What to do with your food during a white-out

Two winter survival basics people forget during a white-out: 1) food availability; 2) food safety. What are the best items to stock up on? Is your refrigerated food okay to eat after a power outage? How long will your freezer keep your food at a safe temperature without power?

Snow storm

With Jack Frost continuing to work overtime in the US, here are the foody facts you need to stay safe.

Stock up on non-perishable foods, both for your business and your home

There are a few essential food items that no home should be without during a white-out. Think along the lines of cereal, nut butter and pasta, tinned soup and dried fruit.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends having a three-day supply of non-perishables for each member of your household. (Remember, conditions may be so bad that you are unable to drive.) Add some fruit and veg to your list too. Okay, they’re perishable. But they’re also cheap, have a lengthy shelf-life, are easy to prepare and will keep you topped up with vitamins.

Stay cool during a power outage

When the teeth-chattering temperature outside is cold enough to clog diesel, it seems bizarre to worry about your food stocks spoiling by getting too warm. But investing in battery-operated fridge and freezer thermometers could save you a lot of hassle.

The FDA recommends making sure your freezer is at or below 0oF – and your fridge at or below 40oF. In the event of a power outage, having your fridge/freezer below the required temperature will keep your food safer for longer.

Keeping your food safe is about knowing your limits

Arcade Fire got it right: a power out is nothing to shout about. Especially if you run a food business. Unfortunately they are common when unprecedented levels of snow collect on power lines and tree branches. If you do lose your electricity, a full freezer should keep your food at a safe temperature for 48 hours (24 hours if your freezer is only half-full). Perishables – such as milk, yoghurt and meat – will stay safe for around four hours in an unpowered fridge. After this you could store them in a container outside. As long as the temperature is below 40oF (and stays there), you’re good to go.

If a power outage is likely, take to the oven

Power outages are hard to predict. But if it seems likely, you might want to consider cooking-up your meats and storing them in the fridge (or outdoors if and when you lose power). It means you won’t have to go without your protein. And there’s less chance of tasty treats going to waste. Cooked poultry as well as ham, lamb, beef, pork and veal will last three-four days when kept consistently below 40oF after cooking. (Allow your meat to cool completely before refrigerating.)

Cooking on gas…

During a white-out, firing up the BBQ is probably the last thing on your mind. But if you have a gas range or an outdoor grill, it will mean you are far less limited in terms of what you can and cannot eat. (If your cooker hobs are gas powered, even better. You can ignite the hob with matches or a gas click lighter.)

With a gas stove you can heat soup, boil water for pasta and rice (not to mention a much-needed cup of joe), make a simple stir fry or whip up an omelette or scrambled eggs. You can even get busy with sausages, bacon and beans for a simple fry-up. At home it can be a huge saving grace. And if you run a restaurant, you could win a lot of new fans by showing your culinary creativity and never-say-die attitude.

What to do when the power returns

It may not be at the top of your list, but one of the most important things you can do when your power comes back is bee-line for your fridge and freezer thermometers to check the internal temperatures. The sooner you check, the surer you can be on the safety-status of your food.

If the freezer temperature is at or below 0oF, your food will most likely be safe. If you want to be really sure, buy a handheld food thermometer and sample each package. Your refrigerated foods are likely to be safe providing they spent no longer than four hours outside the 40oF safe-zone.

If you are unsure, err on the side of caution and get rid of it. After the stress and disturbance of the cold weather, the last thing you want is to spend three days with a painful stomach.
Got any winter kitchen survival tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted in Food Safety, Food Safety Tips Tagged , , ,

10 banned and dangerously toxic foods that are legal in the US

Some synthetic food additives commonly used in the US are banned elsewhere, causing many to question their safety. Let’s see how these maligned additives stack up against some of the most toxic snacks from nature’s larder.

Banned foods

Many US consumers felt  shocked, scared and angry after being told their favourite cereals could give them gastrointestinal cancer. The news was delivered via a now infamous BuzzFeed article which has been viewed six million times. It listed food additives that are common in the US but banned elsewhere, suggesting they could cause everything from an upset tummy to premature death.

Many nutritional specialists have publicly attacked the credibility of the post, citing it as sensationalist scaremongering. That hasn’t stopped huge waves of radicalised consumers calling for change and boycotting common foods based on the perceived threat of their ingredients.

Who’s right, who’s wrong? And what foods should you and your business really be scared of?

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Tartazine

Tartazine (affectionately known as Yellow #5 food coloring) is found in many pre-packaged products such as mac and cheese- it’s not banned here in the US but companies are required to declare it in their ingredients. It’s banned in Norway and Austria due to compounds benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, which, it’s claimed, has the potential to cause healthy DNA to mutate.

2. Brominated vegetable oil (BVO)

Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, acts as an emulsifier in soda and sports drinks. Its job is to prevent the flavouring from separating from the liquid. BVO is banned in over 100 countries because it contains bromine – a chemical whose toxic vapours have been linked to organ damage, birth defects, schizophrenia and more.

However, in BVO the bromine atom is bonded to a carbon atom, this compound is, in effect, a different substance from pure bromine. You wouldn’t sprinkle your fries with pure chlorine, yet table salt contains chlorine that has bonded to a carbon atom in the same way bromine bonds to carbon in BVO.

3. Azodicarbonamide

This “asthma-causing” allergen, used in a wide range of US baked goods to help dough rise, is banned in the UK, Australia and several European countries. It was originally created to make foamed plastics – eg. yoga mats. However, it reacts far more innocently in flour than it does in plastic. And the 45 parts per million considered safe by the FDA is unlikely to be a cause for concern. It’s the dose that makes the poison.

4. Olestra (Olean)

Olestra is a non-caloric fat substitute created by Proctor & Gamble and found in some brands of low fat potato chips. It is banned in the UK and Canada because it interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, essentially blocking the transit of good stuff that your body needs to be healthy.

5. rBGH and rBST

Recombinant bovine growth hormone and recombinant bovine somatotropin: complicated names that refer to a synthetic, genetically altered version of a growth hormone found naturally in cattle. It is administered to dairy cattle via injection to rev up their milk production.

rBGH and rBST are banned in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and across the European Union. Not because of human health (numerous studies have found it to be innocuous), but because of concerns about animal welfare and economic fears about enhanced milk supply reducing costs and putting dairy farms out of business. Milk that’s free from rBGH and rBST is widely available in the US and usually clearly labelled as such. Read here for The dangers of unpasteurized milk

6. Fugu

A delicacy in Japan ;its as legendary as it is lethal. Puffer fish can only be prepared by highly trained chefs. Its internal organs contain concentrated amounts of tetrodotoxin, a lethal compound that’s 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide. The most daring preparations contain tiny amounts of the toxin to give diners a tingly sensation as they eat. Tetrodoxin kills by paralysing the diaphragm and preventing the diner from breathing.

7. Cassava

Cassava is a root vegetable used in African and South American cuisine to make mash as well as cakes. But it has to be cooked. Thoroughly cooked. Chewing cassava raw releases an enzyme called linamarase, which converts a compound in the veggie into cyanide-which prevents your cells from absorbing oxygen. Any exposure from raw cassava is unlikely to be high enough to kill, but could cause dizziness, breathlessness, vomiting and even paralysis.

8. Raw cashews

Cashews might seem harmless, but the type you buy in the grocery store have been steamed to get rid of a dangerous chemical called urushiol. That’s the same chemical that coats poison ivy – and it can be fatal when eaten.

9. Elderberries

Versatile, vibrant and very, very tasty, there’s a lot to love about elderberries. Just steer clear from the leaves and seeds, which can cause general nausea and severe vomiting.

10. Ackee

Three things we know about ackee: 1) it’s indigenous to West Africa; 2) it’s popular in Jamaica; 3) eating it before it’s ripe will cause severe vomiting. (Thanks to a poison called hypoglycin.) If the red pod has burst open of its own accord, you’re good to go. Just make sure you stick to the yellowy flesh.

Have you or your business had any bad experiences with toxic foods? Do you trust the FDA to manage the safe use of synthetic additives? Let us know in the comments, we read every one.

Posted in Food hygiene, Food Safety Tagged ,

The dangers of unpasteurized milk

In 1864 Louis Pasteur made a groundbreaking discovery. Beer and wine could be prevented from turning sour by heating the liquid and then leaving it to cool. This chemist then extended the principle to milk, citing bacterial growth as the cause of spoilt beverages., known as pasteurization, a breakthrough that led to some of the most important findings in medical history.

Unpasteurized milk

What is pasteurization?

Milk and milk products (such as cheese and yoghurt) are packed with nutritional benefits. But dangerous microorganisms can take up residence in raw milk. Ingesting them can pose major health risks, from the unsavoury symptoms of food poisoning right through to life-threatening diseases like listeriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, q-fever, scarlet fever and diphtheria.

Pasteurization kills off the majority of harmful bacteria – reducing the number of viable pathogens – by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time.

Why do some people drink raw milk?

In short? Perceived nutritional benefits.

Pasteurization has helped provide safe, nutrient-rich milk and cheese for over 120 years. It has saved lives and has never been found to be the cause of chronic disease. Yet a minority here in the US (albeit a stoic one) believe that pasteurization detracts from the nutritional value of milk – stripping it of beneficial, health-giving, probiotic properties

In the interests of neutrality, independent scientific research into raw milk is in relative infancy – but could change. Initial research from the US Food and Drug Administration has revealed little meaningful difference in the nutritional values of pasteurized versus unpasteurized milk. The FDA also claims that pasteurization does not cause lactose intolerance and notes that both raw and treated milk can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to milk proteins.

Unpasteurized milk is highly risky…

What we do know for sure is that raw milk can be dangerous. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control 79% of the dairy related outbreaks in the US between 1998 and 2011 were due to raw milk or cheese products. (148 outbreaks, 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths.)

Why can some people drink raw milk with no consequences?

In the words of the CDC:

‘The presence of germs in raw milk is unpredictable. The number of disease-causing germs in the raw milk may be too low to make a person sick for a long time, and later high enough to make the same person seriously ill. For some people, drinking contaminated raw milk just once could make them really sick. Even if you trust the farmer and your store, raw milk is never a guaranteed safe product.’

The bacteria in raw milk are especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women and children.
Ultimately the decision of whether to consume raw milk products rests with the individual. But there seems to be little doubt that it’s a significant gamble. It’s unlikely that Pasteur would have approved.

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Why your kitchen needs a food thermometer

You’ve heard the one about a person’s eyes being bigger than their belly. But that’s not the only way your peepers can deceive you come dinnertime. Whether you’re grilling a burger, a chicken breast, a fish fillet or anything else that requires cooking, your eyes can’t always be trusted to tell you if your food is properly cooked and safe to eat – potentially leaving you open to a nasty bout of food poisoning.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the issue here?

When you are cooking raw meat or fish, staying safe is all about your food reaching a temperature that makes it impossible for bacteria to survive. The visual appearance of your food is incidental. Red doesn’t mean it’s not ready. Pink might not be as raw as you think. More importantly – because this is when your eyes can really play tricks on you – something that looks well done could be anything but. The only way to be sure is with a food thermometer.

Who cares if it’s a little underdone?

If harmful bacteria residing on your raw food survive the cooking process, then they enter your body come mealtime. That comes with the risk of all kinds of digestive discomfort. Or worse. There’s fright in every bite.

Of course it’s not just you that could end up with a poorly tummy (or even a spell in hospital). Your partner, your best friends, a restaurant full of hungry customers. Anyone who eats your undercooked food is at risk.

I got told eating raw meat was manly, so…

There are certain food bloggers out there who write about how ‘manly’ it is to eat raw meat. The gamble is worth it, so they say. This gambling metaphor is pretty misleading. It implies that by eating meat that’s potentially crawling with bacteria, you stand to potentially gain something in return. But in this instance, unless your goal is to creep out your friends, there’s no discernible gain. It’s not gambling. It’s dangerous. There’s nothing manly about spending three days holed up in a restroom, duking it out with food poisoning.

Okay clever clogs, if that’s the case how can people eat steak tartare?

Restaurant-quality steak tartare (raw steak, if you were wandering) is prepared by professionals who are seriously clued up when it comes to food safety. They work in a thoroughly hygienic environment using strictly handled meat sourced from trusted suppliers, with clear provenance from farm to fork. These measures provide a level of protection against bacterial contamination, helping to make sure the meat is safe for consumption. But even in the fanciest gourmet restaurants, there is no guarantee that you will avoid food poisoning.

Oh and as these images show, steak tartare really is something that should be left to the pros.

What’s the answer?

With poultry (such as chicken and turkey), a good visual indicator of whether or not your meat is safe to eat is to prick the bird with something sharp. If the juices run clear, you’re good to go. But when it comes to being sure about your safety, nothing beats a food thermometer.

A decent food thermometer will accurately reveal the internal temperature of your food to make sure it’s evenly cooked to a temperature that will eliminate nasty and potentially harmful bacteria – leaving you and your guests to graze in confidence. Hello, happy dining.

The USDA recommends cooking to the following temperatures:

DIGITRON Minimum internal temperature chart

Posted in Food Safety, Food Safety Tips Tagged , ,

5 smart kitchen safety tips for 2015

Join the gym. Read more books. Save money.

Chicken breastSome new year’s resolutions appear with perennial predictability at this time of year. But we’re pretty sure you won’t have heard anyone talking about the positive food safety changes they want to make in the kitchen for 2015. Here are five smart, simple tips to stay safe. Because whether you believe in new year’s resolutions or not, it’s important not to drop the ball when it comes culinary safety.

  1. Wash your hands when preparing food. Properly.

This might seem blindingly obvious. But it’s amazing how often people forget to wash their hands when preparing food. And when they do remember, a cursory rinse is generally as far as things go. Not good enough.

Scrub your hands under hot water for 10-20 seconds and use soap to get rid of bacteria. You should wash your hands before food preparation as well as in between handling different foods, touching raw meat or contaminating your hands in any other way. As for drying, use separate kitchen towels for hands and dishes.

  1. Don’t cook for others when you are poorly

Let’s just ignore the fact that when your head is pounding, your sinuses are blocked and you feel like death warmed up, cooking an elaborate meal for your nearest and dearest is probably the last thing you fancy. Do you really need to be told to relieve yourself of kitchen duty?

Your germs could very easily contaminate food, risking infecting anyone you cook for. Avoiding the kitchen when you are ill is especially important if you work in the food service industry. There have been well-documented incidents where restaurants have closed due to a lack of custom resulting from virus outbreaks that have been traced back to ill kitchen staff.

  1. Banish bacteria from your kitchen sponge/dishcloth

Be honest. How long do you use the same dishcloth or sponge for washing up, without cleaning it, before throwing it away? The fact is that dirty sponges are superb at spreading bacteria around your kitchen. Happily, keeping them safe and free of nastiness is pretty easy.

A quick blast in the microwave (one-minute on full power) will destroy any bacteria camping on your kitchen cloth. An even more effective way of keeping your sponge clean is to soak it for an hour in a solution of bleach and water (hot or cold water is fine, all you need is ¼ cap of bleach).

It’s good when safety is simple, isn’t it?

  1. Treat yourself to a food thermometer

Cooking raw products safely is all about raising their internal temperature to the point where bacteria cannot survive. Unfortunately eyesight alone isn’t a reliable indicator of whether meat is cooked or not. Take a burger, for example. Sometimes it can look pink in the middle despite the temperature being in excess of anything that bacteria could survive. Alternatively it could look done without having reached a safe temperature at its core. For this reason it makes sense to have a food thermometer close at hand in your kitchen.

A must for the chef who wants to be sure.

Roasts and steaks            145oF
Poultry dishes                   165oF
Ground meat                     160oF

  1. Add a fridge thermometer to your culinary arsenal

While we’re talking thermometers, it’s sensible to bag yourself a fridge thermometer too. Making sure your fridge stays consistently below 40oF is vital in slowing the reproduction of food-borne bacteria (which multiply best at temperatures above 40oF). Again, with a thermometer you can be sure that you are storing your food safely, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination.

There you have it. Not the most glamorous list of new year’s resolution suggestions. But suggestions that are a doddle to implement and will help to keep your kitchen (and food) as bacteria free as possible. Much easier to stick to than that gym membership.

Posted in Food hygiene Tagged , , ,

How to cook your Holiday turkey dinner safely

Turkey dinnerIt’s hard to believe (Thanksgiving feels like yesterday), but the Holidays are within touching distance. Time to turn your attention to mulled wine, mistletoe and a magnificent Holiday dinner.

Your turn to cook? If you managed to dodge kitchen duty at the end of November, our food safety tips will help to make sure dangerous bacteria like salmonella, e. coli and listeria don’t show up at your dinner table. A few simple safety measures will leave you and your guests to concentrate on eating well and making merry. Just the way it should be.

Leave your bird undisturbed

It doesn’t matter whether you buy your turkey fresh or frozen – either way it wants privacy. Bacteria from the uncooked meat can easily cross-contaminate anything your bird touches. Be smart and give your turkey its own shelf at the bottom of your fridge or freezer (where juices from the meat cannot drip onto foods below).

Defrost your turkey in the fridge

The safest way to defrost your turkey is in the fridge (which can take three-four days). Alternatively stick it in a pot of cold water (changing the water every hour or so). Thawing your bird alone on the kitchen worktop is not ideal as bacteria thrive at room temperature. Okay, proper cooking will destroy the bacteria, but you should aim to keep that bird bacteria-free from the get go.

Pro tip: get rid of bacteria before cooking by soaking your turkey in a brine solution. (Large pot required.) Most bacteria cannot survive in brine. As an added bonus you should wind up with a tastier turkey. An hour of soaking will do, but overnight is preferable.

Water doesn’t kill bacteria. So why wash your turkey?

It’s a common misconception that you should wash your turkey at the sink before cooking. Don’t do it. Firstly, the water won’t kill the bacteria – rendering the activity pointless (and you’re busy enough, right?). Secondly, all that water sploshing around will likely ‘aerosolize’ bacteria onto any surface within several feet of your sink. Refusing to douse your bird should make for crispier skin too.

One more thing to remember if your turkey came in a wrapper: now that your turkey is out in the open, dispose of the wrapper – likely contaminated with bacteria – as soon as possible. Wash any surface it touched with hot soapy water.

Stay clean. Really clean.

With any cooking it’s important to wash your hands regularly. But it’s especially important after handling your raw turkey. Rinse the taps on your sink down too – using a sponge or cloth that’s been soaking in a light solution of water and bleach – as well as any cupboard or fridge handles that you used while prepping your turkey. As for chopping boards, rinse with hot soapy water, rub down with the sponge dipped in the bleach solution and rinse with normal water.

Turkey cooking times

There are no hard and fast rules to follow when it comes to cooking times for your turkey. The bigger the bird, the longer you will need to cook it. Here are some guidelines from Food Safety News for cooking in an oven pre-heated to 325oF (170oC, Gas Mark 3).

Unstuffed:8 to 12 lbs            2.75 to 3 hours
12 to 14 lbs          3 to 3.75 hours
14 to 18 lbs          3.75 to 4.5 hours
18 to 20 lbs          4.25 to 4.5 hours
20 to 24 lbs          4.5 to 5 hours 
Stuffed:8 to 12 lbs            3 to 3.5 hours
12 to 14 lbs          3.5 to 4 hours
14 to 18 lbs          4 to 4.5 hours
18 to 20 lbs          4.25 to 4.75 hours
20 to 24 lbs          4.75 to 5.25 hours 

Choose your chopping boards and knives wisely

Listen up, chef. It’s good kitchen practice to use separate chopping boards for meat and vegetables. The same applies with knives. Stuck with one chopping board? Aside from making a hasty addition to your gift list, you could use one side of your chopping board for meat and the other for veg – marking each side with M or V. Just don’t use this as a substitute for washing your chopping board regularly and thoroughly, which is crucial in any kitchen. A clean chopping board is a safe chopping board. (Use hot soapy water.)

Nibbles while you’re cooking

When you have followed all the right kitchen rules to make sure your turkey is prepped and cooked safely, it would be infuriating if one of your guests got sick from the nibbles you put out as appetizers. Chips and candy can be put out at anytime. But be mindful that foods like cheeses and bruschetta can spoil. If your nibbles have been left sitting at room temperature for more than two hours, get rid and replace with something fresh.

Temperature test your turkey

The secret to avoiding food poisoning with meat is to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. With a food thermometer you can be sure. Use your thermometer on the innermost part of the thigh and thickest part of the breast. If the thermometer reads 165oF or above, you’re good to serve up. Otherwise, it’s back to the oven.

Another important point: if you have stuffed your turkey, the stuffing will need to be at a temperature of 165oF (or higher) too due to its contact with the raw turkey pre-cooking. If the turkey is cooked but the stuffing is not, remove the stuffing and bake it in a greased dish.
There you have it. Cooking a safe Holiday feast is largely about cleanliness and common sense. With a little bit of knowledge you can get creative in the kitchen, with total confidence that pesky bacteria aren’t going to gatecrash your party. Get stuck in and enjoy yourself. Any food safety questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to help.

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The staggering financial cost of food poisoning [Infographic]

The USDA has conducted new research into the economic cost of food poisoning in the US and the numbers are difficult to stomach.

Just pause to consider these figures for a moment. Each year 8.9 million Americans will sustain a foodborne illness. The resulting economic cost to the US is $15.6 billion. Every year.

To collect the data – which is broken down in our infographic below – the USDA sought to answer three key questions:

  • How many people sustained foodborne illnesses from the 15 major pathogens in the US?
  • What was the associated expenditure on inpatient and outpatient medical care?
  • What was the cost in terms of associated lost wages?

The jaw-dropping results of the research highlight the critical nature of progressive national food safety policy. At a more granular level it’s clear that many food outlets must do more to ensure the safety of their customers. Customers themselves should be cautious of an “it will never happen to me” mentality, taking more time to research the hygiene credentials of their chosen food outlets.

Please feel free to share the infographic and please leave your thoughts on the figures below. We read every comment.

The Cost of Food Safety Infographic

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Food Safety and Sprouts (and what to do about it)

Sprouting seeds are nutritional powerhouses. So it seems perverse that you could be gambling with your health each time you add them to a sandwich or salad. Yet the unfortunate fact is that E. coli, salmonella, listeria and other bacteria have all been found contaminating sprouting beans.

Let’s get to the bottom of the scare-mongering news headlines and find out how you can swerve the stomach cramps.

From New York to Beijing: A week of bacterial contamination scares…

shutterstock_43178722Packed with antioxidants, protein and vitamins as well as health-promoting chlorophyll and amino acids, spouting seeds give many of the superfoods a run for their money. Yet they have been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the last week or so.

First was the salmonella outbreak in the northeast, which has been traced back to bean sprouts. Then followed news that a major manufacturer is recalling their soybean sprouts after a sample was found to be contaminated with listeria.

And it’s not just here in the US that spouting seeds are under scrutiny. Food inspectors in China recently discovered a batch of bean sprouts that had been treated with a banned plant hormone called 6-benzyladenine, which can lead to premature puberty, a disrupted menstrual cycle and osteoporosis in humans.

A call for enhanced regulations, but sprouting beans might be safer than you think

The problem with sprouting seeds and beans is that the warm, humid conditions required for them to sprout is also ideal for bacteria to thrive. Not that you would be able to tell with your eyes alone. All that nasty bacteria can reproduce to high levels without affecting the visual appearance of the sprouts. Unsurprisingly, several food safety commentators are calling for warning labels to be added to sprout packets.

But sprouting seeds could be safer than you might have thought.

Organic seed specialists Sproutpeople argue that during the worst outbreak of foodborne illness ever attributed to sprouts (a salmonella outbreak during 1995-96), sprouts actually only accounted for 0.33% of all US salmonella cases for that period. Cases of foodborne illness attributable to sprouts have decreased since. And they say sprouts grown by certified organic growers, from organic seeds, have never been linked to illness.

Safety measures for sprouting seeds

Despite the conjecture, the risk of bacterial contamination remains. That’s indisputable. Thankfully there are simple rules you can follow to enjoy sprouts safely, whether you are buying them ready-sprouted or sprouting your own seeds at home.

The first rule is a no-brainer: only eat raw sprouts from packets where it is labelled safe to do so. Producers of these sprouts will have taken steps during production to kill bacteria. (Chlorine gas has killed 99.99% of bacteria in studies.) Otherwise stir fry your sprouts thoroughly, until piping hot throughout. Washing alone will not completely remove bacteria.

If in doubt, get the frying pan out.

Try to buy organic seeds (no exposure to manure) from an International Sprout Growers Association-accredited manufacturer (shown to meet production standards) and follow the instructions on the packet. Wash your hands before and after handling seeds intended for sprouting, as well as when preparing food generally. Home-growing your own sprouting seeds? Clean your equipment thoroughly using hot soapy water before and after use. And remember that too much warmth, no air and not enough rinsing can quickly give rise to fermentation and spoilage. Once your sprouts are ready, keep them refrigerated.

Signs of spoilage and contamination

Examine your sprouts to make sure the roots are clean. If the stem is not white or creamy or if the seeds are no longer attached to the sprout, do not eat them.  Smell the sprouts to be sure that they have a clean, fresh odor and do not smell musty. Odd colors, mold and bad smells are sure signs that your sprouts are better off in the bin than your belly.

What are your views on sprouting seeds and beans? Healthy or hazardous? Let us know in the comments.

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Canada has the best food safety in the world. Probably.

Canadians chowing down on their maple pancakes and poutine have just been handed an extra reason to smile.

There’s more chance of dodging food poisoning in Canada than here in the US. That’s if a new report into global food safety holds any sway. The report rates Ireland and them-across-the-border as having the best food safety standards in the world.

Happily the US doesn’t come far behind, falling within the highest bracket of global food safety standards along with Gallic gastro-lovers France as well as the UK and Norway. Yet what some US food professionals may find a little galling is the authorship of the report, which originated from – you guessed it – Canada.

The report was officially compiled by – deep breath – The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Food in Canada in collaboration with the University of Guelph’s Food Institute. Countries were ranked on ten food safety performance indicators across risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. 17 nations were analysed in total (those already mentioned plus Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.)

So is the report credible?

Certainly it’s the most detailed, in-depth study yet into global food safety. Here’s a snapshot of what was analysed:

  • Pesticide use
  • Total diet studies
  • Foodborne illness rates
  • National food consumption studies
  • Food safety response capacity
  • Food recalls
  • Food traceability
  • Radionuclides standards
  • Food allergies
  • Public trust

A formidable undertaking, no doubt. Yet there are significant problems when comparing food standards across national boundaries. Each nation faces different public health challenges, supply chain capacity and safety regulations. And while the Canadian study sought to compare common elements of each country’s food safety, the reality is that there is currently no metric that captures the entire food safety system.

That’s not to say the new report does not offer some insightful findings…

Pesticides, bacterial poisoning and a win for the US

So what are the headline findings from the report?

Global pesticide use seems to be stable, with little increase in use since 2010 among the nations studied. The outliers are Ireland, where usage has decreased, and Belgium, where usage has increased. As for bacterial contamination, the Scandinavian countries and Germany displayed the worst rates. Austria, Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, the UK and the US showed the least contamination.

You can currently download the full food safety report for free. We’d love to hear your comments.

Posted in Food Safety Tagged

Foodborne Illnesses Cost the US $15,600,000,000 Yearly

Pathogen-testingThe USDA has released new data that shows the cost of foodborne illnesses in the United States, and the statistics are staggering.

The 15 major pathogens that result in 95% of all foodborne illnesses cost the US $15.6 billion dollars every year in medical care expenditures, lost wages and premature deaths.

You can visit the Economic Research Service website to view the data for all 15 of the pathogens, but I’ve pulled out a few of the headline figures below:


  • Number of yearly cases: 845,024
  • Number of those that saw a physician: 45,631
  • Number of hospitalizations: 8,463
  • Number of fatalities: 76
  • Annual cost: $1,928,787,166

E. coli O157:H7

  • Number of yearly cases: 63,153
  • Number of those that saw a physician: 11,737
  • Number of hospitalizations: 1,806
  • Number of fatalities: 10
  • Annual cost: $271,418,690


  • Number of yearly cases: 1,591
  • Number of hospitalizations: 1,173
  • Severe illnesses: 697
  • Number of fatalities: 247
  • Annual cost: $2,834,444,202


  • Number of yearly cases: 5,461,731
  • Number of those that saw a physician: 540,711
  • Number of hospitalizations: 14,663
  • Number of fatalities: 149
  • Annual cost: $2,255,827,318


  • Number of yearly cases: 1,027,561
  • Number of those that saw a physician: 73,984
  • Number of hospitalizations: 19,336
  • Number of fatalities: 378
  • Annual cost: $3,666,600,031

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