Slow cooker safety

I put a roast on to cook in my slow cooker and went to work. When I got home, I realized that the power had gone out at my house at some point during the day. I checked my slow cooker and the power was off, but my roast looked like it cooked fully. Can I still eat the roast?

Photo: Getty Images

Great question! However, I’m sorry to say that unless you are able to tell how long the roast was in the slow cooker without adequate heat, it’s best that you toss it out, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Generally speaking, perishable foods that have been at temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two hours or more will need to be discarded to avoid the development of harmful bacteria that could cause a foodborne illness. This is because food that isn’t maintained at proper temperatures can enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

As the name indicates, a slow cooker cook foods slowly at a low temperature—generally between 170 and 280 degrees. It works by using the direct heat from the pot and the steam created from tightly covering the pot over a period of time to destroy bacteria, making the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods, according to the USDA.

“While food is cooking and once it’s done, food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating,” the USDA says.

But, if the power to the slow cooker goes out and you aren’t there to know how long the cooker was without power, how long the food had cooked before the power went out, or how long the food might have sat in the danger zone, bacteria could have begun to develop on the food.

So, in your case, even if the roast looks done, the USDA says it shouldn’t be eaten.

The USDA also advises the following when using a slow cooker:

  • Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.
  • Keep perishable foods refrigerated until preparation time. If you cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator. The slow cooker might take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature. Constant refrigeration assures that bacteria, which multiply rapidly at room temperature, won’t get a “head start” during the first few hours of cooking.
  • If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low or the setting called for in your recipe. However, it’s safe to cook foods on low the entire time, if preparation time is limited.

Lastly, while it’s OK to use a slow cooker to keep foods warm, it’s not recommended that you reheat leftovers in a crock pot. This is because it takes too long for the leftovers to reheat to a safe temperature, creating a perfect space for harmful bacteria to form.

As such, the USDA says it’s best to reheat food on a stove, in a microwave, or in a conventional oven until the food reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. At that point, you can then place the food in the slow cooker to keep it hot, at 140 degrees or higher.

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 Shari Gallup, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Pawpaws making a comeback in Ohio, other markets

What is a pawpaw, and is it healthy for you?

The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit that is native to the United States, grown indigenous in some 26 states nationwide including Ohio. The majority of pawpaws are grown from the Great Lakes to the Florida Panhandle, with mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states being the primary growing region. Grown on trees, pawpaws ripen in the fall and are generally harvested from late August to mid-October.

Not to be confused with papayas, the skin color of ripe pawpaws can range from green to brown or black on the outside and is yellow on the inside, with a ripe pawpaw about the size of a large potato. The meat of the fruit, which is soft and mushy like an avocado, has been described as tasting a little like a rich, custardy tropical blend of banana, mango, and pineapple, according to Brad Bergefurd, a horticulture 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).

Pawpaws are a very healthy option, as they are naturally high in vitamins C and B-6, and are great sources of magnesium, iron, copper, and manganese. They’re also are a good source of potassium, and they contain significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Although pawpaws are native to Ohio and were once a key part of the diet of Native Americans, now they’re not typically found in grocery stores. But the fruit is gaining in popularity as part of the healthy food movement and can sometimes be found at farmers markets. Pawpaws can be cultivated and can also be found growing wild in pawpaw patches in woodlands across Ohio and other states.

Because of the resurgence in consumer interest in pawpaws, CFAES researchers including Bergefurd see pawpaw’s potential as a crop for Ohio farmers and have established research studies to help proliferate the fruit into more consumer markets.

Those studies include, the Marketing and Orchard Resource Efficiency (MORE) Ohio Pawpaw, which began in 2016 and is offering farmers and nurseries the know-how to establish productive pawpaw orchards and find markets for their fruit; and the Improved Pawpaw Cultural and Post-harvest Practices Enhancing Orchard Establishment, Productivity, Fruit Quality and Marketability study.

“Though the demand for fresh and processed pawpaw is strong, the supply is limited in Ohio because prospective growers don’t know enough about either growing or selling the product to invest in trying,” Bergefurd said in recent CFAES story. “We want to provide unbiased research-based information so farmers can make the best management decisions and maybe cash in on this crop.

“Right now, the market is there. As long as the farmer does a good job in establishing markets, the potential is there.”

Pawpaws can be eaten by slicing the fruit open and removing the large, oval-shaped black seeds. They can also be made into breads, pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, puddings, jam, butter, salsa, ice cream, and for a growing list of microbrewers, into craft beers.

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 Brad Bergefurd, a horticulture specialist with OSU Extension.

Alternatives to sugar

I want to lower my sugar intake, so I’m looking for a sugar substitute for my coffee. What are the different types of sweeteners?

Photo: Getty Images.

First, I want to congratulate you on your decision to lower your sugar intake. Lowering your sugar intake is a wise and healthy choice, as research shows that consuming too much sugar can increase your risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease.

If you want to lower your sugar intake from your coffee to zero, you could choose to drink it black.

But, if you’d rather not do that, you aren’t alone. Some two-thirds of coffee drinkers and one-third of tea drinkers add milk, cream, sugar, flavorings, or other additives to their drink, according to a study from the University of Illinois. Interestingly, the study found that more than 60% of the calories in those coffee drinkers’ beverages came from added sugar.

That’s not surprising, considering that it’s part of human nature to crave the sweet taste of sugar, writes Jenny Lobb, an educator in family and consumer sciences for Ohio State University Extension.

But, “the World Health Organization recommends consuming no more than 10% of your daily calories from added sugar,” Lobb wrote in All Things Sweet: Sugar and Other Sweeteners, an Ohioline fact sheet. “For someone who eats 2,000 calories a day, 10% of daily calories would be 200 calories, or 50 grams of added sugar a day.”

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand what sweeteners are.

“Sweeteners are classified in two different groups: nutritive sweeteners, also called caloric sweeteners or sugars, and non-nutritive sweeteners, which are also called sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners,” Lobb said.

Nutritive sweeteners include agave, brown sugar, powdered (confectioners’) sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt sugar, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars, raw sugar, and syrup, she wrote.

Non-nutritive sweeteners are sugar substitutes that can be either naturally occurring or artificially made. Naturally occurring sugar substitutes include stevia and sugar alcohols, which include, among others, erythritol, used as a bulk sweetener in low-calorie foods, and sorbitol, used in some sugar-free candies, gums, frozen desserts, and baked goods, Lobb wrote.

“Artificial sweeteners are man-made sweeteners that contain no calories or sugar,” she wrote. “Currently, there are six different artificial sweeteners that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has thoroughly tested and approved for use.”

Those, Lobb said, include:

  • acesulfame-K, sold under the brand names of Sunett, Sweet One, and others
  • advantame
  • aspartame, sold under the brand names of Equal and Nutrasweet
  • neotame
  • saccharin, sold under the brand names of Sweet’N Low, Necta Sweet, and others
  • sucralose, sold under the brand name of Splenda

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 Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Handling venison safely during harvesting and preparation key to stemming foodborne illnesses

Hunting season starts soon, and we want to make sure we safely prepare any meat that we bag. Can you share some tips on how to do so?

Knife cutting crown in venison steak. Photo: Getty Images.

Deer hunting season in Ohio begins tomorrow, Sept. 28, and runs through Feb. 2, 2020. Last year, hunters in Ohio checked 172,040 white-tailed deer, and more than 250,000 white-tailed deer the prior year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

With that in mind, it’s important that any venison derived from hunting be handled safely to avoid the spread of foodborne pathogens, which could cause foodborne illnesses. Venison is meat from wild game such as deer, elk, moose, caribou, antelope, and pronghorn.

Pathogens such as E.coli, salmonella, and toxoplasma are typically found in the intestines of wild game and can be easily transferred to the meat during butchering. Safe food handling during the butchering process will reduce the risk of consumers developing foodborne illnesses from these pathogens, according to Melinda Hill and Treva Williams, both educators in family and consumer sciences for Ohio State University Extension.

“Parasites and tapeworms are also commonly present in wild game,” they wrote in Freezing and Canning Venison, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“One common parasite is Toxoplasma gondii, the cause of the disease toxoplasmosis,” they wrote. “Symptoms of illnesses caused from consuming parasites can range from mild discomfort to severe illness and possibly death. To destroy the parasites, you can freeze the meat for 24–48 hours or cook it to an internal temperature of 160 F.”

Other tips Hill and Williams offer to safely handle unprocessed venison include:

  • Ensure that all venison is chilled within three to four hours of the kill, if hunting on a day when the temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Refrigerate the carcass as soon as possible, for best quality. Please note that freezing it when unprocessed could cause the meat to toughen.
  • Cool the carcass quickly by filling the cavity with bags of ice.
  • Keep the carcass in the shade, with good air circulation, from the time of the kill until the time of processing.
  • Cover the meat with ground pepper and cheesecloth to help deter flies.
  • Avoid covering the meat with tarps or wrapping it tightly in any material that could hold heat, as doing so could cause the meat to spoil.
  • Do not tie the carcass to the hood of a vehicle or keep it in the trunk during transport.
  • Keep the temperature of the meat between 34 F and 37 F from seven to 14 days during the aging process, which is the process used to tenderize and enhance the flavor of the venison.
  • Do not age meat that was harvested during warm weather or was not kept chilled, as the meat is not safe for human consumption. Also, if the animal was severely stressed prior to the kill, if the gunshot wound was extensive, or if the animal is under one year of age, the quantity of usable meat will be reduced.

“If you decide to home process the venison, whole cuts of venison may be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days (at 40 F or below) before canning or freezing,” they wrote. “Ground venison may be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days (at 40 F or below) before canning or freezing.”

Many options for potassium

My doctor told me that I need to increase my potassium intake, but I’m not the biggest fan of bananas. How much potassium should I have daily, and what are some other foods that are good sources of it?

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that people need as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Potassium is vital because it regulate your body’s fluid balance and controls the electrical activity of your heart and other muscles. It also serves several other functions in the human body. It lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of stroke, supports bone-mineral density, protects against loss of muscle mass, and reduces the formation of kidney stones.

Consuming a high-potassium diet has been linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, said Pat Brinkman, educator, Ohio State University Extension.

“Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure by reducing the effect of sodium, but about 90% of the population in the United States consumes more sodium than recommended with only about 3% meeting the recommendations for potassium,” Brinkman wrote in Potassium, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

According to guidelines from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, people ages 14 and over should consume at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, she wrote. Children ages 9 to 13 should consume 4,500 milligrams of potassium daily, with children ages 4 to 8 requiring 3,800 milligrams daily. Recommendations for toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old are 3,000 milligrams daily.

The best way to get the potassium your body needs is by eating a variety of potassium-rich foods daily, Brinkman wrote. There are, however, precautions you need to consider, she said.

“If too much potassium is consumed, it is normally excreted from the body without any problems,” Brinkman wrote. “Some medical conditions such as kidney disorders or heart arrhythmias may require limiting potassium consumption.”

Here are some foods that are high in potassium:

  • Baked potatoes (with the skin)
  • Beet greens
  • Beans (including white, soy, and kidney)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Orange juice
  • Swiss chard
  • Mackerel, halibut, and tuna
  • Non-fat or low-fat milk (chocolate or white)
  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Brinkman also suggests these methods for increasing your potassium intake:

  • Consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, including some high-potassium fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks.
  • Drink non-fat or low-fat milk, or consume non-fat or low-fat yogurt, as each of these items contain 300–400 milligrams of potassium.
  • Include beans and legumes in your meals. If buying canned beans, buy no-salt-added canned beans, or drain the liquid from the can and rinse the beans to reduce the sodium. You can also choose to cook dry beans or legumes.
  • Prepare sweet potatoes and potatoes with the skin on them, to get the most potassium.
  • Include lean meats such as fish, chicken, and turkey in your diet.

Fall vegetable options plentiful

Homemade Organic Green Collard Greens with Pepper and Ginger

I love to eat seasonal produce such as strawberries in the spring and sweet corn in the summer, but besides apples, I’m not sure what’s in season now. Can you tell me which fruits and vegetables are seasonal in the fall?

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

Fall is a good time to start looking to buy pears, apples, and hard squash, among many other seasonal fruits and vegetables. In fact, those are some of the items that many grocery stores typically start to promote heavily at discounted prices in their grocery aisles, according to the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While 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 specific seasons. 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?

To find seasonal foods near you, try using the 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 for what’s in season include the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, 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
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

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.

New research shows washing raw poultry dangers

I just can’t stomach the idea of not washing raw chicken before cooking it. The slime on it is really off-putting. Isn’t rinsing out my sink afterward good enough to prevent spreading any germs?

Photo: Getty Images.

No, it’s not.

You shouldn’t wash or rinse raw chicken or any other raw poultry before cooking it, because doing so doesn’t kill any bacterial pathogens such as Campylobacter, salmonella, or other bacteria that might be on the inside and outside of raw chicken.

When you wash or rinse raw chicken, you are likely splashing chicken juices that can spread those pathogens in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some estimates say the splatter can spread out and land on surfaces up to 3 feet away.

In fact, a new report issued last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service showed dangerous levels of contamination between bacteria from raw poultry and other surfaces, and foods being prepared nearby.

The study involved 300 people who prepared a meal of chicken thighs and salad in a test kitchen. Of those who washed the chicken before cooking it, 60% were found to have left a trail of bacteria in the sinks and surrounding areas.

Even after washing out the sinks, 14% of the sinks were still contaminated with bacteria. Even worse, of the salads that were prepared in the test kitchen where participants washed the raw chicken, 26% were contaminated with bacteria from the raw chicken.

That’s a problem because pathogens such as Campylobacter and salmonella can survive on surfaces such as countertops for up to 32 hours, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The only way to kill these potentially dangerous bacteria is to cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Practicing sound, safe food handling is important, considering that 48 million Americans get sick with a foodborne illness every year, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, according to the CDC.

“Everyone has a role to play in preventing illness from food,” according to a USDA written statement. “Please keep in mind that children, older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

“Washing or rinsing raw meat and poultry can increase your risk as bacteria spreads around your kitchen, but not washing your hands for 20 seconds immediately after handling those raw foods is just as dangerous.”

To lessen your chances of developing a foodborne illness, the USDA says to:

  • prepare foods that will be served uncooked, such as vegetables and salads, before handling raw meat or poultry.
  • clean and sanitize thoroughly any surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices. To do this, clean sinks and countertops with hot, soapy water, let them dry, and then apply a sanitizer to them.
  • wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, rinse them under warm running water, and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel after handling raw poultry or any other raw meat.

Lastly, be sure to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, using a food thermometer to measure the temperature. Beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, roasts, and chops are safe to eat at 145 degrees, while ground meats are safe to eat at 160 degrees, the USDA says.

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

Editor:This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state food safety specialist, OSU Extension.

Healthy, safe lunch options for back to school

School is back in session for my fourth grader, and he’s decided this year that he wants to pack lunch for the first time. Any tips on how to make sure his packed lunch is safe and healthy?

Photo: Getty Images

Considering that nearly 40% of school-aged kids bring their lunches to school on a given day, it’s important to take some simple precautions to ensure that your son has a safe, nutritious meal to eat and enjoy.

When deciding what to pack, it’s a good idea to include lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products in his lunch. If you want to pack your son a sandwich, opt for whole-grain bread and veggies for toppings. If you want to be a little fun and adventurous, use a cookie cutter to cut the sandwich into fun shapes for your child.

As a timesaving measure, you can prepare snack-sized bags of fruits and veggies in advance, store them in the fridge, and let your child choose which ones he wants to put in his lunch that day. In-season whole fruits such as apples, peaches, pears, bananas, and tangerines are also good choices, said Shari Gallup, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

When packing a lunch for your child to take to school, remember that cold foods need to stay cold and hot foods need to stay hot, she said. This will help to avoid the development of harmful bacteria that could cause a foodborne illness. When a food’s temperature reaches between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, also called the “Danger Zone,” bacteria grows rapidly.

To help avoid that from happening and make sure your child’s perishable foods stay cold until lunchtime, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that you pack two cold sources in his lunch.

Frozen water bottles or frozen juice boxes can count as a cold source, as well as a freezer pack that you stick into the lunchbox. Lunches that contain perishable food items such as luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt can be kept cold this way. Be sure to place the cold sources onto the top and the bottom of the perishable food items to keep them cold.

If you plan to pack soup, stew, or chili for your child’s lunch, you will need to use an insulated container. Before adding in the hot item, you can fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty it, and then add the hot food, advises the USDA. Also, tell your child to keep the lid on the container closed until lunchtime to help prevent bacterial contamination and growth.

The USDA also advises the following:

  • If you pack your son’s lunch the night before, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed into the lunchbox.
  • If possible, your child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival at school. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
  • After lunch, make sure your child discards any leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Don’t reuse the packaging, because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
  • Once home, you should clean the insulated lunchbox or bag with hot, soapy water after each use.

Lastly, while it’s best that kids wash their hands before eating their lunch, we all know that there is a possibility that they won’t be able to do so right before lunch. With that in mind, you can pack disposable wipes in your son’s lunch bag or container so that he can at least wipe his hands before and after eating lunch.

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 Shari Gallup, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

FDA warns consumers to stop drinking sodium chlorite products

I just saw a social media post warning against drinking Miracle Mineral Solution. What is it, and why shouldn’t I drink it?

Photo: Getty Images

Miracle Mineral Solution is a mixture of distilled water and sodium chlorite. It is sold online as a purported treatment for several diseases and conditions, according to the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.

But, instead of helping consumers, the product has sickened numerous people who’ve ingested it, the FDA said

As a result, the federal agency this week warned consumers to stop drinking the product, which is also known by several names including Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide Protocol, and Water Purification Solution, according to the FDA.

“Some distributors are making false—and dangerous—claims that Miracle Mineral Supplement mixed with citric acid is an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial liquid that is a remedy for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, and other conditions,” the FDA said. “But the FDA is not aware of any research showing that these products are safe or effective for treating any illness.”

Although the agency first issued a warning against consuming these products in 2010, the warning was reissued this week after the FDA said it has received reports of consumers who have suffered from severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure after drinking these products.

“Drinking any of these chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration,” the FDA warned. “Some product labels claim that vomiting and diarrhea are common after ingesting the product. They even maintain that such reactions are evidence that the product is working. That claim is false.”

Of particular concern for the FDA is that the more concentrated the product is, the more severe the consumer’s reaction can be.

For example, “product directions instruct people to mix the sodium chlorite solution with a citric acid, such as lemon or lime juice, or another acid before drinking. In many instances, the sodium chlorite is sold with a citric acid ‘activator.’ When the acid is added, the mixture becomes chlorine dioxide, a powerful bleaching agent,” the FDA said.

“Sodium chlorite products are dangerous, and you and your family should not use them,” the FDA warned.

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

Editor: This column was reviewed by Jenny Lobb, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Food safety and homemade fruit- or vegetable-infused water

I’m planning to add either fresh strawberry or cucumber slices to a pitcher of water to serve with a lunch I’m hosting. Are there any food safety concerns that I need to be aware of when making fruit- or vegetable-infused water?

Glasses of infused water with fresh strawberries, lime, cucumber and mint leaves, lemon and orange.  Photo: Getty Images.Food safety and homemade fruit- or vegetable-infused water

Infusing water with fruits or vegetables is a wonderful, healthy, and delicious way to add flavor to water without adding sugar. Not only is infused water a simple way to stay hydrated, but it has also become increasingly popular among consumers who are seeking healthy alternatives to sugary drinks.

However, when preparing fruit- or vegetable-infused water, it’s important to keep food safety in mind to prevent the potential of developing a foodborne illness. In fact, you should handle infused water as you would any perishable food, according to Infused Water with Ohio Local Foods, a recent Ohioline fact sheet written by Patrice Powers-Barker, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Because you are adding fresh fruits or vegetables, the infused water is perishable. When serving infused water at a party or on a buffet table, treat it like other perishable foods. Add ice to the water and remember that perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. After two hours at room temperature, the food can enter the “danger zone,” a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit at which bacteria grows most rapidly.

“For food safety, store the infused water in the refrigerator,” writes Powers-Barker. “As in any food or beverage preparation, do not forget to wash hands with soap and water before handling the food, as well as wash all produce with clean running water.”

“Use clean containers and sanitize preparation surfaces before starting,” she writes.

Also, cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid using any produce that looks rotten, advises the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Because fruits and vegetables can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria, rinse all produce under clear running water before preparing or eating it. When washing firm produce such as melons and cucumbers, clean it with a produce brush and pat it dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that might be present on the surface, the FDA says.

For example, cantaloupe skin has nooks and crannies that can house dirt particles. Therefore, give cantaloupes a good rinse and scrub them with a clean brush before cutting through them with a knife. 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 that you plan to eat or add to your water.

It’s important to note, however, that washing the produce will not get rid of all bacteria or viruses. And washing it with soap, detergent, or commercial produce washes is no more effective than washing it with water, the FDA says.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). 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 Patrice Powers-Barker, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.