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SafeFood During Holiday Time

SafeFood© Blogging

Welcome to the first SafeFood© Blog of Iowa State University’s Food Safety Project. We are hoping this site will further inspire you to advocate for safe food. With global sources of ingredients, centralized processing, and people eating more food prepared away from home, it is important we pay attention to the food we eat. Overall we have a safe food supply but it only takes one glitch – from humans or other sources – to mess up the system.

My name is Catherine Strohbehn and I am a Registered Dietitian and Certified Food Safety Professional who has worked in foodservice operations. I do understand the hectic nature of “back of the house” in foodservices. Part of my job as Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management Extension Specialist is to coordinate food safety training programs and manage the Food Safety Project web site.

My fellow bloggers include Dr Sam Beattie, a microbiologist who is the ISU Extension Consumer Food Safety Specialist; Dr. Jim Dickson, also a microbiologist who has worked extensively with food processors; Dr. Joe Sebranek, an animal scientist who studies effective meat processing systems; and Dr. Jim McKean, a veterinarian who has studied quality assurance in livestock production.

Each week, one of us will share our two cents worth about food safety topics we find of interest. I get to start – ladies first and all that!

It seems food is everywhere during this holiday season – between Thanksgiving and New Year’s I am likely to gain a few pounds from all the snacking that is available. Of course, I could “just say no”, but Kathy in the office makes her special almond toffee only at this time of year. And it is worth the wait – and also, the weight! There are times I do say no though, usually if I don’t know how, where, or by whom food was prepared.

I know my office group will not lick their fingers or have their cats on the counter, so I limit - strange word to use here - “treats to self” to those they have made. Although the sugar and fat content will likely not provide an environment for bacteria to grow and reproduce, viral infections of cold, flu or even norovirus or hepatitis A are concerns. Even healthy options of fresh vegetables pose risks!

But I avoid cookie exchanges, and even samples at the grocery store. The plastic gloves just don’t convince me that the food has been protected. Is this a classic case of “a little knowledge is dangerous”?

In this season of celebration and snacking, different approaches to food safety are evident. We see the risk-takers, like my husband who claims he “challenges his immune system” by eating an apple without washing it (although he does a quick, cursory rub on his chore jeans). He is not completely wrong as there is some research to support his philosophy. But – call me cautious - I question the five second rule (ok to eat dropped food if picked up within 5 seconds).

Everyone laughs at people who are overly cautious (the Felix type of personalities). Granted, we can’t live in bubbles. But we can take appropriate cautions. On behalf of the Felix’s in this world, I encourage a little wisdom and selectivity in food choices over the holiday season. You can possibly save a few pounds and keep yourself healthy. Be a SafeFood© Advocate!