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Prairie Fare: Food Safety Issues Continue to Surface

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
If you run a red light, do you get hit by a car every time? The answer is no, but you are placing yourself at risk.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

As I think of topics for my weekly column, sometimes I wonder if I have overdone the topic of food safety. Then I get a few calls or make some observations. Then I think differently. Maybe we in food safety and nutrition education haven’t done enough.

Just last week, three things happened that prompted this column, beginning with a school assignment for one of my kids.

Incident No. 1: “Mom, we’re supposed to make some food for class. Here are the recipes we can use,” my teenage daughter announced.

The assignment wasn’t for a family and consumer sciences foods class, by the way. I read through the recipes and found one that included raw eggs in the final dish.

“I think you need to let your teachers know that eating raw eggs isn’t recommended,” I said.

My daughter looked at me strangely because I was advising that she question her teacher.

“We aren’t telling her how to teach her subject, just cautioning her about food safety,” I said.

So, she agreed to mention it to her teacher. When she returned, she told me that her teacher said no one had gotten sick from the dish, so the recipe was OK.

According to the Food and Drug Administration’s Bad Bug Book, raw eggs, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy, fish, shrimp and many other foods have been associated with outbreaks of salmonellosis. At least 2 million cases of salmonellosis are reported annually in the U.S. Some forms of the illness have up to a 15 percent mortality rate. Other types are linked with reactive arthritis with lifelong implications.

I had a little discussion with my daughter about what it means to put yourself at risk. If you run a red light, do you get hit by a car every time? The answer is no, but you are placing yourself at risk for harm if you do not follow traffic safety recommendations.

We also face some risks in the kitchen, so following food safety recommendations every time can protect us from illness. Not every egg contains salmonella, but you can’t see, smell or taste disease-causing bacteria. Sometimes you are lucky, and other times you are not.

In the end, no one brought “salmonella delight” to class, so that was a good thing. A simple solution would be to change the recipe to say “pasteurized in-shell eggs.” I will write a note to the teacher. Maybe my daughter will deliver it.

Incident No. 2. An email arrived. Someone was making a recipe that called for canned tomatoes. When the person opened the can of tomatoes, it made a hissing sound like a soda pop can. The ends of the can were bulging. The tomatoes were now in a slow cooker. Fortunately, the client began to question the safety of the food before serving it to a group of people.

No, we do not recommend that you consume food from bulging cans or containers that spurt gas or liquid when opened. A bulging can indicates gas-forming organisms are present, and some bacteria produce toxins that are deadly in tiny doses. The worst case scenario would be the presence of the botulism toxin, which can be fatal.

Therefore, do not eat foods from cans that are bulging, leaking or excessively damaged. Never taste foods in bulging cans to see if they “taste OK.” The food needs to be discarded where no human or animal will consume it.

Incident No. 3. This wasn’t quite an incident just yet. I was reading a conference brochure that described sessions being offered about home-canning foods. I wasn’t familiar with the presenter and I didn’t notice any food science or safety credentials listed with the presenter’s description.

I was a little surprised at some of the recipes that were going to be described in the session. Had I completely missed newly released food safety formulations?

I began to search for the items on the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia. I couldn’t find research-based recommendations for several of the mentioned recipes.

If you decide to do home canning, you can find free research-based recipes on our website at Click on “Browse Food, Food Safety and Nutrition Publications” to see publications on a wide range of topics. You also can contact qualified staff in the Extension Service offices in counties throughout the state.

Don’t take risks with your health. Get your information from credible sources and ask questions. Have a safe, healthy and happy new year!

If you enjoy roasted turkey or chicken during the holidays, here’s a tasty way to get your vegetables and balance out the higher-calorie meals typical of the holiday season.

Chicken or Turkey Club Salad

1 c. uncooked whole wheat pasta

6 c. well-washed and torn romaine lettuce or spinach

2 c. fresh vegetables (green pepper, celery, cauliflower florets, cucumber, carrots), chopped

2 c. chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 c. cubed cooked chicken or turkey

1/2 c. low-fat Italian dressing

1 hard-cooked egg (optional)

1/4 c. shredded cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions and then drain and cool. Place 1 1/2 cups of the lettuce or spinach in each of four large bowls or plates. Combine chopped vegetables, chicken and pasta. Add dressing and toss lightly to coat. Divide among the four bowls. Top each serving with a few egg slices and 1 tablespoon of the shredded cheese.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 270 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 24 g of protein, 29 g of carbohydrate, 6 g of fiber and 380 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Dec. 22, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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