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  1. Impact Report Front Cover

    2019-2020 CFI Impact Report

    Jun 7, 2021

    2019-2020 CFI Impact Report is now avalable. Click here to access the report.

  2. Gina Nicholson Kramer

    Gina Nicholson Kramer Joins CFI Team as Program Director for Partnerships and Learning

    May 10, 2021

    The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention (CFI) at The Ohio State University is pleased to announce that Gina Nicholson Kramer, REHS/RS has joined our team as Program Director for Partnerships and Learning. In this role, she will oversee CFI’s efforts to prepare leaders, students and engaged citizens in food safety as well as develop and implement new learning and education programs that meet the needs of stakeholders and complement existing OSU food safety educational efforts. Gina brings her 20+ years of experience leading food safety projects, programs and companies to CFI. Prior to joining CFI, Gina served as Director of Advisory Services at Matrix Sciences International; Founder and Executive Director of Savor Safe Food and Savour Food Safety International; Global Retail Client Director at NSF International; Senior Food Safety & Quality Manager at The Kroger Company; Health Promotions Program Manager at Columbus Public Health, and Food Safety Specialist at Richland County Health Department.

In the Spotlight

By: Ariel Garsow

Looking at the back of a package of frozen food, there can be detailed instructions. Are these instructions important to follow for food safety?

What labels mean

Frozen foods are separated into categories based on how they need to be cooked for food safety. Some are ready to eat, like yummy Dino Buddies (although many would prefer cooked Dino Buddies), while others, like Lean Cuisine Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli need to be cooked before they are ready to be consumed. You can tell if an item is ready to be consumed by looking at the front of the package for a label that says fully cooked (circled in red in the photo below).

Yummy Dino Buddies box - fully cooked label

On the other hand, the Lean Cuisine Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli needs to be cooked thoroughly before it is consumed (circled in red in the photo below).

Lean Cuisine box - cook thoroughly label

Reason for the directions

The cooking instructions on a package of frozen food are created to optimize safety and quality for the consumer in order to ensure that food is safe and the ideal texture and taste of the food is achieved. If you are anything like me, the part that I want to skip the most in the directions on the back of a package of frozen food is the stir and put the item back in the microwave.

There is a reason for this step. Heating is not even in a microwave. Many microwaves have turn tables to mitigate these temperature differences and allow for more even heating of foods. The picture below shows the result of a simulation of the temperature differences throughout a microwave with a potato in it (COMSOL, 2017). The red spots show hotter areas while the blue spots demonstrate colder areas in the microwave.

COMSOL simulation of a potato being cooked in a microwave

This is why Lean Cuisine Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli in their directions states that after stirring, the product needs to be “cook[ed] again for 1:30 minutes on high.”

One note on stirring: the product is not completely cooked after the first cook step. For reduction of risk of foodborne illness, the utensil being used to stir should be washed before it is used again.

Potential Hazards

There is a higher risk of foodborne illness if you consume foods that are not prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In March 2016, an outbreak of listeriosis was found to be caused by individuals that ate frozen sweet corn and green peas. Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious health effects such as death and miscarriage in vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

I hope the next time you pull out your frozen meal from the microwave, you understand the importance of waiting for the food to be fully cooked to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

References

COMSOL. (2017). The Microwave Heating Principle. Multiphysics Cyclopedia. https://www.comsol.com/multiphysics/microwave-heating

Lean Cuisine. (n.d.). Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli. https://www.goodnes.com/lean-cuisine/products/alfredo-pasta-chicken-broccoli/

Yummy Dino Buddies. (2018). Gluten Free Dinosaur Nuggets. https://www.yummydinobuddies.com/products


Ariel GarsowAriel Garsow

Graduate Research Associate

garsow.1@osu.edu