NDSU Extension - Benson County


Food Safety

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Rinse Your Produce for Safe Food

A Taste

For Nutrition

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent

Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science


Rinse Your Produce for Safe Food

Whether you are getting fresh produce from your garden, or from the grocery store, it is important to rinse it before it is eaten to reduce the amount of bacteria that is consumed.  Rinsing produce should be done just prior to eating to keep the quality of the product. 

Produce should be rinsed under cool water with a brush or your hand.  There is no need for soap or other additives to get vegetables clean.  In fact, those products can oftentimes affect flavor, and may not be safe to consume.  Fresh fruits and vegetables can be dried with a paper towel or a clean cloth. 

It is essential to also to look carefully at packages of fresh vegetables in the store.  If they are labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed,” “triple washed,” or something similar, there is no need to wash them again.  In fact, doing so may increase the risk for cross contamination.

After the produce is washed, be sure to serve it or chill it within two hours. If the produce will be out longer than two hours, make sure that it is on ice to prevent bacteria growth.

If any of the produce that is wash is bruised, or may have become cross contaminated with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, it must be thrown out.  As the saying goes, “When in doubt, throw it out”. 

It does not take much time at all to rinse fresh fruits and vegetables, but can make a huge difference in how safe food is to eat.

Here is a recipe for crunchy chicken salad.  A perfect way to get practice rinsing your fruits and vegetables.  Enjoy!

Crunchy Chicken Salad


  • 2 cups cooked chicken (chunked)
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 1/4 cup green pepper
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 cup grape
  • 1 apple (small, diced, leave the peel on)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt, plain

Directions:  Use leftover cooked chicken, or cook enough chicken to make 2 cups of chicken pieces.  Chop the celery into small pieces.  Chop the green pepper into small pieces.  Peel and chop 1/4 of an onion.  Peel and chop half of a cucumber. 6. Chop the apple into pieces. It’s okay to leave the peel on the apple.  Cut the grapes in half.  Put all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together.

Makes 5 servings, each serving contains 125 calories.  Contains 2 grams of fat, 46 mg cholesterol, 232 milligrams sodium, 8 carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, and 18 grams protein. 


  • Partnership for Food Safety Education, Fight BAC! Like a Produce Pro.
  • Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Program, Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network
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All about Foodborne Illness

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

If you are someone who enjoys cooking for yourself, your family, or groups, knowing about foodborne illness and how to prevent it should be at the top of your list. 

Foodborne illness often presents itself with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever.  Because of this, many people do not recognize that the illness is caused by bacteria or other pathogens in food and oftentimes mistake it for the flu.

Thousands of types of bacteria are naturally present in our environment, but not all bacteria cause disease to occur in the human body. For example, some bacteria are used beneficially in making cheese and yogurt.  We need to be aware of what bacteria can be harmful, and how to avoid it. 

Everyone can get a foodborne illness, however some are a higher risk than others.  Because of this, many factors should be taken into consideration when thinking about your risk for foodborne illness.  Age and physical condition place some persons at higher risk than others, no matter what type of bacteria is implicated. Very young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk from any pathogen. Some persons may become ill after ingesting only a few harmful bacteria; others may remain symptom free after ingesting thousands. 

With this being said, it best to be safe.  Here are some of the top reasons foodborne illness occurs:

• Food not hot enough
• Infected food handlers
• Preparation a day or more ahead of time
• Raw food mixed with cooked
• Food left in the danger zone (41 F to 140 F)
• Leftover food not reheated high enough
• Cross contamination


Regardless of who you are cooking for, remember that food safety should be your first priority.  No need to take the risk of getting sick, or worse.


Practice your food safety skills when you make the delicious baked fish and vegetable recipe below.  Enjoy!


Baked Fish and Vegetables


  • 4 white fish fillets (frozen, or cod or perch total of 16-20 oz.)
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (frozen)
  • 1 onion (small, diced)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or fresh lemon, sliced thin)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes (dried or fresh chopped)
  • aluminum foil

Directions: First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Separate and place fish fillets in center of each tin foil square.  Combine frozen vegetables and diced onion in bowl and mix. Spoon vegetables around fillets.  Then, sprinkle with lemon juice (or top with lemon slice) and add parsley on top. Fold ends of tin foil together to form leak-proof seal.  Bake for 10 minutes. Serve.

Makes: 4 servings.  Each serving contains 360 calories, 12 grams of fat, 130 mg of sodium, 19 carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 41 grams of protein. 



  • NDSU Extension Service, Cooking for Groups: A volunteer’s guide to Food Safety, August 2016
  • University of Minnesota, Cooperative Extension Service, Simply Good Eating: Recipe Cards, Vol. 1, 2000.
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Shopping Tips to Avoid Food Hazards

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

Simply speaking, we eat to live.  The food we put in our body keeps us alive and helps us to have the energy to move, think, and do simple day to day tasks.  Unfortunately, if we are not careful with our food, it can make us sick, or worse.


Food safety begins in the grocery store, and never truly ends.  Here are just a few tips to start out your grocery shopping in a food safe way:


  • Buy only foods in good condition and with sound packaging
  • Shop for food items just before going home
  • Buy products labeled “Keep Refrigerated” only if they are stored in a refrigerated case
  • Buy eggs only from refrigerated cases
  • Buy unpackaged meat or poultry from refrigerated cases in the deli only if it has not been in contact with other foods
  • Keep refrigerated and frozen items together so they remain cold
  • Buy only foods that can be used before the use-by date
  • Only buy the amount of shaved deli meats that can be used in one or two days
  • Buy frozen foods that are frozen solid without frost buildup on the package
  • Avoid cross-contamination
  • Report problems with packaging, product, storage or sanitation to store management. If you still are unsatisfied, report the problem to local health authorities


Remember that food safety is at the heart of having a healthy body.  Many times, people become sick from food and think that they have the flu or another illness.  Be sure to be aware of how your food is prepared, and how it is being stored.


Here is a recipe for blue corn meal pan bread.  If you do not happen to have blue corn meal on hand, yellow corn meal will work just fine.  Enjoy!


Blue Corn Pan Bread

  • Ingredients:
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups blue cornmeal (yellow may be used)
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sprouted wheat
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Directions:  Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 8x8 inch cake pan with foil.  Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add each ingredient, one at a time.  Stir well until mixture is smooth and pour into foil-lined cake pan. Cover with a piece of foil.  Bake for 2 hours. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes: 12 servings.  Each serving contains 180 calories, 1 gram of fat, 5 mg of sodium, 39 carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. 



  • USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, A River of Recipes
    Native American Recipes Using Commodity Foods
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Consider Food Safety this Thanksgiving

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

With several big meals ahead of us in the next few months, it is important to remember basic food safety tips so that your guests do not go home with a stomach ache, or worse.  Disregarding food safety can mean severe illness or death if the wrong bacteria find their way into your family’s meal.  To avoid an unhappy holiday season, here are a few tips:

  1.  Make sure to disinfect all preparation surfaces before and after making the meal.  Be especially carefully of seafood, poultry, and meat. 
  2. Do not leave your food sit out for more than 2 hours.  The longer your food sits out, the more bacteria it will grow.  If you forget to put your food away in the allotted time period, throw it away.  It is better to be safe than to end up getting food poisoning. 
  3. Take the temperature of all of your meat products to ensure they are cooked to the proper temperature.  You cannot tell if something is done by its color.  The color of your meat is determined by pH, not temperature.  Turkey needs to be cooked to at least 165 degrees. If you do not own one already, invest in a food thermometer.  The pop up thermometers are not always as reliable as we would like them to be.
  4. When you are thawing your turkey, be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave if it fits.  NEVER thaw meat on the counter or in warm water.  This inhibits bacteria growth, which will result in an unwelcome guest at your holiday meal.

Enjoy your holiday meals with your family and be confident that your food is safe for everyone to eat. If you have any question, feel free to call the NDSU Extension Office in Benson County at (701)473-5363. 

Here is a recipe that will help with any leftover turkey you might have.  Enjoy!

Leftover Turkey Casserole


  • 6 slices bread, whole wheat
  • 4 ounces cubed turkey
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, 1%
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, low-sodium (10.75 ounces)
  • 2 slices bread, whole wheat
  • 2 teaspoons margarine
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, low-fat shredded (or jack cheese)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, light

Directions: Lightly coat a 9x9x2-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Cut 6 slices of bread (fresh or day-old) into 1-inch cubes and place half into the bottom of a baking dish.  In a bowl, combine turkey, onion, celery, mayonnaise, and pepper. Spoon mixture over bread crumbs.  Place remaining bread cubes over turkey mixture and press down slightly with spoon.
Combine eggs and milk and pour mixture over cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325°F.  Spoon soup over top of casserole.  Spread one teaspoon margarine on side of each slice of bread. Cut buttered bread into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkle on top of casserole.
Bake for 60 minutes or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over top. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


Makes: 6 servings.  Each serving contains 277 calories, 11 grams of fat, 17 grams of protein, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 639 mg of sodium.  


Sources:  University of Illinois Extension. Wellness Ways recipes


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Keep your Food Safe when Camping

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

When we are exploring the great outdoors, there can be a lot of planning involved, and food safety should be included.  Depending on how long you plan to camp or be outdoors, the type of food you use, and how it is stored are important factors to keep in mind. 

When camping or hiking, try to make meals so that there are not any left overs.  Oftentimes, it is difficult to safely store food while camping.  Refrigeration or freezer options are usually limited or non-existent.  Choosing items that need no refrigeration is often the best choice.

In addition, be sure to check if campfires are allowed in areas where you will be staying, or if another cooking method, such as grilling will be needed.

Although it may be tempting to ‘live off the land’ for a few days, be cautionary of the health hazards of camping.  Assume river or stream water is unsafe to drink.  There could be harmful microorganisms lurking that could quickly ruin your trip.  If there is not a safe water source near you, bring bottled water instead. 

If you plan to bring meat or fish along when you camp, be sure to double wrap those packages.  Bacteria can easily spread if juices drip from the meat to other foods. 

Even in the great outdoors, it is still important to wash your hands for 20 seconds before you eat.  Germs are everywhere, and can be easily gone with just a few seconds of our time, along with soap and water.

Here is a recipe for a roasted pumpkin seed snack mix, perfect for the fall camping season.  Enjoy! 

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Snack Mix


  • 2 cups crispy rice or wheat cereal squares
  • 1/2 cup roasted whole pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup raisins


Mix all ingredients together and serve.


Makes: 8 servings.  Each serving contains 194 calories, 10 grams of fat, 93 mg of sodium, 25 carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. 



  • NDSU Extension Service, Keeping Food Safe when Camping and Hiking, July 2016
  • Regional Mental Health Center.  Regional Mental Health Center Cookbook.
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Food Safety and Power Outages

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

If the power goes out at your house, one of your concerns may be your perishable food.  You may be wondering if your food is safe to eat, especially if the power has been out for several hours. 

The most important fact to know related to food safety after a power outage is temperature.  If the temperature of your food is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, it is safe.  If you have a scheduled power outage, or you have a feeling a power outage may be coming your way, it is wise to group your food together in the refrigerator and freezer so that they can keep cold longer.  It is also wise to have a thermometer in your refrigerator so that you can regulate what your temperatures are at and what they should be at. 

If you happen to find yourself sitting in the dark, wondering if your food is okay, be sure to leave your fridge and freezer doors shut.  Opening them only warms up your food faster, allowing for spoilage to occur.  According to the USDA, a full freezer will hold its temperature for 48 hours while a half full freezer will hold its temperature for about 24 hours.  A refrigerator, on the other hand, will only hold its temperature for about 4 hours.  After power comes back on, check to see what the temperature of the foods in your refrigerator and freezer are.  Anything at 40 degrees or lower is safe. 

It may seem wasteful, but do not hesitate throwing away food you are unsure of.  Eating food that has not been properly cooled can cause food borne illness.  Never taste food to see if it is okay.  Oftentimes food will look, and may even taste okay when in reality it is unsafe.  Temperature is key to knowing your food is safe to eat.

Below is a recipe for apricot and lemon chicken.  It is a delicious way to incorporate lean protein in your diet.  Enjoy!

Apricot and Lemon Chicken


  • 4 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless (medium)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 5 tablespoons apricot spread (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 fresh lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons water


First, rub the cumin over chicken and place in skillet.

Then cook it on medium-high for 6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from pan and keep warm.  Add apricot spread, lemon juice, and water to skillet. On medium heat, stir until smooth.  Finally, spoon the sauce over chicken and serve it warm.


Makes: 4 servings.  Each serving contains 378 calories, 7 grams of fat, 154 mg of sodium, 13 carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, and 62 gram of protein. 



  • USDA updates flood food safety advice for consumers, USDA, August 23, 2016
  • ONIE Project - Oklahoma Nutrition Information and Education. Simple Healthy Recipes
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Grilling Food Safely

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

As the summer is nearing its end, chance are, your family is trying to spend as much time outside as possible, which may mean cooking outside, too.  Grilling is a great way to prepare a variety of summertime foods, but it is important to keep in mind food safety tips, especially when grilling.  Sometime since we are outside, it can be easy to let basic food safety measures slip, allowing for dangerous food contamination.  Be sure to use a different plate for the raw meat and the meat after it has been cooked.  Additionally, be sure to wash your hands if they come in contact with raw meat.  This may be more difficult if you are preparing food outside, but it is equally important to ensure safe food for you and your family.

Another fool-proof way to stay safe while grilling is to use a food thermometer.  Meats can change color even when they are not done.  This is due to the pH of the meat, which could ultimately give a false sense that the food is safe to eat.  Just because the meat has a smoky flavor and is charred, does not mean it is done.  It may just mean that the meat was cooked at a high temperature.  To be sure the meat is done, refer to the recommended minimum temperatures for meats and other dishes:

  • 145 F Beef, Pork, Lamb Steak, Roasts, and Chops
  • 145 F Fish
  • 160 F Beef, Pork, and Lamb (Ground)
  • 165 F Turkey, Chicken, and Duck (Whole and Ground)
  • 165 F Leftovers and casseroles

It can be easy to skip the food thermometer and hope for the best, but in reality, it is a risk you may not want to take.  There is a long list of food borne illnesses that link directly to undercooked or raw meat. 

Next time you are grilling, or cooking anywhere, be sure to have your food thermometer ready, and check the temperature of your meat.  This will ensure not only good tasting food, but also food that is safe for your family and friends to consume. 

To eat along with your safely grilled meat, try grilling some fruit kabobs!  Below is a recipe for grilled fruit.  Enjoy!

Grilled Fruit Kabobs


  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 peach, cubed
  • 1 banana, sliced


Place the fruit chunks on a skewer to make kabobs.  Finally, grill the fruit kabobs on low heat until the fruit is hot and slightly golden. 

Makes 3 servings.  Each serving contains 80 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 21 carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.

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Have a Healthy Picnic

By Kimberly Fox, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

July is here, which means warm weather, growing gardens, and plenty of outdoor eating.  This is why it is so appropriate that July is national picnic month.  Warm weather is a great reason to spend time with your family and friends, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. 

When preparing food or eating outdoors, remember that all of the same food safe rules that apply indoors, apply outside as well.  If you are planning to have items that need to be kept cold, be sure to pack them in ice.  When you are indoors, food needs to be put away on or before the two hour mark to avoid unsafe food consumption.  If you are outdoors, and the weather is warm, food shouldn’t be without ice or refrigeration for more than 60 minutes or one hour.  Increased temperature means that bacteria can grow faster, allowing for more opportunities for food borne illness. 

If you are going to have your cooler outside for a while, consider finding a shaded spot under a nearby tree.  Keeping it in your car or on the picnic table will heat it up quickly, causing your food to become unsafe.

If you are grilling be sure to bring a food thermometer to ensure your foods are up to the proper temperature.  Remember that beef, pork, lamb steaks, roasts, and chops, as well as fish need to be cooked to 145 degrees.  Ground beef, pork, and lamb need to be cooked to 160 degrees while turkey, chicken, and duck of any type needs to be cooked to 165 degrees.  If you are re-heating leftovers of any kind, be sure to heat them to at least 165 degrees to be safe.

Here is a recipe for trail mix bars.  They are the perfect snack or picnic addition as they do not need to be kept on ice.  This recipe is filled with ingredients from both the grain and protein food groups.   Enjoy!

Trail Mix Bars


  • 3 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 3 cups toasted oat cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 jar chunky peanut butter (16 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


First, combine the dry ingredients in bowl.  Then, combine honey and sugar in pan and bring to a boil.  Add peanut butter and vanilla, stir until peanut butter melts.  Pour mixture over cereal and mix well.  Finally, press into a 13x9" pan and cool.


Makes: 28 bars.  Each serving contains 225 calories, 11 grams of fat, 133 mg of sodium, 30 carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. 



  • NDSU Extension Service Food Wise Newsletter, July 2016
  •  University of Wisconsin Extension, Adams County. What’s Cooking USDA Mixing Bowl.
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How Long Can I Keep…?

By Kimberly Braulick, Extension Agent Family Nutrition Program/Family and Consumer Science

You have most likely bought a food or food related item and after some time has passed, you notice the listed date on the product is past the current date.  You feel like it is a waste to throw it away, but you also want to keep your family safe. 

This is a dilemma many people face, and it is a question without a simple answer.  The only food with consistent, regulated dates is baby food.  The rest of the products we buy have a mix of expiration dates, best if used by dates and sell by dates. 

If you are a user of any type of smart phone or tablet, your food expiration worries may soon be gone.  The USDA has an app called ‘Food Keeper’.  It has a variety of common products, and tells you how long they are good after the date listed on their product.  Of course, if you are still in doubt, throw it out.

Eggs, for example, can be kept for 3-5 weeks from the date of purchase.  Do not throw eggs away the day after the date on the package, as they can be consumed for WEEKS after the stated date.

Milk can be consumed one week after the date of purchase.  It can also be frozen for up to three months if you know you will not be able to use it quickly enough.

Yogurt can be used for 1-2 weeks from the purchase date, and can also be frozen for 1-2 month.  For a different twist on a snack or dessert, try frozen yogurt.  An especially delicious treat for this summer.

Here is a recipe for baked potatoes primavera to use up a few ingredients that may be nearing the end of their fridge, freezer, or shelf life.  Enjoy!

Baked Potatoes Primavera


  • 4 potatoes (medium)
  • 4 cups mixed vegetables (frozen)
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream, non-fat
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil (dried)
  • black pepper (to taste)


First, pierce each potato several times with a fork. Microwave on high until tender, about 3-4 minutes per potato.  Next, steam mixed vegetables until hot.  Mix the sour cream with the herbs and pepper.  Split the potatoes in the center and fill with steamed veggies. Finally, top with sour cream and serve hot.


Makes: 8 servings.  Each serving contains 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 5 mg of sodium, 28 carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein. 



  • Food and Health Communications, Inc.
  • USDA Food Keeper App.
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