Tag Archives: food safety

Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

A pumpkin pie with a piece cut out and sitting on a dish.

Photo by alcinoe at Morguefile.com

I don’t know about your offices, but here in the Director’s office, we get a lot of calls in November with questions about preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and food safety. Our educators have done a great job of getting out that information and resources on our website. I thought I’d mention some here in case you get any questions in your office or even from friends and family.

In “Be Thankful for Food Safety This Thanksgiving,” Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition educator Jane Hart guides us through all of our favorite foods – turkey, stuffing, relish and pumpkin pie – and tells us how to make sure that they are safe to eat.

Jeannie Nichols, health and nutrition educator, writes about two U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for preparing and cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, or any poultry for that matter. In her article, Jeannie explains why the USDA recommends that you do not rinse it before cooking it and that you do make sure it is cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. She also explains how to most effectively measure it.

Need some help with thawing times for turkey? Laurie Messing, health and nutrition educator, shares the safe ways to thaw food in her article “Thawing the Thanksgiving Turkey.”

If you won’t have time to thaw your turkey, Jeannie writes about how to safely roast a frozen one in her “Frozen Turkey for Thanksgiving” article.

Learn from health and nutrition educator Beth Waitrovich why the USDA recommends cooking stuffing outside of your turkey.

After the last forkful of pumpkin pie, many of us have leftovers to save – another important moment in food safety. Laurie explains how to properly store and use leftover turkey.

Looking for a new recipe to try with your turkey leftovers? Beth has a quick and easy turkey soup with vegetables that will be perfect for those chilly couple of days after the holiday.

Need help in a pinch on Thanksgiving Day? Thankfully, Laurie shares with us that the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, staffed by food safety specialists, will be answering food safety questions on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Eastern Time. The phone number is 1-888-674-6854.

Lastly, to refer people to safe food and water experts in their area, visit our MSU Extension website.

Comments Off on Thanksgiving resources for Michigan residents

Filed under Food, Food safety, Uncategorized

Great Thanksgiving and Holiday advice … From all of YOU!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and no one should be checking their email, I thought I would make this week’s Spotlight a little shorter and send it today, so that you can all get to your families and celebrations.

You are all amazing, and the following highlighted articles are receiving tremendous hits – 1,403 in the last 30 days! This is just a small sampling, and many others have had a lot of success as well. A lot of you have used this holiday as a launching point to create informative and timely articles on the Michigan State University Extension website. Here’s a sampling of the articles I’ve seen!

To make sure you’re safe in the kitchen while preparing such a huge meal, make sure you follow these tips to keep safe from kitchen fires. And if you haven’t properly thawed your turkey yet, you might want to cook it frozen. Also, did you know that cooking stuffing inside the turkey might not be the safest way to cook it? Learn more in the video below:

You may have kids home this week that are very excited about Thanksgiving and the holiday season beginning, and you can help them appreciate it more by explaining why we eat cranberries at Thanksgiving, or by teaching them to appreciate the science behind mashed potatoes and gravy.

I know that some of you will be starting your holiday shopping this weekend, so look to your colleagues for advice on choosing the right Christmas tree and keeping that tree fresh through the holiday season. You might also want to create a budget for your Christmas presents so that you don’t break the bank and learn more about the return policies for stores where you’ll be buying presents before you camp out for Black Friday deals.

After this weekend is over, don’t forget about food safety. Throw out any remaining leftovers to keep your family safe. You may also consider inviting friends and neighbors to partake in your festivities while the food is still fresh, to help those struggling with hunger in your community.

I am thankful for all of you and the excellent education and service you provide for the people of the state of Michigan. Have safe travels and food preparation! Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments Off on Great Thanksgiving and Holiday advice … From all of YOU!

Filed under Food, Food safety

Without power? Follow expert advice

Sunday night’s storm left many of us without power. An article Michigan State University Extension educator Lisa Treiber wrote back in April contains advice still relevant today. “Don’t Open the Freezer When the Power Is Out” gives helpful information to help you decide whether you need to discard that food or not. It also gives tips on being better prepared the next time the power goes out.

The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service put out the guide A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes. Page 3 has some helpful advice about what’s safe to eat in your refrigerator after a power outage. Check out the tables on pages 8 through 11 for a list of common foods – what you can save and what you shouldn’t save after the power goes out.

Another MSU Extension article “Planning and Preparing for a Power Outage” by MSU Extension educator Jodi Schulz gives resources to help prepare for a power outage and ideas to keep your children busy until the power comes back on. I know that some of you have heard you will be without power until Saturday so I know these ideas may come in handy.

Comments Off on Without power? Follow expert advice

Filed under Food safety

Extension educators and specialists educate Ag Expo visitors

This year’s Ag Expo July 17-19 offered a prime example of MSUE doing what it does best, helping people solve problems and meet real-life challenges.

Despite the extreme heat, this year’s Ag Expo boasted the highest attendance in 10 years –18,250 people showed up for the annual event. They met with close to 250 commercial exhibitors, and of course, demonstrations and educational sessions presented by our educators and specialists.

Extension had a real and meaningful presence at the show. In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent, MSUE staff members and volunteers offered visitors a slice of our popular Breakfast on the Farm program. Our Master Gardeners and consumer horticulture educators talked about growing and preserving that great Michigan produce. Other presentations and displays featured Firewise, the Product Center, members of the Farm Information Resources Management Team, AgrAbility, 4-H Youth Development and information about food safety. (Read my June 28 Spotlight article for more details.)

MSUE’s representation wasn’t confined to one location. Ag Expo visitors could find MSU Extension Bookstore publications and Michigan Fresh fact sheets in another tent while AABI educators and specialists were on hand to answer farmers’ questions about dealing with the drought. Others offered a biodiesel processing demonstration.

Off site, our staff members were involved in hosting demonstrations on mortality composting and field tillage.

As usual, I hesitate to make a list of people to thank for their participation because of the possibility that I’ll leave someone or something out. If I missed mentioning your program or area, please feel free to mention it by leaving a comment under this article on my blog.


Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from four major diseases

Extension educator Gretchen Voyle speaks to an attentive audience at Ag Expo about protecting tomatoes from disease. The event took place July 17-19, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.


A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, East Lansing, Mich.

A standing-room-only crowd listens to a session at Ag Expo in the CANR Tent July 2012, in East Lansing, Mich.


1 Comment

Filed under ag expo

Cottage Food Law Food Safety training available online

Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Food Safety team developed a new Michigan Cottage Food Law: Food Safety Training now available online at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/programs/cottage_food_law. The interactive webinar provides food safety training to Michigan residents who want to operate their own cottage food business. Besides educating Michigan residents about the Cottage Food Law, it also provides food safety training so that business owners sell safe food products to customers.

 After viewing the webinar, users will take a short quiz and then receive a certificate they can display when selling cottage foods at farmers markets, festivals and other sales locations. Although not required to sell cottage foods, the certificate is evidence that business owners have participated in food safety training related to cottage foods. Look at farmers markets and you’ll find vendors displaying their certificates as one more reason to buy their home-made products.

Comments Off on Cottage Food Law Food Safety training available online

Filed under Food safety

Extension educator gives tips on holiday food safety on WJR

Thanksgiving is a week away. Wait, is that right?  Oh my, I am SO far behind in preparing for that! Anyway, it is a great time to focus on the things we are thankful for, and let’s face it, it’s a great time to eat! Have you ever wondered if those turkey pop-up timers are really accurate? Heck, I have two meat thermometers because I don’t believe them and I’m afraid I’ll get one of them too close to a hot bone. And after a delicious and sometimes sleep-inducing holiday meal, how long can you safely leave the food sitting out until someone musters enough energy or wakes up enough to start putting it away? Learn those answers and more when you listen to Michigan State University Extension educator Jeannie Nichols’ conversation with Kirk Heinze on “Greening of the Great Lakes” on WJR 760 AM.

 Jeannie will share her holiday food safety expertise at 2:08 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 20. The second part of the conversation will air the following Sunday, Nov. 27, at 7:08 p.m. when she’ll discuss what to do with your food in the freezer in case of a power outage and other food safety issues. If you don’t want to wait till then, you can listen online to both segments combined at MLive.com at http://goo.gl/MDFVe, or visit the “Greening of the Great Lakes” Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GOTGL. It’s great to have this kind of visibility for our expertise, and Jeannie does a great job of making it clear that food safety isn’t something to take lightly.

Comments Off on Extension educator gives tips on holiday food safety on WJR

Filed under Food safety

MSU Extension food preservation videos are now available online

Fall is harvest time and that means that it’s also canning time. Michigan State University Extension Food Safety Team, part of the Health and Nutrition Institute, is here to help our clientele learn how to safely preserve homegrown fruits and vegetables through a series of online educational videos that are available free.

 In the videos, MSU Extension educators Eileen Haraminac, Joyce McGarry, Jeannie Nichols, Lisa Treiber and Christine Venema demonstrate the steps to safely can and preserve food. The goal of food preservation is to increase the shelf life of food while keeping it safe. Gardens and farm markets are overflowing with beautiful and nutritious produce. The MSU Extension Food Safety Team wants to help Michigan residents preserve food safely to enjoy its bounty throughout the year. And their adoption of video technology is a great illustration of what we mean when we say we need to embrace technology in order to reach broader audiences.

 Topics covered include: 

  • Intro to Food Preservation
  • Water Bath Canning Basics
  • Pressure Canning Basics
  • Freezing Vegetables
  • Freezing Fruit
  • Making Jams and Jellies

 View the videos at http://vimeo.com/album/1697876. Look out, Paula Deen!

Comments Off on MSU Extension food preservation videos are now available online

Filed under Food safety

Extension educators and specialists receive awards at NACAA conference

Two weeks ago in an Aug. 11 Spotlight article, I told you about the tremendous involvement of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues in the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) and their Annual Meeting and Professional Conference. I promised you that I would describe the awards that were presented to these MSU Extension professionals at the conference Aug. 7–11 in Overland, Kan., and although it’s a week later than planned, I’m making good on that promise.

 Two Extension educators in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute earned the NACAA Distinguished Service Award for educators with more than ten years of service: Robert Bricault, Extension educator in Washtenaw County, and Warren Schauer, Extension educator in the Upper Peninsula.

 During 19 years in Extension, Robert Bricault served as an educator in consumer and commercial horticulture, and natural resources in southeastern Michigan. Bob worked to reduce phosphorus impacts on local rivers through a soil-testing initiative and helped develop an educational resource notebook on the emerald ash borer for each county in Michigan. He provides specialized training in diagnosing landscape problems.

 As business management educator, Warren Schauer served most of his 32-year Extension career delivering farm financial management and agricultural educational programs to clientele in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Michigan. Significant programming includes farm financial analysis, business planning, estate planning, livestock marketing and wind energy programs. Warren has also been involved in the Agriculture for Tomorrow Conference, Annie’s Project, U.P. Youth Market Livestock recordkeeping project, Bay de Noc Gardening Conference, Master Gardener, and farm financial management seminars in the Ukraine, Africa and the eastern Caribbean.

 Tom Guthrie, Extension educator in Jackson County, received the NACAA Achievement Award given to educators with less than ten years of service. As a member of the MSU Extension Pork Area of Expertise team, Tom is responsible for developing statewide accessibility to swine management educational programming, which also includes environmental issues. Tom’s major educational programming initiatives include swine production management, utilization of Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS) in swine rations, environmental sustainability of pork operations and pork industry assurance programs. Tom also works with youth pork producers across the state.

 National finalists for “Search for Excellence in Crop Production” for “Sustainable Hops Production in the Great Lakes Region” were Robert Sirrine, Extension educator in the Greening Michigan Institute; Erin Lizotte, agriculture and agribusiness Extension educator at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station (NWMHRS); and Nikki Rothwell, district horticulturalist and NWMHRS coordinator. Through the program, the group of educators strives toward the goal of providing potential hops growers with an accurate assessment of the costs, challenges and opportunities for small-scale hops production in the Great Lakes Region by providing science-based growing and marketing information. The program has made significant progress toward this goal through grant-funded on-farm research, brewer surveys, educational programming, field days, and marketing and outreach. A significant investment in program evaluations has served to ensure that programming efforts remain relevant and timely. Results demonstrate increased knowledge in hops production and processing, and confidence in growing and marketing hops. Small-scale hops production has and will continue to provide economic development opportunities in Michigan and the surrounding Great Lakes Region. 

 Robert Sirrine; Cheryl Peters, Extension specialist; Nikki Rothwell; Erin Lizotte; Stan Moore, Extension educator; and Duke Elsner, Extension educator; were state winners for “Search for Excellence in Young, Beginner, or Small Farmers/Ranchers” for “Northwest Michigan New FARM Program.” It’s becoming harder for young people to enter and stay in the farming profession due to lack of farm transfers, the decline of traditional processing markets, residential development, increasing land costs and other financial difficulties. The Northwest Michigan New FARM (Farmer Assistance and Resource Management) Program is designed to assist beginning farmers, increase economic viability, maintain and enhance environmental stewardship and conserve northwestern Michigan’s rural character. Forty beginning farmers from northwestern Michigan’s five-county area were selected to participate in this comprehensive two-year program. A series of eleven workshops and four educational trips will educate these young farmers with the ultimate goal of a future of viable and sustainable agriculture in northwestern Michigan.

 Tom Dudek, senior Extension educator, and Charles Gould, Extension educator, were poster presentations finalists for “Determining Nutrient Removal Rates for Selected Herbaceous Perennial Crops.” Data generated from the study presented will be used by growers to comply with Michigan’s Right to Farm guidelines with respect to phosphorus applications to their farms.

 Duke Elsner and Mogens Nielsen, MSU adjunct curator, were poster presentations finalists for “Encouraging Citizen Science Activity to Obtain Data on Butterfly Distribution in Michigan.” Mogens’ book “Michigan Butterflies & Skippers” (E2675) was first published in 1999. Although he gathered information through many decades of personal study and examination of museum specimens, county distribution data appeared to be incomplete. Readers were asked to become “citizen scientists” and examine their personal collections in an effort to gain complete and accurate county distribution data. The data collected from this process was extensive enough to remove one species from the “special concern” list in the state.

 Many of our colleagues won communications awards.

 Phil Durst, Extension dairy educator, was state winner and regional finalist for an audio recording. Phil wrote the “Dairy Moosings” podcasts, which were reviewed by researchers. Phil and Stan Moore recorded, edited and produced the podcasts. You can find them on the MSU Dairy Team website at http://dairyteam.msu.edu/. The podcasts are published in Libsyn (http://dairymoosings.libsyn.com/webpage) in a library of Dairy Moosings podcasts and are available for RSS feeds. The podcasts, “Bovine Leukosis Virus: More Bark Than Bite?” and “High Production and Reproduction: Do the Two Mix?” present current dairy management research information in an interesting and adaptable format, accessible when and where producers want it.

 Robert Sirrine and Annette Kleinschmit, Leelanau County Extension administrative assistant, were state winners for a program promotional piece. Twenty promotional pieces were displayed at area Extension offices, grocery stores and other locales to promote the 2010 Hops Field Day and Tour. The event was also publicized on a weekly radio program and sent out via email and mail in a monthly agriculture newsletter. As a result of this promotion and marketing, 53 participants enrolled in the session.

 Duke Elsner was a state winner for a feature story that appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Field crop production is often overlooked in the Grand Traverse Bay region where most media coverage focuses on cherry and wine grape production. In the summer of 2010, it became clear that the region’s field corn crop was going to be at record-setting levels. Duke called attention to this agricultural achievement by preparing a feature article about the types of corn grown in the country, the numerous uses for corn and the significance of corn production in the local area.

 Extension educators Diane Brown-Rytlewski and Bruce Mackellar were state winners and national finalists for a team newsletter that is distributed to commercial fruit, vegetable and field crop growers in Berrien County and other parts of southwestern Michigan. Copies are printed and mailed to a list of more than 500 subscribers, and the publication is also available via email or at the Extension office. Created three to four times per year, the newsletter provides timely meeting notifications and other information pertinent to growers and others involved with commercial crop production.

 Dennis Pennington, Extension educator, was state winner and regional finalist for a bioenergy website, developed to address a key gap in delivering information to farmers and Extension educators. Existing MSU bioenergy websites focused on current research and grants but did not include general information about what bioenergy is, what the potential crops are, and how these crops can be processed into energy. This site conveys this general information as well as current results from applied research, national policy objectives, economics of production and links to external resources. The site is also used to share speaker presentations from various events. Visit the website at http://bioenergy.msu.edu/.

 Erin Lizotte, Nikki Rothwell and Extension educators Phil Tocco and Jane Herbert were state winners and regional finalists for a learning module. As farmers continue to struggle with GAPs (good agricultural practices) and new food safety standards, it has become necessary to train growers step by step about food safety. A Web series was launched designed to get growers one step closer to GAP certification. A compilation of fact sheets, video clips and a GAP Manual Template were bundled on a CD (the learning module), and a graphical user interface was developed to guide producers with a limited access to the Web.

 Phil Tocco was a state winner for a video recording, which is part of the Web series described above.

 Phil Tocco and Jane Herbert were state winners for a fact sheet. Food safety has become a significant issue among produce growers in Michigan. Of particular concern has been the lack of a uniform action threshold among auditing agencies concerning irrigation water quality. Working with water quality educators and specialists in Michigan, the food safety Extension group vetted two standards in use within the U.S. relating to irrigation water, then wrote a fact sheet to aid growers in adopting a standard. Drafted in August of 2010, the factsheet has been distributed online and in various grower meetings to at least 150 individuals.

 Congratulations to all of our winners! Our colleagues in NACAA do a great job of modeling creativity, innovation and teamwork.

Comments Off on Extension educators and specialists receive awards at NACAA conference

Filed under Awards

MSUE EFNEP educates refugees on healthy, safe eating

Anna Tran and Lucia Rogers, Michigan State University Extension Ingham County program assistants in the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), completed a six-week series in May and June for 21 refugees. Originally from Bhutan, these families came to Lansing after living in Nepalese refugee camps. St. Vincent Catholic Charities supplied the MSUE staff members with three translators that attended each session that took place once a week for 2 hours.

 When the program began, the families typically ate food very high in saturated fat, using large amounts of butter in all of their cooking. The lessons concentrated on using less butter in food preparation and eating low-fat foods, and encouraged eating more frequent meals in smaller portion sizes.

 The MSUE staff members helped the participants locate food stores that carried items at lower cost than those at the small neighborhood convenience stores where they did most of their shopping. The change enabled the parents to have enough money to supply their children with more meals and snacks throughout the day.

 All lessons promoted food safety. The group worked on washing hands with warm water and soap, and learned to refrigerate foods instead of storing them outside.

 By the third session, the staff realized that they had effected a major behavior change when participants stood up and began to line up to wash their hands before the food preparation. According to Extension educator Joyce McGarry, this was a huge step in understanding food safety and the prevention of illness. Joyce notes that the program evaluations, completed with help from staff and translators, showed a 100 percent improvement in washing hands.

 The EFNEP assists families and youth living in low-income situations in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes and changed behavior necessary for nutritionally sound diets. It also assists in contributing to their personal development and the improvement of total family diet and nutritional welfare.

Comments Off on MSUE EFNEP educates refugees on healthy, safe eating

Filed under Nutrition

Product Center survey reflects desire for safe and healthy food

The MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources recently conducted a report sponsored by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a global provider of services for managing risk.

The report, “Food Safety Certification: A Study of Food Safety in the U.S. Supply Chain,” compiles data generated from online surveys of more than 400 consumers and 73 food companies under the management of the Product Center. The survey found that consumers want to see evidence that the food that they are buying has gone through an independent safety certification process. In fact, many would be willing to pay more for a product if it was marked with a certification label. Industry professionals are more interested in traceability. If something goes wrong, they need to find out the source of the problem. Both suppliers and consumers feel that safe and healthy food is of prime importance. And both suppliers and consumers have changed their habits and business practices to line up with their belief in food safety.

 These results reinforce the importance of developing greater strength in our programs on food safety in our redesign. This is one of those areas that cuts across institutes, with both the Agriculture/Agribusiness Institute and the Health and Nutrition Institute investing in educator positions to ensure we are delivering research-based information to individuals at multiple points in the food supply chain, beginning with producers and ending with consumers. As our teams develop curricula and applied research in this area, I anticipate we may find a need for greater expertise on campus, and we have had productive conversations with department chairs regarding specialist and faculty positions that may be needed to ensure a strong program in food safety.

 The MSU Product Center was established in 2003 with funds from the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) and Michigan State University Extension to improve economic opportunities in the Michigan agriculture, food and natural resource sectors. It’s led by director Chris Peterson.

Comments Off on Product Center survey reflects desire for safe and healthy food

Filed under Food safety