You Asked It!

Category: October 2018

Fresh Tomatoes and Salmonella

A recent foodborne illness outbreak occurred in northeast Kansas due to contaminated fresh tomatoes served at a church supper. Preliminary investigation results report 69 illnesses and 14 of those tested positive for Salmonella Newport. The tomatoes came from multiple sources so an environmental assessment is underway to determine the contamination source.

Salmonella Newport is the third most implicated microorganism in U.S. foodborne illness outbreaks. It tends to survive in extreme conditions such as low relative humidity, high temperature, and UV exposure. It also tends to survive on the skin surface of tomatoes. It can also become internal during plant growth as it could come from contaminated water and soil.

Therefore, care in handling fresh tomatoes from farm to fork is important. In the kitchen, take care in preventing cross contamination during tomato preparation by keeping surfaces and utensils clean and sanitized. All cut tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours. Always wash your hands before and after handling any food as dirty hands are a significant source of foodborne illness.

Source: J. of Food Protection, Vol. 81, No. 7, 2018, pp. 1193-1213


Using Tomatoes from Frost-killed Vines

Choose fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes that are at their peak ripeness. Over-ripe tomatoes are less acidic. The acidity level in tomatoes varies throughout the growing season. Tomatoes reach their highest acidity when they are still green and decrease in acidity until they reach their lowest acidity as they mature.

Canning is NOT a way to use damaged tomatoes or those from dead or frost-killed plant vines. These tomatoes may have a pH level greater than 4.6 and may have extra pathogens. The canning process time may not be enough to kill extra organisms. This could lead to a product that spoils and is unsafe to eat.



Helping Kansans with Food Preservation

Do you have food preservation questions? Do you know someone who wants to start a food business? The place to call is K-State Research and Extension (KSRE)!

While the University of Georgia and the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) is a great resource, we at KSRE want to help Kansans. Dr. Elizabeth Andress, who runs the NCHFP, does not have the staff, nor does she know the regulations in Kansas required for food businesses.

So let us help! For home food preservation questions, contact Karen Blakeslee at the Rapid Response Center at or or 785-532-1673. For Kansas food businesses, contact Dr. Fadi Aramouni at the Kansas Value Added Foods Lab at or or 785-532-1668.


What is Black Vinegar?

If you watch any television food programs, you see some uncommon, unusual ingredients used by chefs. On one recent show, the chefs used black vinegar. So what is this type of vinegar?

Most black vinegar is made in China and is a dark, fragrant vinegar. It is made from sticky white rice, water and salt. Some brands may also use millet, whet, sorghum or soybeans.

For more flavor, they are aged to get a sweet, smoky, earthy flavor. It is not the same as soy sauce.

Connoisseurs of black vinegar claim the best black vinegars are made in the province of Chinkiang (a.k.a. Zhenjiang.)

Source: and


Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

The season is about to change to fall, but sales of American’s favorite fall flavor are already hot! Products made with pumpkin flavor are already up 10% in dollar growth and up 7% in unit volume.

What’s interesting is the sales of pumpkin pie filling have dropped a bit, by 1%, but still remains the number one pumpkin-related flavor. The rest of the top five categories by sales where pumpkin is used include dog food, liquid coffee creamer, packaged coffee, and ready-to-eat cereal.

And while pumpkin spice seems to be in everything, the sales of pumpkin spice seasoning has not seen any benefit.



American Toddlers Favorite Vegetable

FITS is a survey of national estimates of early feeding behaviors which can influence the development of dietary guidelines.

When toddlers reach the age of two, many have established food preferences that can last a lifetime. So parents should do their best to get toddlers eating behaviors established early. In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, they found that while toddlers eat vegetables, the number one choice is french fries.

The Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS) was a large study of nearly 10,000 parents and caregivers of children age four and younger. Here are some of the shortfalls they found:

  • Only 18% of infants, aged 6-12 months, get the recommended amount of iron.
  • Less than 25% of infants get the recommend amount of vitamin D.
  • Sodium intake is high. Of 1-year-olds, 40% exceed the upper limit of sodium; of children aged 2-3, 70-75% exceed the upper limit of sodium intake.

Learn more at


Cooking Under Pressure Webinar

The University of Idaho Extension recently hosted a webinar on using electric pressure cookers through the platform.

This presentation showed how they teach a class and the information they share in the class. The primary focus was family time saving tips, nutrition, food safety (including no canning), and tips about the equipment.

To view the webinar recording, go to If you would like the handouts and other teaching materials, contact Becky Hutchings at


The Story of Your Dinner

With the help of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, food safety can be included in every meal. To help in this effort, PFSE has many resources for adults and kids. This is especially important with the holiday season just around the corner. They encourage everyone to take time to gather around the table for a family meal.

For consumers, there are recipes that include food safety instructions, kid-friendly placements to color, food safe baking tips, and more.

For educators, there are news release templates, fact sheets, social media graphics, logos, and more.

Learn more at


What is Cyclospora?

Cyclospora cayetanensis oocysts Photo: CDC

This summer, a large recall was issued because of an outbreak of Cyclospora found in salads sold at a major fast food chain. A total of 511 laboratory-confirmed cases were identified.

Cyclospora in a microscopic parasite that is typically found in contaminated water or food. When ingested, it causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis. It is unlikely to pass from person to person.

The primary symptom with this illness is diarrhea, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, nausea, and fatigue. If not treated, the illness could last from a few days to a month or longer. Seek medical help to receive care.

Learn more about this outbreak and about Cyclospora at and


Probiotics and Prebiotics

Gut health is important for a healthy quality of life. Maintaining good gut health can help prevent disease, enhance health, help you live longer and improve physical and mental performance. Therefore, many people consume probiotics and prebiotics to improve gut health.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, can give a health benefit. When consumed regularly, they help enhance the immune system. They are found in many yogurt products, beverages and even certain candy products.

Prebiotics are non-digestible oligosaccharides that survive digestion and move into the colon. These are found naturally in fiber-rich foods or added into foods. The best foods include bananas, berries, legumes, onions, leeks, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Learn more from this presentation at, and