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Category: November 2016

USDA Nutrient Database Expands

Man shopping in supermarket

The USDA Food Composition Database now includes over 80,000 brand name foods. This free online resource for families, the food industry, and researchers also contains basic food information.

The Database has options on how to search for information. Besides searching for an individual food, it also has lists by nutrient if you need to consume more or less foods with a specific nutrient. This can be valuable for those with food allergies, diabetes, kidney disease and other diseases. When you look at the list of nutrients, it is shown by household measure or grams. These values can be changed.

In the coming months, more foods will be added to include up to 500,000 products. It will also detail serving size, servings per package and much more.

The USDA Food Composition Database is a transparent source of food information. It can be found at


Happy Thanksgiving to You!

Cooked TurkeyThe Thanksgiving meal is the largest meal many cooks prepare each year. Getting it just right, especially the turkey, brings a fair amount of pressure whether or not a host is experienced with roasting one.

Plan your menu several weeks before the holiday. Shopping early will ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal.

A good resource to plan for the holiday meal is


Outbreak Investigation with Flour is Over

Measuring flourWhile the investigation for flour is over, illnesses may still occur. The recalled flour and flour products have long shelf lives and may still be in people’s homes. Consumers who don’t know about the recalls could continue to eat the products and get sick.

This recall was traced back to a variety of products that use flour milled at a General Mills facility. Besides flour, the other products include:

  • Bread Mixes
  • Browning and Cake Mixes
  • Muffin Mixes
  • Pancake and Biscuit Mixes
  • Meat and Poultry Products

Consumers should not use any of the recalled products and should throw them out. Do not eat raw dough of any kind. Always wash your hands as well as utensils and containers that have handled raw flour. Learn more at

If you stored your flour in another container without the packaging and don’t remember the brand or what the better by date is, throw it out to be safe.


Preventing Oven Burns

Have you ever removed a hot pan from the oven and burn your wrists or arms on the oven rack? Ouch!

To help prevent these accidents, try using oven rack guards. These guards cover the front rim of the oven rack. Some brands are made from silicone. Other brands are made of flame-resistant fabric. Be sure to measure your oven rack to get the best fit for your oven. Follow manufacturer instructions for use while broiling. Always remove them before running the self-cleaning cycle.

Using oven rack guards can improve oven safety for kids in the kitchen!


Halting Garlic Breath

appleLove garlic, but hate the dreaded garlic breath? It seems to linger almost all day. Here are some other foods to try to diminish bad breath due to garlic.

Research done at the Ohio State University found that eating a fresh or cooked apple, fresh lettuce,  or fresh mint helps reduce the volatile compounds in garlic. These compounds react with the phenolic compounds in the apple or mint to trigger an enzymatic deodorization by destroying the odor and volatiles that create garlic breath.

So, enjoy your garlic!



Is It Safe to Re-can Already Canned Food?

Canned tomatoesPeople often think that they can save money by buying larger containers of canned food, transferring the contents (or leftovers from the first use) to smaller jars and re-processing it. Others wonder if this is a way to save leftovers from any size can for a longer time than they will keep in the refrigerator.

There are three main problems with doing this:

  1. There are no safe tested process to do this. The way heat goes through a jar of already canned food is different than fresh food. The food will become very soft and compact more. This could lead to underprocessing and spoilage.
  2. There is no cost savings in re-canning foods.
  3. The food quality will be greatly reduced. Nutrients will be lost and more textural changes will occur.

Bottom line, do not plan to re-can any food.



Mailing Food Gifts

Food gifts are a tasty treat for loved ones far away from home. Consider foods that are healthy and easy to make.

  • Non-perishable foods are best. You don’t want to give the gift of foodborne illness!
  • Choose firm and chewy cookies. Place them back-to-back and wrap with plastic wrap.
  • Bar cookies ship well, but avoid recipes with cream cheese or other high amounts of dairy ingredients.
  • Pack in a small box or tin. Place inside another box with packing material.

To ship internationally, check the website for shipping deadlines.


The Size of Cast Iron Pans

Cast iron skilletCast iron pans are sometimes passed down through families. When taken care of, they can last many years. When looking at your pan, do you notice a number on the handle? What does that number mean?

It refers to the diameter of the bottom of the pan. History tells us that the cast iron pan was made to fit the openings on top of woodstoves. The manufacturers of the woodstoves also made cast iron pans. So they made the pans to fit the stoves. The Lodge company says “The 10 comes from the days when cast iron pots and pans were sized to fit on the numbered eyes of a woodstove. The L10SK3 was for a #10 stove eye.”

Source: Fine Cooking, Oct/Nov 2016,


Fighting Colds and Flu

coldWith reports of the flu already affecting people, it is time to do what you can to protect yourself from colds and flu. Here are some tips:

  1. Get a flu shot. While no flu vaccine is 100% effective, it does reduce your risk flu-related hospitalization.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Five servings a day gives you many antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system. Fresh, frozen or canned varieties are all beneficial.
  3. Get up and walk! Even a brisk 20 minute walk in cold weather every day can reduce cold and flu symptoms.
  4. Vitamin E builds the immune system. It can help the body’s response to the flu vaccine and risks of upper respiratory infections.
  5. Consume foods rich in zinc which are found in meats and poultry, legumes, whole grains and nuts plus fortified cereals. Don’t overdo it as too much can be harmful.
  6. Lose weight. A reduction in weight can improve the immune response. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations for best results.
  7. Drink fluids. Water, or even green tea, is beneficial to reduce inflammation.
  8. Wash your hands. This cannot be emphasized enough. Wash frequently and avoid rubbing your eyes and nose with dirty hands.
  9. Sleep cures many things. Research has shown a link between a brain-specific protein and sleep that can fight flu symptoms.
  10. Know your body. When you feel tired and run down, that stresses your immune system and increases your chance of illness.

What about vitamin C? While many think taking a lot of vitamin C can keep illness away, the science does not back this up. Vitamin C supplements will not prevent you from getting a cold, but might shorten the duration of illness.

If you are ill, stay home. This will help reduce the spread of colds and flu. For more information on influenza, see and for colds, see

Source: Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, October 2016