by Toby Amidor in Food Safety, December 5, 2012
by Toby Amidor in Food Safety, September 2, 2012
With cold and flu season upon us, it’s important to get the facts on how to prevent the spread of germs in and out of the kitchen. I had the pleasure to speaking with Jason Tetro – AKA The Germ Guy—where we discussed how to keep your kitchen safe, the calming effects of hand washing and why kids should eat dirt.
Q. How did you come to be known as the “Germ Guy?”
Back in 2008, I was asked by the local television station, CTV Ottawa to do regular question and answer segments on germs and our relationship with them in our daily lives. The host, Leanne Cusack, felt that my title, “University of Ottawa Microbiologist Jason Tetro” was a little too long and shortened it to “The Germ Guy.” The name stuck in the community and soon, I was better known by that moniker. I went on to develop my own blog and then became a contributor for the Huffington Post.
Q. I heard that you always wear a loose piece of clothing in order to help prevent the spread of germs. Can you explain?
One of the best ways to prevent infection is simply to avoid exposure through the nose and mouth. I tend to wear a loose undershirt so that when I am around someone who is obviously sick and not following proper etiquette – such as sneezing or coughing into the elbow – I take the matter into my own hands and cover my nose and mouth with the shirt. It’s come in handy in many places and thankfully, I’ve never been mistaken for a robber!
by Toby Amidor in Food Safety, August 7, 2012
Do pesky fruit flies hover around your fresh produce? Find out how you can get them out of your kitchen.
Fruit Flies 101
Adult fruit flies (Drosiphila melanogaster) range in size from 1 to 2 millimeters, have red eyes and tan or brownish body. They like to lay their eggs on fruit that’s getting ready to be harvested; that’s how they make it into your home, though they can come in through open doors and windows. Once in your home, these small flies will hang out near rotting fruit, especially old bananas hanging out on your counter. These flies reproduce quickly—they can lay up to 500 eggs over the course of their 1-week lifespan.
Other common breeding grounds for these bugs include decaying meat, large spills of sugary soda or alcohol, sink drains, garbage disposals, empty bottles and cans, trash receptacles, wet mops and dirty rags.
by Dana Angelo White in Food News, Food Safety, July 22, 2012
You know you should be eating your fruits and veggies. But it’s just as important to your health to make sure your produce is clean and free of harmful pathogens. Luckily, there are simple tips you can follow to keep you and your loved ones safe.
The culprits include raw fruits and veggies and fresh juices made from them. Choosing organic or sticking to the clean 15 can help decrease the amount of pesticides in your produce but it won’t change the possibility that harmful microorganisms may be present.
At the Store
Whether you’re buying from your local supermarket, farmers’ market or belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) keep these tips in mind:
- Purchase in-season fruits and veggies, especially in the summer when so much is available.
- If you’re heading to your local farmers’ market, go early! You don’t want to buy fruits and veggies that have been sitting out in the heat for many hours or that have been touched by lots of people.
- Buy only what you need for the week. You’re better off making several quick trips to the market rather than stocking up and risking having the excess go bad.
- Choose produce carefully. Look for signs on spoilage such as mold, bruises, mushiness or cuts.
- Instead of buying pre-packaged produce, choose loose produce. It gives you a better opportunity to check for signs of spoilage.
- When buying fresh juice, be sure it’s pasteurized (treated with heat to kill harmful germs). If you’re not sure, ask or don’t buy it. Remember, young kids, pregnant and lactating women, older adults and those with a compromised immune system should lay off unpasteurized juices.
- If you’re bagging your produce in reusable bags, be sure to wash the bags regularly.
by Toby Amidor in Food Safety, June 22, 2012
The Environmental Working Group constantly scrutinizes the amounts of pesticide residues found on popular produce. We want to keep you updated on which fruits and veggies you should buy organic – here’s a review of the 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide Residues.
The Dirty Dozen PLUS
The top 12 most contaminated had remained relatively consistent other than a few items shifting positions. But in 2012 a “PLUS” category was added to the original dozen. Conventionally-grown green beans, kale and collard greens have been given special consideration because of an especially dangerous toxin they are treated with. Organophosphate insecticides are toxic to the neurological system and are found in even higher amounts on bell peppers and nectarines (numbers 3 and 6 on the Dirty Dozen list).
by Dana Angelo White in Food Safety, May 13, 2012
- Play it safe this summer when it comes to picnic foods.
The hot weather is the perfect time to picnic and cook outdoors, but the warm weather also creates the perfect environment to support the growth of harmful food bugs. Keep your food and family safe by following these simple tips.
#1: Use a thermometer
A thermometer is the number one tool to make sure your grilled goodies are cooked to the perfect temperature to destroy pesky pathogens. Studies show that checking the color of the food isn’t an accurate way to tell if your food is cooked through.
Tips for choosing the right thermometer
#2: Monitor leftovers
Perishable food like cooked or raw meats and salads should never be left out at room temperature for over 2 hours. When the weather gets hot — above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — your window for leaving food lying out is only 1 hour. Toss any unrefrigerated food if it surpasses the time limit.
by Toby Amidor in Food Safety, May 8, 2012
Farmers’ markets are the prime destination for fresh and local food, but they’re not immune to germs and bacteria. Farmers work hard to comply with state and federal food safety standards but patrons also have to keep their eyes peeled (and their produce washed). Use our tips to help avoid food safety pitfalls.
Whether it’s organically grown or not, produce needs to be washed well. It’s a good thing that farmers’ market produce isn’t waxed like much of what you’ll find in the grocery store, but these local goodies are often covered with dirt. Rinse delicate items like berries, herbs and lettuces well just before use; rinsing them before storing them can cause them to get moldy or mushy. Sturdy produce like carrots, apples and potatoes can handle a good scrub. Thick-skinned foods like melons should be washed before you slice into them.
Some vendors turn their produce into drinks like apple cider. Look for pasteurized beverages, especially if you’re pregnant, elderly or serving them to young children.
by Dana Angelo White in Food Safety, Healthy Tips, April 24, 2012
Our recent post on 5 Healthiest Kids Meals stirred up controversy over chicken. Some folks felt that it’s loaded with artery-clogging saturated fat while others voiced their concern over how chickens are raised and fed. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Chicken is easy to prepare in a healthy way by grilling, roasting, sauteing, poaching, stir-frying and baking. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should be eating lean sources of protein, including chicken. It is recommended to remove the visible fat and skin from chicken before eating to decrease unnecessary calories from fat. Here is a comparison of 3-ounces of chicken breast with and without the skin:
Without the skin:
Fat: 3 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 73 milligrams
Protein: 27 grams
With the skin:
Fat: 8 grams
Saturated Fat: 8 gram
Cholesterol: 82 milligrams
Protein: 29 grams
As with most meat and poultry, it can get expensive. The problem is, most folks eat much higher portions that they really need. Purchasing 3-4 ounces cooked (about 4-5 ounces raw) per person can help keep portions at bay and control costs.
by Toby Amidor in Food Safety, April 22, 2012
- Is it time for a major fridge cleaning at your house?
Take a peek in your fridge or freezer. How many of these items do you have stocked?
It’s no big shocker that large portions of ice cream, butter and mayonnaise aren’t super healthy, but they’re not off limits as far as we’re concerned. For this list we’re highlighting 10 foods that you’re better off avoiding all together.
1. Expired Condiments
Condiments do last a while, but certainly not forever! Mold, yeast and other types of creepy-crawly bacteria can grow even in the chilly refrigerator, especially when stored in the warmest part of the fridge—the door. Check dates on all condiments and toss anything you aren’t sure about.
2. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Sodas, juice drinks and teas can dump hundreds of sugary calories into your day. A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that most folks consume a whopping 21.4 teaspoons of added sugar each day. You’ll find anywhere from 12 to 22 teaspoons in just one bottle of sweetened (16 to 20 fluid ounces) of tea or soda.
by Dana Angelo White in Food News, Food Safety, April 12, 2012
- Your grocery bag may be green, but is it clean?
Many folks love their eco-friendly re-usable grocery bags. But when’s the last time you washed them? A new survey found that only 15% of Americans regularly clean their totes, putting them at a higher risk for food poisoning.
A recent survey conducted by the Home Food Safety Program found 85% of Americans aren’t washing their re-usable grocery bags. Raw foods like meat, poultry and fish carry harmful bacteria which can linger in your totes waiting to board ready-to-eat foods like produce. The risk is even higher with the spring weather setting in as bacteria love to flourish at warm temperatures. Luckily, it’s easy to keep you and your family safe from food bugs.
- Is there pink slime in this beef?
A microbiologist who worked for the USDA let the cat out of the bag about something the food industry has been doing for years. What’s your take on the food issue everyone’s talking about: pink slime?
What is Pink Slime?
Tiny traces of meat left on beef carcasses are heated, picked, then bathed in ammonia to kill off any bacteria. These meat scraps dubbed “lean finely textured beef” (aka pink slime) are then mixed with ground beef prior to packaging to bulk up portions. Until recently, pink slimed beef was gobbled down by anyone who consumed ground beef from a fast food joint, grocery store or school cafeteria.
The meat industry defends that pink slime is in fact meat. The government says these ammonia-sprayed foods are safe to eat, but that doesn’t make the chemical-treated meat any more appetizing to many consumers.