Live Well Utah e-Newsletter | July 2013

Quick Tips to Keep You and Your Food Safe this Summer

As we spend time outdoors in the summer at family reunions and picnics, foodborne illnesses increase. When working with food outdoors, the ability to wash hands and keep food refrigerated is often limited. Following a few simple tips can keep you and your food safe.

-Pack the ice cooler correctly. It seems simple – but there are some things you can do to keep foods colder, and therefore, safer.  A full cooler will keep food cold longer than one that is partially filled. If you don’t have enough food to completely fill a cooler, fill up the rest of the space with ice. Place meats in a separate cooler or on the bottom of the cooler in plastic bags. Put ready-to-eat foods, fruits and vegetables and drinks on top away from meat. Keep the cooler in your air-conditioned car as long as you can and when you reach your destination, place it in the shade.  If you are on an extended camping trip, consider placing frozen meat in the cooler. It will stay cold longer and be thawed by the time you are ready to use it.

-When grilling, use a meat thermometer to determine if you have cooked the meat to a safe minimum internal temperature. This will destroy harmful bacteria. Meat cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, but has not reached a safe temperature on the inside. Remember these important numbers: Cook ground beef to 160 degrees, poultry breasts and ground poultry to 165 degrees and beef, pork, lamb or veal steaks or chops to 145 degrees and allow to rest for 3 minutes.

-Don’t cross-contaminate. Cross contamination happens when raw food comes in contact with cooked food. This can cause foodborne illness. One example is when grilling, raw meat is taken to the grill, cooked and then placed back on the same plate where the raw meat was. Another example is when cutting meat on a cutting board, the knife and board are not washed. The next item might be watermelon to be sliced. Bacteria from the meat is then transferred to the watermelon, which can cause illness.

-When you are outdoors, it can be difficult to wash your hands before preparing food or eating. Make an effort to wash your hands. Especially after handling raw meat. Consider bringing water if the picnic spot or campground doesn’t have any running water. Try to wash all fruits and vegetables before cutting so bacteria is not introduced into the product. For example, melons grow on the ground, allowing harmful bacteria to deposit on the rind.  When it is cut, the bacteria is carried into the inside of the melon unless it is washed.

-It is tough enough to deal with leftovers when you are in your own home. When you are outside, it can be more difficult, but it has never been more important. Remember to put leftovers away within 2 hours, unless it is over 90 degrees. Since bacteria grow fastest at high temperatures, put away perishable food within 1 hour.

-Don’t re-use marinades. If marinades are to be used after cooking, reserve some before putting the raw meat in and contaminating it.

-Remember that you can’t see, taste or smell most foodborne bacteria. You may not know it is there until you feel ill.  
 
References:
United States Department of Agriculture.  Food Safety and Inspection Service. Handling Food Safely on the Road.  Available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Handling_Food_Safely_on_the_Road/index.asp
United States Department of Agriculture.  Food Safety and Inspection Service. Safe Food Handling: Barbeque Safety.  Available at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/barbecue_food_safety/
Utah State University. Marinating Meat Safely. Christensen, D. Available at: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FN_FoodSafety_2009-01pr.pdf
 
Janet Smith, Extension Assistant Professor
Family & Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Uintah County

Darlene Christensen, Extension Associate Professor
Family & Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Tooele County


Get Ready for Canning Season

First come the strawberries, then the cherries, apricots and green beans, and by the end of July canning season is in full swing. To get ready to preserve all those great summer flavors, now is the time to prepare. 
 
To sharpen your knowledge about food preservation, consider enrolling in the course Preserving Food at Home:  A Self Study. This free, self-paced, online course from the University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation is just right for those wanting to learn more about home canning and preservation. Enroll at https://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/food/nchfp_elc. 
 
Tidy up the storage area and inventory the foods on hand so you can make a plan for what you will preserve this year.
 
Inspect canning equipment and get everything in working order. Have the gauge on the pressure canner tested to make sure it is accurate.  Inspect the rubber gasket on the pressure cooker. You can test the gasket by pressing your fingernail into the gasket lightly. If no mark remains, it's time to get a new gasket. Replace or repair broken handles, damaged racks or other canner parts. Many parts are available online if you visit the manufacturer's website. If you have lost the instruction book to your Presto canner, download a copy from www.gopresto.com > Products and Parts > Instruction Manuals. 
 
Purchase the flat lids you will need for the current canning season. Although lids can be stored from year to year, the sealing compound will begin to dry out, eventually causing the lids not to seal.
 
Check jars and rings. If jars are chipped, replace them. If rings are bent or rusted, discard them and buy new ones. With your shopping list in hand, start watching for canning season sales. 
 
Invest in new equipment that will make preserving food easier. If you don't have a canning funnel, bubble freer, jar lifter or timer, consider purchasing them. If you haven't tried a lid wand to remove lids from the hot water, invest in one this year.
 
Make sure canning books and instructions are up to date. If your canning guide is copyrighted before 1988, it's time to treat yourself to a new canning guide. The U.S.D.A. Complete Guide to Home Canning can be downloaded from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/publications_usda.html. This is a great basic guide with instructions and recipes for preserving fruit, tomatoes and tomato mixtures, vegetables, meats, jams and jellies and pickles. It also has an excellent section that explains why we do what we do when we preserve food. 
 
So Easy to Preserve is another book worth considering. Its 375-pages contain more than185 tested recipes, along with step-by-step instructions and in-depth information for both the new and experienced food preservers. Chapters include Preserving Food, Canning, Pickled Products, Jellied Fruit Products, Freezing and Drying. This 5th edition has 35 new tested recipes and processes, in addition to a new section with recommended procedures for home-canned salsas. It is available for purchase from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at http://setp.uga.edu.
 
Last, but not least, bookmark the National Center for Home Food Preservation website as a great resource that can help you answer food preservation questions as they come up during the canning season.
 
References
 
Andress, E. L. 2011.  Plan Ahead for Home Canning this Summer.  Retrieved May 30, 2013 from http://nchfp.uga.edu/tips/spring/plan_summer_canning.html.
Canning Season Starts with a Ball Jar Giveaway.  2013.  Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://www.mrswheelbarrow.com/2013/04/canning-season-starts-with-a-ball-jar-giveaway.
Plan Ahead for Summer Canning. 2013.  Retrieved May 30, 2013, from http://extension.psu.edu/food/preservation/news/2013/planning-ahead-for-summer-canning.


Ann Henderson, Extension Associate Professor
Family & Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Box Elder County




Have You Checked Your Credit Score Lately?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2004 allows you to get a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) once a year. A credit report contains information about where you live, if you pay your bills in a timely manner and other financial information. Your credit report can be used by companies who plan to sell you credit or insurance or by potential employers or landlords to help determine if they should extend their services to you. 
 
The only official free location to check your credit report is at www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also call toll free at 1-877-322-8228, or you can request it through regular mail by filling out an online form. Other companies may claim to have free credit reports, but their reports are not really free or they have “strings attached.” Consider this information regarding credit reports.
 
• Monitor your credit throughout the year by checking the report from one of the three credit bureaus. December near year end, April during tax preparation and August during back to school are good times to remember to request your reports. The key is to look for inaccurate or unauthorized activity. Examples might be a late payment showing on the report, even though you have paid off the balance and closed the account, or an account you did not open. You should contact the credit bureau and request that they correct the information. You can dispute credit bureau errors by writing a letter. Sample letters can be found online. The quickest way to dispute information is on the credit bureau website when you get your report. Follow the links provided on the website. The credit bureau has 30 days to correct the inaccurate information.
 
• Check your credit score. When applying for credit, it is helpful to know that your report is in good shape and you have a good credit score. Unfortunately, your free credit report will not show your credit score for free. You can request your score for a fee from any of the three credit bureaus, but the best place to check your score is at www.myfico.com since the FICO score is the score that companies usually use when you apply for credit.
 
• Know your rights. If a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment based on information in your report, you are entitled to a free report under federal law, even if you have requested your free report within the past 12 months. You must ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address and phone number of the credit reporting agency. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you’re on welfare or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.
 
• If you have been the victim of identity theft, request that the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies place "fraud alerts" in your file. This will let potential creditors and others know you have been the victim of fraud. Although it may delay your ability to obtain credit, a fraud alert can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you. You can place a fraud alert in your file by calling one of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. That credit bureau will notify the other two, which will then also place fraud alerts in your file.
 
• If you suspect your minor child's information has been used fraudulently, contact the credit reporting agencies directly and also report the illegal use of your child's information to law enforcement. The credit reporting agencies do not knowingly maintain credit files on minor children, but to report fraud, you can give each agency your child's complete name, address, date of birth and a copy of his or her birth certificate and social security card. They will need a copy of your driver's license or other government-issued proof of your identity that includes your current address. They will also need a utility bill containing your current address. For additional information on identity theft, check online atwww.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft.  

SuzAnne Jorgensen
Family and Consumer Sciences Faculty
Utah State University Extension, Garfield County

Julene Reese, Writer
Utah State University Extension