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iced tea - image by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on unsplash.com

by: Aaron Beczkiewicz

Having spent a good portion of  my master’s program interviewing individuals about their foodborne illnesses following international travel, it goes without saying that I tend to be a little paranoid about what I eat when I travel. As a result, I was fairly strict about self-imposed diet restrictions (i.e., no fresh produce, pre-packaged beverages only, no iced drinks, etc.) over the course of a 2-week trip to Ethiopia last summer. During my return trip, the first several items on my to-do list involved satisfying habits I had gone without the entire trip. Since I LOVE cold beverages and typically go through 2 trays of ice a day, I made a point of getting a drink with ice during one of my layovers (…unfortunately, no direct flights from Columbus to Addis Ababa). As I was enjoying an iced tea at the London Heathrow Airport, I started pondering whether I would consider it a potential food safety risk. With several hours till the next leg of my trip, I decided to occupy myself by digging deeper and a quick internet search at the airport bar returned a couple outbreaks due to tea or other herbal supplements:

2017 Botulism Outbreak – Deer Antler Tea

2010 Sodium Azide Poisoning – Iced Tea

Despite spending several days during the trip to Ethiopia assisting with a course on risk ranking and discussing how individuals perceive risk differently, it really had not occurred to me until I was sitting in an airport drinking iced tea how impactful a setting could be on my own perception of risk. Was I justified in relaxing my food and beverage restrictions the minute I passed through customs and immigration in London despite avoiding ice those 2 weeks in Ethiopia?

Given the strong public health and food safety systems in western Europe, I’m fairly confident that I was less likely to get sick from items I consumed during my layover. But the more I thought about it, there were multiple factors I was considering. Whereas my biggest concern with the iced tea at the airport was norovirus due to food handler contamination of ice or garnishes, my avoidance of ice in Ethiopia was driven primarily by my concerns about Salmonella and Cholera which last longer and are more severe than norovirus. Thus, it wasn’t just the likelihood of illness that I was concerned about, but also how severely it could impact my daily life.

Evaluating these two components of risk can be challenging if you don’t have the information (e.g., contamination history, severity of illness, etc.) necessary to base decisions off of. Luckily, food safety systems are increasingly adopting practices, such as posting letter or color grades for retail food establishments following inspection, that promote increased consumer awareness. While my airport musings haven’t led me to give up iced tea, they did increase my awareness of how I approach food and beverages in the U.S. and I now make sure to look for a green health department sign in the window any time I go to a coffee shop in Columbus.

 


Aaron BeczkiewiczAaron Beczkiewicz

Graduate Research Associate

CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology

 

 

 

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Women working in field

By: Ariel Garsow

Gender and food safety are interconnected because gender roles determine the distribution of food safety resources and responsibilities between men and women. Women in low and middle income countries such as Ethiopia carry a disproportionate responsibility because their traditional roles place them in charge of food production, handling and preparation.

Last August, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a gendered data collection course at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. During this course, we discussed how gender, nutrition and food safety are interconnected. Through this course, I gained a deeper understanding of how lack of access to resources due to gender disparities effect food safety worldwide. 

One of the activities that we completed was a 24-hour clock to look at the differences in how typical small holder male and female farmers spend their time in a typical day. We split up the men and women in the class into two separate groups. The men were assigned the task of creating a 24-hour clock of the typical day of a woman who farms on a small plot of land, also called a woman smallholder farmer. The women were assigned the opposite, making a 24-hour clock of the typical day of a male smallholder farmer.

A picture of the status of the groups doing the activity after 15 minutes. The men were still busy at work while the women were chatting since they finished the activity. A picture of the status of the groups doing the activity after 15 minutes.  The men were still busy at work while the women were chatting since they finished the activity.

The pictures of the typical day for a small-holder male farmer, left, and female farmer, right. The pictures of the typical day for a small-holder male farmer, left, and female farmer, right.

The pictures of the typical day for a small-holder male farmer, left, and female farmer, right.

As shown in the photos above, this activity creates a pictorial representation of reality that allows for an open discussion of gender roles and equality. For example, one of the men in the group commented that he “had no idea” that women spent so much of their time working compared to men.

These types of tools are useful because they reveal the food safety practices in a community by showing who does what activities during the day such as harvesting crops, milking cows and food preparation. This information can also be used to see when most individuals are available to have conversations and trainings around food safety can occur, increasing the potential impact that can be made.

Following this exercise, we visited several small holder dairy producers in the area surrounding Addis Ababa to conduct a gender analysis of the food safety practices in the dairy value chain. These types of conversations are important because they can lead to the development of best food handling practices that are specific for a community. For example, one of the women we spoke with stated that she stores the milk she collects from her cows in the evening in a container in a cold water bath until the milk can be collected the next morning. She stated that she does this because she had attended a dairy food safety course in a nearby town where she learned that it is important to keep the milk cold to limit bacterial growth. One of the course instructors was also at the woman’s house and indicated that she had purposefully invited women to the diary food safety course because in the village the woman are the primary ones responsible for milking and making cheese. This is just one example of the linkage between gender roles and food safety.

Examining gender roles in value chains allows for the creation of interventions for those who are more likely to be able to change behaviors to reduce foodborne contamination. Future food safety trainings need to understand gender roles to target the correct audiences in order to be effective in reducing exposure to foodborne pathogens.

If you are interested in learning more, here is a link to a webinar series from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems on gendered data collection:

https://livestocklab.ifas.ufl.edu/events/webinars-on-gender--nutrition/


Ariel GarsowAriel Garsow

Graduate Research Associate

CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology

 

 

 

 

 

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fruit infused water

By: Tracy Turner

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?

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Patrice Powers-Barker
Extension educator
Family and consumer sciences

  1. 364 West Lane Ave.
    Suite B120
    Columbus, OH 43201
    Fax: 614-292-2270
  2. Research Services Building
    1680 Madison Ave.
    Wooster, OH 44691
    Fax: 330-202-3504

 

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washing chicken

By: Tracy Turner

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?

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: 

Tracy Turner

turner.490@osu.edu

614-688-1067

SOURCE(S): 

Sanja Ilic
State Food Safety Specialist
OSU Extension

  1. 364 West Lane Ave.
    Suite B120
    Columbus, OH 43201
    Fax: 614-292-2270
  2. Research Services Building
    1680 Madison Ave.
    Wooster, OH 44691
    Fax: 330-202-3504

 

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