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Source: Valentina Remig, 785-532-0172, remig@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Jane Marshall, 785-532-1519, jpm2@k-state.edu

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010

National Food Safety Month:
K-STATE TEAM HAS PLAN TO MAKE FOOD HANDLING SAFER

MANHATTAN -- Think you know safe food-handling practices? Take this quiz to see. Wrong answers can make you sick, according to a team of researchers at Kansas State University.

* Refrigerate that doggie bag within two hours of being served or throw it away. (True.)

* Change in color of cooked meat is a reliable indicator that the meat is safe to eat. (False. Use a meat thermometer.)

* A wise person reuses plastic shopping bags. (False. Throw out those that held raw meat; wash reusable cloth bags.)

* Canned goods will last for years when stored in a cool, clean, dry place. (False. Go by expiration date or one year after purchase.)

* After washing hands clean, air dry them or use single-use towels. (True. Scrub with soap and water for 20 seconds first.)

Foodborne illness strikes 76 millions of Americans each year, causing problems ranging from a simple upset stomach to the need for a fast drive to the emergency room. Three main causes of foodborne illnesses are salmonella; E. coli, or escherichia coli; and listeria, or listeria monocytogenes. More than half of reported illnesses are associated with restaurants. The rest come from food eaten at home.

To whittle down those numbers in Kansas, K-State researchers developed Food Safety for Boomers and Beyond, an interactive program available online at http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/foodsafety/grant/splashPage.html. The multimedia program was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to develop food safety education for older adults.

The educational program was recently unveiled to commemorate National Food Safety Month in September.

"About half the adults in Kansas are uninformed about safe food-handling practices," said Valentina Remig, assistant professor of human nutrition at K-State.

Bacteria may lurk in places such as contaminated shopping carts and kitchen surfaces, undercooked hamburgers and five-day-old leftovers. Wherever there is food, beware, according to Remig.

While older adults are more likely to suffer from foodborne illness, research from Kansas focus groups and more than 400 self-administered surveys indicated that the target group needed to be expanded to consumers of all ages, Remig said.

Research results also helped the K-State team pinpoint specific issues on which to focus. They are food storage, eating out and take out, kitchen cleaning, shopping safety, food-cooking temperatures and thermometers, and hand washing.

Most urgent, Remig said, is hand washing and careful food preparation practices.

The program includes six video segments, each including printable posters, interactive quizzes and links to national sources of food safety information.

"People have different learning styles, and we tried to develop materials for everyone," said Gerry Snyder, a K-State media communication specialist.

Information includes a food storage chart, a meat-cooking guide and posters. Handouts and videos will be available in Spanish as well.

Also on the research team were Kevin Roberts, hospitality management and dietetics; Toni J. Bryant, K-State Research and Extension, Fort Riley; research assistants Heather McDougal, Kerri Cole and Allisha Weeden; and graduate students Caleb Angolo and Tracy Sabo.