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College of Human Ecology

Team develops plan to make food handling safer

Friday, September 24, 2010

How safe is your table?

Take this quiz and see. Wrong answers can make you sick.

  • Refrigerate that doggie bag within two hours of being served or throw it away. (True.)
  • Change in color of cooked meat is a reliable indicator that the meat is safe to eat. (False. Use a meat thermometer.)
  • A wise person reuses plastic shopping bags. (False. Throw out those that held raw meat; wash reusable cloth bags.)
  • Canned goods will last for years when stored in a cool, clean, dry place. (False. Go by expiration date or one year after purchase.)
  • After washing hands clean, air dry them or use single-use towels. (True. Scrub with soap and water for 20 seconds first.)

Wash HandsFoodborne illness strikes 76 millions of Americans each year, causing problems ranging from a simple upset stomach to the need for a fast drive to the emergency room. Three main causes of foodborne illnesses are salmonella; E. coli, or escherichia coli; and listeria, or listeria monocytogenes. More than half of reported illnesses are associated with restaurants. The rest come from food eaten at home.

To whittle down those numbers in Kansas, K-State researchers developed Food Safety for Boomers and Beyond, an interactive program available online. The multimedia program was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to develop food safety education for older adults.

The educational program was recently unveiled to commemorate National Food Safety Month in September.

"About half the adults in Kansas are uninformed about safe food-handling practices," said Valentina Remig, assistant professor of human nutrition at K-State.

Bacteria may lurk in places such as contaminated shopping carts and kitchen surfaces, undercooked hamburgers and five-day-old leftovers. Wherever there is food, beware, according to Remig.

While older adults are more likely to suffer from foodborne illness, research from Kansas focus groups and more than 400 self-administered surveys indicated that the target group needed to be expanded to consumers of all ages, Remig said.

Research results also helped the K-State team pinpoint specific issues on which to focus. They are food storage, eating out and take out, kitchen cleaning, shopping safety, food-cooking temperatures and thermometers, and hand washing.

Most urgent, Remig said, is hand washing and careful food preparation practices.

The program includes six video segments, each including printable posters, interactive quizzes and links to national sources of food safety information.

"People have different learning styles, and we tried to develop materials for everyone," said Gerry Snyder, a K-State media communication specialist.

Information includes a food storage chart, a meat-cooking guide and posters. Handouts and videos will be available in Spanish as well.

Also on the research team were Kevin Roberts, hospitality management and dietetics; Toni J. Bryant, K-State Research and Extension, Fort Riley; research assistants Heather McDougal, Kerri Cole and Allisha Weeden; and graduate students Caleb Angolo and Tracy Sabo.

Sing your way to clean hands

After playtime, before snacks and throughout the day, tiny voices warbling “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” shower the air around Stone House on the K-State campus.

Teachers at the early childhood education center are stern about handwashing. To prevent the quick-dip-and-run method, children soap up and sing “Twinkle, twinkle” or the ABC song.

When the song is over, they may rinse, dry on a paper towel and run.

It takes 20 seconds.

That’s the rule. Twenty seconds.

The proper handwashing steps are:

  1. Wet hands in warm water.
  2. Scrub with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  3. Rinse well with warm water.
  4. Air dry or dry with single-use towels.

The singing part is the most fun. You may substitute “Happy birthday to me.”

Prepared by Human Ecology communications

This article was posted on Friday, September 24, 2010, and is filed under College News, Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health, Hospitality Management.