Fall, Fairs, Festivals & Food Safety

Now that fall season is here, communities are offering hayrides, pumpkin picking, fall festivals, craft shows, and more. When thinking about these fall activities, many people start to crave iconic fall festival food, such as apple pies, hot spiced cider, and pumpkin flavored everything. I love going to these fall festivals and enjoying the treats, but I wondered about the food safety practices of these types of food establishments, since food vendors often travel throughout the state to these events in trucks or trailers. Here arDonute a few things to consider when you are thinking about buying food from any vendor to ensure you are eating safe food:

  • Is the food prepared in front of you? It is good for the food to be prepared in front of the consumer so they can see that safe and sanitary food handling practices are followed.
  • Is the workspace where the food is prepared clean and tidy? Messy workspaces can cause cross-contamination between foods cooked throughout the day as workers may be more likely to use a surface or utensil that has not been sanitized.
  • Do the employees have a sink to wash their hands? Germs can pass from hands to food. Good hygiene of the employees can prevent any transmission of these germs into food prepared for consumers. If the vendor isn’t in a vehicle, is there a place nearby for the employees to wash their hands?
  • Do the employees use gloves or tongs to prepare and serve the food? This practice prevents any contamination to come from the fopumpkin-187885_640od handlers. Food not handled by the employees protects the consumer from any germs and contamination on the employee’s hands.
  • Are different foods prepared in the same area? If they are, there is a possibility of cross-contamination, which can cause foodborne illnesses.
  • Is there a refrigerator to keep raw ingredients? Food sitting out for more than two hours can be filled with harmful bacteria. It is essential for food to be kept in the right containers at the right temperature to keep it safe for consumers to eat.

There are a few questions for consumers to consider for vendors who travel around from one festival to another:

  • Has the vendor been inspected by the health department? If the vendor has been approved there will be a posted permit where the public can see.
  • Is there proof of the recent inspection from the health department attached to the permit? Each vendor is inspected and permitted by the health department to prove that the vendor has fulfilled the minimum requirem
    ents to be open for the public to safely consume the food.

If a vendor passes all of these questions then the food should be safe to be enjoyed. Enjoy the food at your community’s fall festivals even more by knowing that the food that your family eats there is safe.

Written by: Rebecca Hills, Family and Consumer Sciences Intern, OSU Extension, Medina County

Reviewed & edited by: Joanna Rini, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Medina County, rini.41@osu.edu

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/features/fairsandfood/

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Apple Season, What’s Your Favorite?


What’s your favorite fall aroma?  There are many to choose from, but I love the smell of warm apples.  That list extends to apple pie, applesauce and apple bread, and the best part is there are always new recipes to try and many varieties of apples to experiment with.  How do I make sure they are safe for me and my family? Here are a few tips for to remember when enjoying your next crisp and juicy apple:

First wash your hands and clean counter tops, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water.

Wash your apples under cool running water, when you are ready to use them.    Don’t use detergent or bleach as they could cling to the skin or penetrate through minor blemishes.   Research done at the University of Maine indicates that vegetable washes were not proven to be any more effective than plain water rinses and were much more expensive.  Waiting to wash apples before use deters bacterial growth, but if you choose to wash before storage,  dry them thoroughly with paper towels.

Store your apples in a cool, dark place.  If you choose the refrigerator, they will remain crisp and juicy longer.  Use the section in your refrigerator where you can control the humidity and allow a high moisture level.

Taking a trip to the orchard is a great family outing.  Picking apples and trying new flavors and colors may encourage  children to  try new foods.  Being able to take those apples home and make your favorite recipe helps encourage “science in the kitchen” as they understand math, science and reading are skills needed to take a food like apples to a dish like applesauce.

As you explore fall activities, make sure to put a trip to the orchard on the list and practice keeping your food clean and safe;  you are sharing skills for life with your children.

Author: Melinda Hill, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension Wayne County

Reviewed by: Chris Kendle, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension Tuscarawas County

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Apple Cider Safety

Fall is here, the apple harvest is in full swing and that means it’s time for cider! I do enjoy apple cider, but am cautious because it has been involved in a number of foodborne illness outbreaks.Apple Cider

Apple cider is an un-filtered, un-sweetened beverage made by crushing fresh apples. It is essentially raw apple juice. While the fresh pressed cider is delicious, it also could be contaminated with bacteria. . When the apples are crushed, any bacteria –(including dangerous E. coli O157:H7) that might be on the apples is mixed in with the cider. If the juice isn’t pasteurized to destroy these bacteria, consumers could get sick.

Those who are at the highest risk of getting a foodborne illness from consuming unpasteurized cider are people with weaker or weakened immune systems. This includes infants and young children, the elderly, people with diabetes and other chronic or long-term illnesses and transplant recipients.

When shopping for cider (or making an impulse purchase at the farm market), always check the label to see if the cider has been pasteurized. Untreated or unpasteurized cider should be kept refrigerated and has to carry a warning label such as “This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.” If you are not sure if the cider has been pasteurized or not, just ask! People with weakened immune system should always drink only pasteurized cider.

Some people do not like pasteurized of cider, claiming that pasteurization affect the flavor and taste of fresh cider. I’d rather be safe and get used to a slightly different taste!

Written by: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension Holmes County

Reviewed by: Sanja Ilic, Assistant Professor and Food Safety State Specialist, Department Human Sciences Human Nutrition, Ohio State University.

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Don’t Throw That Pumpkin Away!

Later this month, many of us will be thinking about what we are going to do with the pumpkins-216012_640pumpkins we have grown or bought to use as decorations around the house.  Rather than throwing them out into the field or compost pile try home food preservation!


You can dry or roast the seeds and even freeze the pulp.  These are ways to further the usefulness of the pumpkin!  Before you begin any of these, you need to know that pumpkin is a low acid vegetable and requires special attention to preparation and processing.  It is important to use excellent sanitation procedures in handling the fresh or preserved pumpkin.

  • Do not let cut pumpkin sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours during preparation prior to preserving.
  • There are no properly researched procedures to recommend for home canning of pumpkin butters or pickled pumpkin products such as salsas, chutneys, and relishes. Any of these should be served immediately or stored under refrigeration at all times.
  • Pumpkins should have a hard rind and string-less mature pulp.

Drying Pumpkin Seeds

  1. Carefully wash pumpkin seeds to remove the clinging fibrous pumpkin tissue.
  2. They can be dried in the sun, in an electric dehydrator at 115-120°F for 1 to 2 hours, or baked in an oven on very low, warm temperature for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Stir them frequently to avoid scorching.
  4. Seeds should be completely dry (crack when bent) before storage.


Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

  1. Dry the pumpkin seeds.
  2. Toss with oil and/or salt.
  3. Roast in a preheated oven at 250° for 10 to 15 minutes.

Freezing Pumpkin

Freezing is really the easiest way to preserve pumpkin.  You can freeze items for up to one year.  Frozen pumpkin is great to use in pies, desserts, and as a vegetable.  Select full-colored mature pumpkins

  1. Wash, cut into cooking-size sections, and remove seeds.
  2. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker, or in an oven.
  3. Remove pulp from rind and mash.
  4. To cool, place in a pan and put it in cold water and stir occasionally.
  5. Pack into containers, leaving ½ inch of headspace, seal, and freeze.

Thaw the pumpkin in the refrigerator before using, not on the counter.


Whether you use fresh, frozen, or canned pumpkin, there are many recipes available to you.

National Center for Home Food Preservation

Ohioline, Ohio State University Extension, Fact Sheet HYG-5530-09

University of Illinois Extension

Written by: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension – Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Christine Kendle, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension – Tuscarawas County, kendle.4@osu.edu







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Garden Beets

The coolness in the air is a sure sign the seasons are changing from the warm days of summer to the crisp days of fall. Beets are often considered a summer vegetable because they are gown in many backyard gardens. However, in Ohio beets are considered to be in season from June through October.

Beets are packed with good nutrition including:IMG_3390

  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Fiber

Best of all – they are low calorie with only 58 calories in a one cup serving and are inexpensive too!

Beets can be served either hot or cold, depending on your preference. Beets add color to your meals with the deep red coloring. Looking for ideas of how to add beets to your diet? Why not try one (or more) of these suggestions:

  • Stir-Fry – add beets and their leaves to your favorite stir-fry dish. This could be a vegetable stir-fry or one which contains meat.
  • Grilling – add beets to a skewer with other favorite vegetables and heat thoroughly on the grill.
  • Soup – try adding beets to your homemade vegetable soup or minestrone. Be sure to clean and slice beets into small pieces before adding them so they will cook more quickly.
  • Microwave – cooking beets in the microwave only takes about 8-15 minutes. Place 2-3 small beets in a microwave safe bowl, add some water and cook until the beets are soft.
  • Baking – wash fresh beets and cut off the green tops but leave about one inch of the stem to keep the color from bleeding out during the cooking process. Wrap the beets in foil and bake at 400° F for approximately 45 – 90 minutes, depending on the size.

If you wabeetsnt to save some of the goodness of beets for later, preserving them is simple: either freeze or can them. If canning beets, be sure to process them in a pressure canner. Due to the low acidity level in beets, they must be pressure canned to reduce the risk of Clostridium botulinum. Details on safely preserving beets can be found at http://nchfp.uga.edu/index.html .


National Center for Home Food Preservation, http://nchfp.uga.edu/index.html

Beets Brochure;  http://www.panen.org/sites/default/files/beet_brochure_072710.pdf, Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network

United States Department of Agriculture, SNAP-Ed Connection, https://snap.nal.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce/beets

Written by: Treva Williams, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Scioto County

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County

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Be Food Safe at Your Tailgate

Football season is in full swing and many of us are headed off to a tailgate party before the game or a big viewing party at a friend’s home. While we typically plan ahead to make sure we have enough food, do we always plan to keep the risk of foodborne illness at a minimum? The term “tailgate party” means serving food or drink out of the tailgate of a truck or car. Serving food outdoors, in an uncontrolled environment is always a bit risky. To be food safe at your next tailgate:tailgate

  • Start with clean hands and a clean surface. If you can’t promise your tailgate will be clean, try a tablecloth as your base. Bring hand sanitizer or wipes for all who attend.
  • Pack foods for transportation to avoid cross-contamination. Store raw meats, cooked foods, or those that will be served raw (like veggie sticks) in separate coolers if at all possible.
  • Pack coolers with plenty of ice and frozen water bottles. If you tailgate frequently it may be worthwhile to purchase a mini refrigerator designed for camping or tailgates (you will save all that ice money anyway). At the tailgate keep coolers in the shade and out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
  • Keep already cooked hot foods, hot. To be safe these foods need to maintain a temperature of 140⁰F for several hours. Some pots come with insulated carriers designed for transport and preheating any container by putting boiling water in it before the food is also a good practice. You may also be able to plug one or two warming units into outlets in some newer vehicles.
  • If you marinate your meat and plan to grill at the tailgate, do not reuse the marinade from raw meat on cooked food. Never partially cook meat either – once cooking starts it must be continued until the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Don’t forget your meat thermometer and proper grilling utensils to prevent burns and potential food poisoning. Poultry must reach 165⁰F, ground meats 160⁰F, and beef or pork 145⁰F.
  • Tailgate foods may not be able to be used as left-overs. As quickly bringing them back down below 40⁰F and maintaining that temperature may be difficult.
  • Pack a large plastic tote to easily put dirty food containers in when you are ready to head off to the game. When you reach home hours later the tote is easy to carry in your home for quick cleanup.

Following these tips will provide you with a tailgate party win, not a food borne illness loss.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Kate Shumaker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Holmes County.


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Back to School Lunch Time

As the summer winds down and school is back in session, many parents are faced with packing lunches that need to be satisfying, nutritious, and safe.  Children are one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to food poisoning.  Parents need to take precautions to be sure they are not accidentally putting their kids at risk.                          blog

Here are a few tips to packing a safe lunch:                                     

  1. Frozen juice boxes can be used as freezer packs. By lunch time, they will thaw and are ready to drink.
  2. You can purchase insulated bags or boxes to help keep perishable foods cold.
  3. Children should wash their hands with warm soapy water before eating. They should say their ABC’s twice to be sure they have washed them long enough.  Parents should take time to demonstrate how to do this properly being sure to show how to wash between fingers and under fingernails.
  4. If you are packing a hot lunch, like soup or chili, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food.  Remind your child to leave it closed until lunch in order to keep it hot.
  5. After lunch, tell them to discard all leftover food and packaging. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food.
  6. Always include a freezer brick or frozen water bottle with lunches that contain perishable foods.

By following these simple guidelines, you will help to prevent your child from getting food poisoning.

A few other suggestions:

  • If you buy a lunch bag or box that is machine-washable, you are allowing for a sanitary way to carry their lunch. Be sure to test to make sure it is leak-proof.
  • By putting food in a divided container with a lid, you are saving money by not purchasing storage bags and creating less waste.
  • Try to use whole fruits instead of sliced or cubed pieces-these will keep fresh longer.

Need ideas about what to pack…….click here!blog 2


Written by: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension – Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Joanna Rini, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension – Medina County, rini.41@osu.edu


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