food security. Additionally, growing outside is a wonderful activity that provides for health and wellness yet maintains social distance.

“Making the right choice for cold-tolerant plantings as well as the use of season extension will allow the backyard grower, community gardener, teacher-educator, and urban farmer to harvest all 12 months of the year.”

The virtual class focuses on how to use season extension techniques to grow in colder temperatures, including using low tunnels, row covers, and frost blankets.

Other resources for consumers to grow food in Ohio can be found through the new Ohio Victory Gardens program, a joint effort by CFAES and the Ohio Department of Agriculture aimed at boosting interest in gardening, helping Ohioans grow their own fresh food, and lifting people’s spirits in a trying time.

The program, which can be found at u.osu.edu/ohiovictorygardens, offers free, how-to advice and resources. Some of the topics covered at the website include what and where to plant, how to manage pests, and how to cook and can your bounty.

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, educator, OSU Extension.

Chow Line: Black licorice warnings and tips for safe Halloween celebrations

I heard that eating too much black licorice can cause heart problems. Is that true?

In some cases, for some people, yes.

With Halloween coming in a couple of weeks and candy sales up 13% this year as compared to this same time last year, according to the National Confectioners Association, it’s a good time to revisit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s warning regarding black licorice.

The FDA warns that people over 40 who eat 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could experience an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia that could land them in the hospital.

As mentioned in a previous Chow Line, black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root. The problem is that glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall, causing some people to experience abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy, and congestive heart failure, the FDA said in its advisory.

The issue is primarily a concern for people over 40, some of whom have had a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure, according to the FDA. The agency said that potassium levels are usually restored in people with no permanent health problems once the person stops eating black licorice.

So, if you like eating black licorice, it’s best that you don’t eat large amounts of it at one time—regardless of how old you are, the FDA says.

The FDA also advises that people who experience irregular heart rhythms or muscle weakness should stop eating black licorice immediately and contact their doctor. Lastly, it’s important to know that black licorice can interact with some medications and dietary supplements, so talk to your pharmacist or doctor to be sure none of the medications you take could be impacted.

It’s also important to note that with Halloween right around the corner—occurring this year for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic—there are measures to take to help you safely celebrate the fall holiday.

Already, a Morning Consult poll found that 80% of people believe that they will find creative and safe ways to celebrate the Halloween season this year. Meanwhile, 80% of the general public and 90% of millennial moms and young parents who participated in a recent Harris Poll, say they can’t imagine Halloween without chocolate and candy, and that trick-or-treating is irreplaceable.

Here are some questions the Cleveland Clinic advises parents to consider if you plan to have your children participate in trick-or-treating:

  • How will your child maintain social distance from others?
  • How many houses will they be allowed to visit?
  • How will you help your child keep their hands clean and not touch their face?

If you’d rather avoid the Beggar’s Night tradition of going door-to-door for candy, here are some other creative celebration options from the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Decorate or carve pumpkins at home.
  • Set up a piñata for your kids in the backyard.
  • Watch a scary movie.
  • Create a candy or festive scavenger hunt at home.
  • Host or attend a virtual Halloween party and costume contest.

If you do choose to participate in trick-or-treat with your kids, you are advised to wear a proper face mask that covers your mouth and nose, has multiple layers, and ties around the ears or back of your head.

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 Dan Remley, field specialist in food, nutrition, and wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

 

 

Frozen food safety

We bought some frozen chicken breasts that already have grill marks on them. The grill marks mean the chicken is already cooked, so I can just heat it up in the microwave, right?

A frozen grilled chicken breast with a bun.

Not necessarily.

While some frozen foods have the appearance of grill marks, browned breading, or other signs that normally indicate that the foods have been cooked, they can still be raw and need to be fully cooked before eating. It’s best to read the packaging on frozen foods before eating them to make sure you prepare them correctly. Proper preparation is key to avoiding foodborne illnesses from eating raw or undercooked foods that need to be cooked before eating.

However, a new study released last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service found that many consumers might not know how to cook frozen foods safely, which can put families at risk of developing foodborne illnesses.

The study found that 22% of participants said a not-ready-to-eat frozen chicken entrée was either cooked, partially cooked, or they weren’t sure that the product was in fact, raw.

“Although some frozen products might look cooked, it is important to follow the same food safety guidelines as you would if you were cooking a fresh, raw product,” the USDA said in a statement. “That includes washing your hands before food preparation and after handling raw frozen products and using a food thermometer to make sure your frozen meals reach a safe internal temperature.”

This issue takes on increased significance considering that frozen food has been a big seller throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with frozen food growth overall outpacing sales of other packaged foods and fresh foods this year, according to a recent analysis by market research firm 210 Analytics.

In fact, the frozen food market is estimated to account for $244.3 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach a value of $312.3 billion by 2025, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets.

Many families find frozen food products to be a convenient option because children can prepare frozen meals easily on their own, the USDA says.

With that in mind, “it’s especially important for children to know how to practice the necessary food safety steps needed to prepare frozen meals to avoid foodborne illness, and to help them do so, parents must first understand if products are raw or ready-to-eat,” the USDA said.

Here are some tips from the USDA when preparing frozen foods:

  • Wash your hands during and after preparing frozen food to prevent germs from transferring from your hands to your meal.
  • Although frozen products might appear to be precooked or browned, they should be handled and prepared no differently than raw products and must be cooked. Frozen products are sometimes labeled with phrases such as “Cook and Serve,” “Ready to Cook,” and “Oven-Ready” to indicate they must be cooked.
  • Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your frozen meat and poultry products to determine whether they are safe to eat.
  • All poultry dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that they are cooked thoroughly enough to kill any pathogens that could cause a foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s best to use a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • The safe minimum cooking temperature for ground meats, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, is 160 degrees F, according to the USDA. Steak and pork can be safely cooked to 145 degrees F.
  • Frozen and raw produce can also carry germs that can cause foodborne illnesses. It is important to handle produce properly to prevent the spread of germs to your food and kitchen.
  • Even if you are preparing a cold salad, frozen produce must be cooked first.
  • Check that frozen food in your freezer has not been recalled. You can find information about recalled items at FoodSafety.gov or FoodKeeper application.

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 Ohio State University Extension.

Juice or whole fruit?

Does eating a piece of fruit or squeezing it into a juice to drink offer the same health benefits?

Various freshly squeezed fruits juices

No. Even if you take an orange and squeeze fresh orange juice, drinking the juice of the orange doesn’t offer the same health benefits of eating the orange.

Fruit juice lacks fiber, an important nutrient found in whole fruit, writes Dan Remley, an educator in family and consumer sciences for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

“Fiber helps the digestive system, lowers cholesterol, promotes a healthy colon, and lowers blood sugar spikes, just to name a few benefits,” Remley writes in The Juice on Juice, a blog post at the Live Healthy Live Well website.

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 scienceswho promote health and wellness.

In the blog post, Remley adds, “Eating an orange or an apple will give you the fiber and also the juice.” This is because the dietary fiber, which is found in the pulp and the skin of the fruit, is typically left out of the juice. Dietary fiber within the pulp of the fruit binds to the natural sugars as it travels through your gastrointestinal tract. This process makes it harder for your body to absorb those sugars, resulting in the sugar accumulating in your blood at a slower, lower rate than it would if you were to drink the juice instead.

Another benefit of eating the pulp and skin of some fruits as opposed to drinking fruit juice is that the pulp and skin are loaded with many vitamins and nutrients. For example, the skin of apples, blueberries, grapes, pears, plums, raspberries, and strawberries contains carotenoids and flavonoids, which are beneficial antioxidants that can protect you from disease and help boost your immune system.

When you choose to drink juice, the best option is to choose 100% juice because vitamins and minerals are higher in 100% juice, Remley writes, noting that, “Some juice products are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which are helpful to bones and teeth.”

“Juices such as grape juice have other antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are anti-inflammatory and can also promote healthy cardiovascular systems and prevent some cancers.”

In addition to drinking water, or milk, Remley offers the following alternatives to juice:

  • Fruit- or herb-infused water
  • A splash of juice in a spritzer
  • Lemon-infused water, with some honey or sweetener
  • Tea

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 Dan Remley, field specialist in food, nutrition, and wellness for OSU Extension.

Fall a great time for apples, peaches, blueberries, in addition to pumpkins

I know that autumn means pumpkins will be available in abundance, but what other produce is in season in the fall?

Autumn harvest concept. Seasonal fruits and vegetables on a wooden table, top view

You are correct: This is the time of year when you will start to see pumpkins, squash, and gourds—which are all part of the Cucurbitaceae family—for sale in grocery aisles, farmers markets, and farms.

But fall is also a good time to buy grapes, apples, watermelons, potatoes, berries, zucchini, yellow squash, and peaches, among many other seasonal fruits and vegetables. In fact, those are some of the commodities that many grocery stores are now starting to promote heavily at discounted prices in their grocery aisles, according to the Sept. 4 edition of the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As mentioned in a previous Chow Line, although improved technology and agricultural innovations mean that consumers can access fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during a certain season. When ripe, produce is fresher and typically has its best taste. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are also typically cheaper to purchase because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

So how do you know which fruits and vegetables are in season?

One way to find seasonal foods near you is to use an app and website developed by Grace Communications Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sustainable foods. The app compiles data from the USDA and the Natural Resources Defense Council on over 140 varieties of produce to show users which fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts are in season, on a state-by-state basis.

Called the Seasonal Food Guide, the app and website allow users to check which produce is in season in half-month increments in each state. Other sources to check include the USDA Seasonal Produce GuideOhio Farm Bureau and Ohio Proud, among others.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce, among others, is in season in Ohio in the fall:

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collards
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

Adding any of these fruits and vegetables to your diet is a good idea. Not only are fruits and veggies naturally low in calories, eating them might help reduce the risks of multiple diseases including high blood pressure, some cancers, and heart disease, experts say.

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

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.