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roast in slow cooker

By: Tracy Turner

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?

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

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


Tracy Turner



Shari Gallup
Family and Consumer Sciences
OSU Extension

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Flooding road goes underwater and house completely flooded

By: Tracy Turner

If my home floods, what do I do with the food in my fridge and pantry?

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

If your home becomes flooded, it is important that you throw away any food that might have come into contact with floodwater. That includes cartons of milk, juice, or eggs and any raw vegetables and fruits. In fact, unless they were in a waterproof container, any foods in your home that came into contact with floodwater need to be thrown out.

Floodwater can seep into and contaminate foods packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or stored in containers with screw-on caps, snap lids, or pull tops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The best way to avoid the potential for foodborne illness in such cases is to throw away all foods not contained in waterproof packaging. That includes any foods in your pantry, cabinets, fridge, and freezer that came into contact with floodwater.

Canned goods also need to be inspected for damage due to flooding. Throw away any cans with swelling, leakage, punctures, or deep rusting, or those that are crushed or severely dented and can’t be opened with a can opener.

Foodborne bacteria can cause illness. Symptoms will occur usually within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, symptoms can also occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the case of a power outage without flooding, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. If not opened, a refrigerator without power will keep food cold for about four hours. A half-full freezer will hold its temperature for about 24 hours, and for 48 hours if the freezer is full, the USDA says.

If the power is out more than four hours, you can store refrigerated foods in a cooler with dry ice or block ice. You can also use dry ice or block ice in the fridge to keep it as cold as possible during an extended power outage, according to the FDA.

The USDA and the FDA offer these other tips for safe food handling after a power outage:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Throw away any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or leftovers that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw away any food that feels warm to the touch or has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed can be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees or below.

Remember, when in doubt about the safety of the food item, throw it out. Never taste the food to decide if it is safe to eat, the USDA says. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than four hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut, according to the FDA.

Experts agree: One way to be prepared in the event of an extended power outage is to keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking or cooling. And keep a supply of bottled water stored where it will be safe from floodwater.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line author Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor: This column was originally reviewed by Sanja Ilic, specialist in food safety for Ohio State University Extension.


Tracy Turner



Sanja Ilic
OSU Extension, Food Safety

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Ariel Garsow

The kids are back in school. That means time to make homemade playdough! But, did you know that flour – one of the ingredients in homemade playdough – can carry harmful bacteria that can make you sick? And, since young children put almost everything in their mouths, that’s risky.

Flour has been associated with several recalls and outbreaks over the past few years. Early this year, Pillsbury recalled their flour due to potential Salmonella contamination. Just last week General Mills recalled Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour (five-pound bags, use by date Sept. 6th, 2020, UPC code 016000 196100) due to potential contamination with E.coli O26, a strain of bacteria that can cause very serious illness, particularly in children. When there is a recall like this one, it is important to check your cupboard. If you still have the flour in the bag, check the use by date. If the use by date is Sept. 6, 2020, throw out the flour. If you are unsure about the use by date and it could potentially be that date, throw it out. For more details about this recall, click here.

Now you are aware that flour could potentially contain bacteria like Salmonella or E.coli. What do you do?

If you still want to make playdough, you could bake your flour to reduce the risk. It is important to know that baking won’t completely eliminate the risk – we’ve all seen how flour can spread around the kitchen! Since cross-contamination is still a risk, don’t try to cook recalled flour – it really is best to throw that away.

After you are confident that you do not have flour associated with either of the recalls above, you can follow this playdough recipe, which we modified from It should make enough playdough for 4-6 kids.


- 2 cups all-purpose flour

- 2/4 cup salt

- 4 teaspoons cream of tartar

- 2 cups lukewarm water

- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

- Food coloring

- Plastic bags

Playdough ingredients

1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 °F;

2. Spread out flour evenly on a baking sheet

3. Put the flour in the oven for 5 minutes;

For the time and temperature of baking flour, please see this source here

Flour in the Oven

4. In a medium pot, mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar;

Playdough Mix

5. Add the water and the oil;

Playdough Mix
Playdough Mix

6. Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until the dough is formed;

Playdough Mix

7. After the dough has cooled a little, knead the dough until smooth;

8. Divide the dough into the number of balls corresponding to the number of colors you want;

Playdough Before Food Coloring

9. Place a dough ball and about 15 drops of food coloring into the plastic bag and knead;

Playdough and food coloring

10. Now your dough is ready for the kids to play with!

One last note, make sure the kids properly wash their hands before using the playdough to limit the germs from their hands going into the playdough. And have fun!

Ariel Garsow, Graduate Research Associate, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology

Photos credit Nicole Badik

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Barbara Kowalcyk

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”

Lyndon Johnson first spoke those words after the devastating assassination of John F. Kennedy, as Johnson sought to heal the nation, and urged the country toward “a new American greatness.”

His observation resonates deeply with me; a present-day response to a past that cannot be undone led me to co-found the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention nearly 13 years ago.

Thanks to my father’s career as a mathematics professor, I grew up steeped in the university culture and developed a love (and sometimes hate!) relationship with mathematics. After completing a bachelor’s degree in the subject, I headed for graduate school and earned a master’s degree in statistics, and began my career as a biostatistician, conducting clinical research.

Then, in 2001, the course of my life—and my entire family’s—was irrevocably changed when my 2½-year-old son, Kevin, died from complications due to an E. coli O157:H7 infection. Following his death, our family was desperate to understand what had happened to our beautiful little boy. We started looking for answers.

What we learned about America’s food safety system shocked us. Soon we were advocating for new legislation that gave USDA the authority to shut down meat and poultry plants that repeatedly failed to meet Salmonella performance standards. The legislation was later called Kevin’s Law due to our efforts.

I soon realized that advancing food safety was my calling and redirected my career to focus full-time on food safety. In 2006, I co-founded the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) with my mother, Patricia Buck, to advocate for science-based solutions that prevent foodborne illness and protect public health. At the same time, I decided to pursue a doctorate in epidemiology and biostatistics, with the goal of preventing foodborne illness on a large scale. Since then, we have met with a multitude of policy-makers, presented numerous times to Congressional committees, and consistently advocated on behalf of consumers on many food safety issues. We have also shared the best available scientific findings through our website, in films and newspapers, and on local and nationally televised programs—in short, through every appropriate outlet we could find—all in an effort to effect change in our food safety system.

Today, as we observe National Food Safety Education Month, I am thrilled to announce that CFI is now a center within Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

The food safety challenges of the 21st century are daunting. Changes in the food system and the environment have led to increased risk of food contamination, and the number of new and emerging bacteria, toxins, and antibiotic-resistant strains are growing. Addressing these and many other critical threats to our food supply requires an integrated, systems-based approach that is rooted in science and driven by risk. Yet food safety stakeholders, from local to global, struggle with effectively implementing such an approach.

Given its expertise and reputation in the food safety community, Ohio State has the opportunity to make a significant contribution in this field – locally, nationally, and globally. Faculty from every college in the university are working to address food safety-related issues. Many of them have been tapped for key advisory roles, and an impressive number have received awards for their work. Yet, while they are involved in a number of successful food safety collaborations within CFAES and across Ohio State, there has been no central point for connecting and engaging these teams, either internally or with external stakeholders.

Until now.

Since its founding as a 501(c)(3), CFI has worked to advance a stronger, more science-based food safety system. We are dedicated to improving food safety and advancing One Health by creating synergies, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, and facilitating the translation of research into policy and practice.

As a CFAES college center, CFI will build on and amplify Ohio State’s existing efforts to address current and imminent food safety challenges. We will provide an organizational structure and a single point of contact for external and internal queries about food safety. CFI will serve as the platform for coordinating food safety efforts, facilitating transdisciplinary collaborations within Ohio State, and creating lasting partnerships with food safety stakeholders. We are dedicated to protecting public health and creating a positive food safety culture, from farm to table, and beyond.

CFI’s mission, vision, and strategic objectives are in strong alignment with those of Ohio State, CFAES, and my home department of Food Science and Technology (FST). We think of ourselves as “knowledge brokers,” translating the best available science into evidence-informed policies and practices. CFI has advocated for consumers, helped inform legislation and regulations, conducted national and international research projects, and developed strategic partnerships – all to advance our vision of a food system that consistently delivers safe, affordable, and nutritious food to all. Our work is rooted in science; best practices for science-based advocacy are our guiding principles. This focus makes CFI unique in the food safety community.

I am confident that this move will better position Ohio State and CFI to win the fight against foodborne disease. Please join us on November 14, 2019, for our Inaugural Event at Ohio State, Translating Science into Policy and Practice: What are the food safety priorities?

Go Bucks!

Barbara Kowalcyk, Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology

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