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By: Devon Mendez
Potatoes, in all varieties, are one of the most beloved comfort foods in the United States, with the average American consuming nearly 117 pounds of potatoes per year, largely in the form of frozen French fries and tater-tots. While there is little argument that these fried delicacies are a favorite of many, these delicious dishes can pose a risk to more than your waistline. This risk occurs when potatoes are cooked using high temperature cooking methods (above 248 degrees F) such as frying, roasting, or baking. When high carbohydrate foods such as potatoes are cooked at these temperatures, their natural sugars and the amino acid asparagine, undergo a chemical change that producing the compound acrylamide. While this compound is a result of a natural processes, acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in animals and is recognized as a potential carcinogenic in humans by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As such, the FDA recommends that individuals limit the amount of acrylamide in their diets and do their best to consume their favorite potato dishes in the safest way possible.
By following some basic food storage, preparation, and selection tips individuals can minimize their acrylamide exposure and continue to enjoy their favorite potato-based foods.
Tips to reduce acrylamide exposure when consuming potatoes:
- Soak potatoes 15-30 minutes before baking or frying to help reduce their starch content, in turn reducing the amount of acrylamide produced during the cooking process
- Limit the number of potato dishes consumed that are prepared using frying, roasting, and baking
- “Wet” prep potato dishes, such as mashed potatoes and potato salad, do not lead to a significant amount of acrylamides
- Store potatoes outside of the refrigerator
- Refrigeration prior to cooking can increase the level of acrylamide produced during the cooking process
- Cook sliced potato products such as French fries and potato slices for less time
- Longer cooking times yield higher levels of acrylamides
- Aim for lightly browned potatoes rather than dark brown when cooking
While it is impossible to eliminate acrylamides from our diets, taking small steps to reduce day-to-day exposure can help reduce any potential risk. By following the simple steps outlined above, as well as consuming a diet containing a variety of foods, individuals can significantly reduce their exposure to acrylamide. Diet diversity is especially important in children, who often enjoy foods that are naturally high in acrylamides such as French fries, tater-tots, and potato chips. As with almost anything, moderation is key, and by enjoying a healthy variety of foods prepared in a variety of ways, we can all continue to enjoy all of our favorite fried and roasted potato dishes without too much concern.
By: Vanora Davila
It is that time of year! The holiday season is here and if your family is anything like mine, you are probably already thinking about all the delicious meals you will be making to celebrate and share with your loved ones!
The end-of-the-year holidays can be some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments one can experience, but inappropriate food-handling behaviors can turn the most exciting of times into despair.
From baking those perfectly crispy but chewy on the inside cookies, to cooking that scrumptious main course meal, there are unfortunately many opportunities for foodborne illness to make an unexpected appearance.
To make sure you and your family stay safe and avoid foodborne illness this holiday season, there are some simple guidelines you can follow, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food.
- Wash all utensils, cutting boards, before and immediately after use.
- Clean all produce with running water before use.
- Do not wash raw meat and poultry! This could increase your risk of food poisoning by spreading bacteria onto your hands, and onto nearby high-touch surfaces (USDA, 2020).
- Separate! - Avoid cross-contamination.
- Keep raw foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and fish separated when buying them at the grocery store and when storing them at home. You do not want their juices to get onto other foods!
- Always keep fruits and vegetables away from raw meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood.
- Cook! - Fully cook all food that is not ready-to-eat.
- Make sure to use a food thermometer to ensure the thickest part of all meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Minimum cooking temperatures for varied foods can be found at: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature.
- Turkey stuffing and dressing must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. If cooked inside the turkey, the stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it is placed in the oven. Any extra stuffing should be baked before use.
- Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a rolling boil when reheating.
- Do not eat raw dough or batter. Raw doughs contain uncooked eggs and flour, which can contain bacteria that is only killed when the dough is fully cooked.
- When making eggnog, tiramisu, or any dish that uses raw eggs, make sure to use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.
- Chill! - Refrigerate and thaw foods appropriately.
- Refrigerate any leftovers that should be refrigerated within two hours to avoid unwanted bacteria growth. Leftovers should be used within four days.
- Do not thaw food at room temperature. Foods like meats and turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave, to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
- Your refrigerator’s temperature should be set at or below 40°F and the freezer should be set to 0°F or lower.
So, there you have it! Whether you are making a dish for the first time ever or you are using your family’s generational recipes, keep these tips in mind to make sure you and your family safely enjoy the festivities.
Affairs (ASPA), A. S. for P. (2019, April 12). Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Charts. FoodSafety.Gov. https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature
CDC. (2020, October 14). Holiday Food Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/holidays.html
FDA. (2020). Food Safety Tips for Healthy Holidays. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/food-safety-tips-healthy-holidays
Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety? (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/washing-food-does-it-promote-food-safety/washing-food
Graduate Practicum Student
By: Allison Howell
Federal regulations are complicated, technical, and often difficult for consumers to understand. But everyone eats produce. A basic understanding of what types of produce or produce commodities are included or not included in federal regulations and what those regulations mean can help consumers make informed decisions about buying, preparing, and consuming produce safely.
Background on FSMA
First introduced in the House of Representatives in 2009, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA) underwent several revisions and amendments before being signed into law by President Obama in early 2011. It was the first piece of federal legislation to address food safety since The Federal Food Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 . FSMA greatly expanded the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory authority. FSMA is a great accomplishment in terms of shifting the goal of federal oversight to preventing foodborne illness instead of reacting to it.
FSMA did not outline specific regulations for food safety, but instead expanded FDA’s regulatory authority so they could develop additional rules aimed at implementing the goals of FSMA.
Since FSMA was signed into law, the FDA has developed several final rules that provide specific guidance to industry and detail the FDA’s role in enforcing these rules. A full list of the proposed and final rules related to FSMA can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-rules-guidance-industry#rules.
One of the FSMA final rules is the “Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” also known as the Produce Safety Rule . The rule went into effect in January of 2016, and covered farms were required to comply by early 2020. Full details of the Produce Safety Rule can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-rule-produce-safety#requirements.
But what does FSMA mean for consumers?
Most types of produce that you can buy at a grocery store are covered by the Produce Safety Rule and producers are held accountable for adhering to the FDA’s Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. That means, when you buy an apple from the grocery store, you can reasonably assume that federal regulations designed to reduce the presence of foodborne pathogens on or in apples have been followed. After giving it a quick wash with some water (you should always wash fresh produce before consuming), you can slice it up or bite right in and enjoy. It is important to remember that the Produce Safety Rule sets standards for growers that sell the produce, but poor handling or cross contamination by consumers can still lead to foodborne illness. Read more about the FDA’s recommendation for safely selecting and serving produce here: https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/selecting-and-serving-produce-safely.
There are several important regulations outlined in the Produce Safety Rule, but there are also certain criteria that can lead to commodities being exempt from compliance with the rule. One of those criteria is produce that is not considered a raw agricultural commodity; that is, the produce is identified as rarely consumed raw (RCR). Recently, FDA issued an Request for Information in the Federal Register Notice for commodities that they are considering characterizing as RCR and therefore exempt from the Produce Safety Rule :
black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans
garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets
dill (seeds and weed); eggplants
Cranberries, which are considered rarely consumed raw, can be seen displayed here on a grocery store shelf among pomegranates and berries, fresh produce commodities.
When it comes to purchasing commodities on the RCR list, consumers should be cautious, and treat these products accordingly. In other words, to reduce the chance of foodborne illness, all RCR commodities should be cooked thoroughly before consuming. Produce on this list – such as asparagus, potatoes, or cranberries – should also be stored separately from produce that is consumed raw—from the moment it is placed a shopping cart or bag to the moment it is prepared for eating. Separating these commodities can help prevent cross-contamination with other produce – such as berries, carrots, or leafy greens – that might be eaten raw.
Produce from farms that are valued at less than $25,000/ year and produce that is used for personal or on-farm consumption are also exempt from the Produce Safety Rule. Because of this exemption, fresh fruits and vegetables purchased from a local farmer’s market or small-scale producer may not adhere to the standards set by the Produce Safety Rule. For tips on safely purchasing from farmer’s markets see CFI’s previous blog post at: https://foodsafety.osu.edu/blog/april-6-2020-1125am/fresher-doesn%E2%80%99t-equal-safer.
Fresh produce is an important part of a healthy diet and understanding how produce is regulated can help consumer’s incorporate healthy fruits and vegetables into their diet without increasing their risk of foodborne illness.
There are several resources available to consumers wanting to stay up to date on food safety issues, and most of these services allow you to customize the alerts you receive!
- Sign up for CDC updates on food safety here.
- Sign up to receive FDA notices on recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts here.
- Sign up for USDA updates here.
- Browse recent articles or subscribe to Food Safety News here.
Lastly, check out the “Resources” page on our website for links to additional organizations and websites informing consumers about food safety basics and ongoing work to improve food safety for all!
 Office of the Commissioner, “Milestones in U.S. Food and Drug Law History,” FDA, Dec. 2019, Accessed: Dec. 02, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fdas-evolving-regulatory-powers/milestones....
 Center for Food Safety and And Nutrition, “Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA),” FDA, Sep. 21, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-regulation-food-and-dietary-supplement... (accessed Nov. 02, 2020).
 Center For Food Safety And Nutrition, “FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety,” FDA, Sep. 2020, Accessed: Oct. 22, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-r....
 “Request for Information and Comments on Consumption of Certain Uncommon Produce Commodities in the United States; Establishment of a Public Docket,” Federal Register, Aug. 10, 2020. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/10/2020-16800/request-... (accessed Nov. 09, 2020).
By: Aaron Beczkiewicz
Given that food is such an integral part of daily life, it is not surprising that concepts related to food are often represented in childhood rhymes like “This little piggy went to the market…” While I am pretty confident none of us really understood what “went to the market” meant the first time we were introduced to that rhyme, our understanding evolved as we grew and developed. But how much does our understanding of where foods come from and how they are produced actually matter?
Coming from a family that makes homemade Polish sausage every year, I do not like the saying that hotdogs contain “everything but the oink” because it oversimplifies sausage making. Sure, my family has followed the same sausage recipe for years without a second thought. However, I have come to understand over the course of my food science Ph.D. program that sausage making is actually a pretty technical process with some ingredients like spices and salt helping to prevent microbial growth which makes the food safer in addition to adding flavor.
While the food science side of me enjoys sharing these random tidbits of knowledge with my family, the public health side of me always questions “Does it matter what the ingredients are if you do not know where they came from?” Take for instance the Salmonella Newport outbreak this past summer which was linked to red onions (CDC 2020). The outbreak of illness was identified in early July, but it took about a month to link the illnesses to a food item and initiate recalls. This is likely due, in part, to fresh produce being difficult to track. Since fresh produce is typically shipped in bulk quantities by packinghouses combining produce from multiple farms, finding the source of a contaminated item of produce is very challenging.. Even when there is a label such as the PLU stickers attached to individual pieces of produce, the data associated with it rarely if ever includes all the facilities that handled that piece of fruit before it ended up on your table.
Efforts to address this issue are currently underway with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announcing a proposed Traceability Rule (FDA 2020) under the Food Safety and Modernization Act; however, meat and poultry products – which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – are already required to indicate the production establishment on the package. This is helpful during traceback investigations of foodborne illness, and also great for curious consumers who want to know where their food is being produced. See below for instructions on how to do that.
Next time you are at the grocery store, consider checking out how far those bacon slices or your Thanksgiving turkey traveled to get to your table – you might be surprised!
To figure out where meat you have purchased came from: 1. Confirm the product is regulated by USDA (see left photo) 2. Find establishment number which is often printed with the “Use By” date (see right photo) 3. Search for establishment within the USDA Meat and Poultry Inspection Directory
Graduate Research Associate
CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology
By: Drew Barkley
Last year, I was chatting with a friend about different foods we liked to prepare at home. Having grown up in the south, I mentioned that some staples of my cooking were various casseroles, fried chicken, and homemade biscuits. My friend, having been raised in an Asian-American household, was used to preparing different stir-fries, dumplings, and ramen. While all of that sounded delicious and got me thinking about dinner prematurely, the next food she mentioned caught me off guard. She told me that she and her sister love making homemade sushi together.
I was initially taken aback. The idea that anyone was making sushi at home on their own seemed risky to me. Yet, here was someone I knew that was preparing sushi regularly in their own home. I immediately became curious asking for all the details of how she and her sister made their own sushi. She said that they went to the store and bought whatever fish looked good to them that day. To make the rolls, they would lay a bed of sticky white rice over seaweed and top with the fish, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, and whatever else sounded good to them that day. Then they would roll it up, slice it up into individual rolls and enjoy. Sensing that I was nervous about her homemade sushi, she reassured me that neither she nor her sister had ever gotten sick and they always use what she referred to as “fresh” fish. While I wanted to mention that “fresh” fish is not the same thing as “safe” fish, I let the conversation end there as I went to go do some research on my own.
First, I want to make the disclaimer that I have never made homemade sushi. While I do enjoy eating sushi, I will leave its preparation to skilled, trained professionals working in fully inspected restaurants. However, I wanted to highlight specific actions you can take to insure your sushi is safe if you are making it at home (or even if you are eating it at a restaurant).
Perhaps the most important element to making safe sushi is using sushi-grade fish. Reputable commercial retailers will only give this grading to their highest quality fish that they feel confident can be eaten raw. Further, well-educated fishmongers (people that sell raw fish and seafood) will know what fish is sushi-grade and safe to consume raw, but it is possible to encounter fishmongers that do not know what sushi grade fish is. While there is no official standard for using this label, the only federal regulation that must be met is that parasitic fish, such as salmon, should be frozen to kill any parasites before being consumed raw (2017 FDA Food Code 3-402.11)1. However, parasites are just one of the hazards that may be associated with eating raw fish. The hazards may also include chemical hazards like mercury or other heavy metals, pathogenic bacteria such as Vibrio spp., or physical hazards such as bone fragments or pieces of metal. Here, it is also important to note that freezing will only stop the growth of pathogenic bacteria, it will not kill them. Sushi grade fish will be more expensive, but you can be assured that you have received a higher quality product that is safer to consume raw, as it does not contain any parasites. To read more about safe sushi preparation, please consult the websites below that I found helpful when conducting my background on this topic. The first is the FDA Food code section on parasitic destruction, the second is a Canadian guideline for safe sushi preparation, and the third is an article from Food Safety Magazine back in 2015.
Another important point is to keep the fish refrigerated as long as possible. This will prevent the growth of any pathogens and keep the fish safer until it is ready to be prepared and eaten. In the same vein, preparing sushi rice properly with vinegar can also help prevent pathogens from growing. By preparing the rice in vinegar, the rice becomes acidic and will drop to a pH below 4.6. This is beyond the point most pathogens are able to grow. Thus, acidifying the rice helps prevent any bacteria present on the fish from cross-contaminating the rice and vice versa.
The last important point to mention is to make sure you are using clean utensils. Avoid using any wooden utensils as they can be harder to clean and can harbor more bacteria. Given that most people eat sushi with disposable wooden chopsticks, be sure to only use the chopsticks once and do not try to reuse the disposable chopsticks. When preparing the sushi, using clean stainless-steel knives and utensils can ensure that you are reducing the risks of cross-contaminating your sushi.
Graduate Research Associate
CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology
We would like to welcome our new TARTARE Project Manager Nasandra Wright M.P.H., R.S. Nasandra is a dedicated and experienced environmental health professional who is committed to developing and improving the delivery of food safety initiatives at the state, county, and local levels. After spending nearly two decades working in the private sector and in public health, including stints as a Public Health Commissioner, Environmental Health Director, Project Manager, and Food Safety Specialist, Wright forged alliances and built support among various stakeholders in order to maximize the health and wellness of all persons within their communities. She seeks to strengthen food safety awareness and best practices within underserved communities. Wright understands that inspiring teams to provide exemplary service requires a passion for helping individuals. She also believes that entities become empowered by collaborative ideals and focusing on reaching shared targets.
As the Director of Environmental Health at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, Wright spearheaded the leadership team responsible for resolving the West Virginia water crisis of 2014. She partnered with media, local businesses, individuals, and the West Virginia National Guard during the unprecedented event. She worked with her internal team to develop the overall food safety policy for conditionally re-opening foodservice facilities and other permitted establishments during the crisis. She also designed new approaches for implementing community-wide food safety programs and standards including a unique smart phone food application (App) for managing obesity. Further, she developed and implemented a county-wide food safety alert system capable of alerting permitted establishments of potential threats to customers within 60 seconds.
She brings a wealth of experience, expertise, and dedication to the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention team as the Program Manager for TARTARE: The Assessment and Management of Risk from Non-typhoidal Salmonella, Diarrheagenic Escherichia coli and Campylobacter in Raw Beef and Dairy in Ethiopia.
By: Ariel Garsow
Halloween is just around the corner. Although celebrating will look different this year, I am still looking forward to baking my favorite pumpkin treats.
Here are a few tricks so that your treats will be delicious and safe for your family:
Choosing a pumpkin
There are multiple different varieties of pumpkin. Although the hybrid variety Jack-O-Lantern is great for carving, they are not ideal for baking. There are other varieties, typically labeled pie or sugar pumpkins in stores, that will are easier to bake with due to having less stringy pulp. When choosing a pumpkin, avoid those that have a damaged rind with soft spots or mold. This is important for food safety because soft spots and openings in the rind could allow for a way for bacteria from the environment to enter into the pumpkin.
Baking with pumpkin
When baking with pumpkins, start with a new pumpkin. Do not use pumpkins that have been carved previously and have been unrefrigerated. There are many risks associated with using pulp from a pumpkin that was carved previously and has been sitting outside on the porch for days. For example, the pumpkin pulp could have become contaminated with bacteria that are found in the environment such as Listeria monocytogenes or other pathogens.
Prior to starting your recipe, rinse the dirt off of the outside of the pumpkin with water. Make sure you cut the pumpkin with a clean knife. These actions avoid contaminating the inside of the pumpkin with bacteria that could have been on the knife or on the surface of the pumpkin.
After pumpkins are cut into, it is important to use the seeds or pulp promptly (within 1-2 hours).
Cut around the stem of the pumpkin. Remove the pumpkin stem. Scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds. Cut the pumpkin in half.
There are two primary ways a pumpkin could be prepared to be cooked:
1. To make cubed pumpkin: peel the pumpkin and cut it into cubes
2. To make pumpkin puree: pierce the rind of the pumpkin
Here are a few links to recipes that use baked pumpkin or pumpkin seeds:
Pumpkin risotto (for reference: 160°C = 320°F)
Graduate Research Associate
CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology
By Dr. Kara Morgan
The FSIS "Roadmap to Reduce Salmonella" was published on Friday September 18, and a public meeting was held on Tuesday September 22. In her opening comments, Dr. Mindy Brashears, Undersecretary for Food Safety, explained that the meeting was being held because the Healthy People Goals for Salmonella have not been met for three decades (2000, 2010, and 2020). In spite of many efforts from federal food safety agencies and private sector actors, the rate of illness from Salmonella attributed to food has been stubbornly stuck at around 15 cases per 100,000 over that time period.
CDC estimates Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for most of these illnesses. Thirty-eight percent of foodborne illnesses from Salmonella are attributed to meat and poultry products. Animal-based products, which include dairy and eggs as well as meat and poultry, generally account for about 30% of calories consumed in the United States. Therefore, the likelihood of contracting salmonellosis from eating meat and poultry products is relatively high as compared to other foods.
In the roadmap, FSIS describes their current approach to reducing illness from Salmonella in meat and poultry products, including modernization of inspections, inspection tasks, FSIS laboratories, performance standards, outreach and communication, data transparency and analytics, research and innovation, and collaboration with public health partners. Unfortunately, there was no commitment to new approaches; rather, in the “Looking ahead” section, there was a list of what future activities “might” include. This was a bit surprising since we all know that traveling the same path will most likely to lead to the same results. The roadmap also cites a recently published study by FSIS researchers as evidence of a decreasing rate of Salmonella in meat and poultry products. However, the analysis uses statistical tools that assume the data was randomly collected. This approach, in addition to other analytically questionable interpretations of the data, leaves us with weak evidence that progress is being made.
There were a few ideas from the public comments that hopefully will give the agency food for thought. Many of those who provided public comments at the meeting noted that the broad category of Salmonella is too large. With molecular techniques, we can identify serotypes of Salmonella that have been harmful in the past and use this information to distinguish them from those that have not been associated with human illness. Currently, all major mitigation efforts from FSIS – like performance standards – treat all Salmonella serotypes equally. Notably, a pending petition for declaring over 30 serotypes of Salmonella to be adulterants was not mentioned in the meeting. USDA has not yet formally responded to the petition, but since declaring Salmonella an adulterant was not mentioned as part of the roadmap, we can assume that the petition is not on a fast track for approval. It is unfortunate that the issues raised in that petition were not addressed or acknowledged at the public meeting. There is more work to be done regarding bringing the best science to bear on this question of targeting the most important Salmonella strains. In our public comments on the petition, we mentioned that there have been advances in detection of virulence factors within serotypes through whole genome sequencing. These factors are strongly connected to severity of illness and, as such, would be an important consideration in a risk-based approach. There is no mention of focusing on specific serotypes in the roadmap, much less on virulence factors in the road map.
In our comments at the Salmonella Roadmap public meeting, CFI suggested that a broad coalition of stakeholders including industry, academia, consumer groups and government are needed to effectively address this problem. This engagement, along with work to identify the most promising interventions is needed. A stakeholder driven risk prioritization would help ensure that available resources are targeted towards the right things to reduce risk. A risk-based food safety system is built on this type of process. Given that we have not moved the rate of illness from Salmonella in over 20 years, despite the implementation of many interventions, it is clear that a new approach is needed. We hope that the agency will listen and heed the many public comments that were provided and provide a more detailed strategy for reducing illnesses from Salmonella contamination in meat and poultry products.
Associate Director, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention
We are proud to announce that the first TARTARE Newsletter will be published this month! The newsletter will be sent out on a bi-monthly basis to provide the TARTARE team and stakeholders with a combination of updates about project activities, team member spotlights, current news surrounding relevant food safety topics from around the world, and upcoming events of interest. This month's issue will feature an interview from TARTARE doctoral fellow Achenef Melaku about his experience on campus at The Ohio State University receiving training in Dr. Ahmed Yousef’s lab, an introduction to our new TARTARE project manager Nasandra Wright, and a summary of a publication that our own Dr. Kara Morgan was involved with titled “Assessing the Risks and Benefits of Advances in Science and Technology: Exploring the Potential of Qualitative Frameworks” among other information. Portions of the newsletter will be included in future blogs. If you would like to recieve the TARTARE Newsletter, please send an email to email@example.com with the subject: TARTARE Newsletter.
By: Tracy Turner
Is there a tick that causes people to develop an allergy to red meat, and can it be found it Ohio?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Tim McDermott, an Ohio State University Extension educator.
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