Tracy Turner

Technical Editor
Focus Areas: 
Chow Line, consumer news, food safety, nutrition.
  1. Photo: Thinkstock

    Chow Line: Blowing Out Candles on Birthday Cake Is Gross to Some, But Not Dangerous

    I’ve always felt grossed out when people blow out the candles on birthday cake and then everyone else eats the cake. Am I wrong to feel that way? Doesn’t that spread germs? Well, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Food Research, blowing out candles on a birthday cake does deposit bacteria onto the cake. The study found that on average, blowing out the candles on the cake increased the amount of bacteria on the cake’s frosting by 14 times. To determine whether bacteria are transferred through blowing out candles, the study authors created a model birthday cake by placing foil covered with cake icing on top of a Styrofoam base and placing candles on top. Test subjects then ate pizza and blew out the candles. The foil icing samples were then...
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    Chow Line: Use-By, Sell-By, Best-By Dates Don’t All Mean the Same Thing

    I bought a carton of milk and it says, “Sell by July 25,” but today is July 28. Is the milk still OK to drink? Does the sell-by date mean the food is no longer safe to eat? What about the use-by or best-by date? I’m so confused! Take heart. You’re not alone in your confusion. Most people aren’t sure what those date labels on food actually mean. In fact, more than a third of consumers throw away food once the date passes because they mistakenly think the date is an indicator of food safety, according to a recent study by the Harvard University Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. But for most foods, the date label is a manufacturer’s best guess as to how long the product will be at its peak quality. With...
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    Excessive Rain, Flooding, Ponding Damaging Some Ohio Crops

    COLUMBUS, Ohio – Record rain and extensive flooding and ponding have taken a toll on commodity fields across Ohio, leaving some growers facing diseased crops, the death of their plants and potential yield loss, according to agronomists in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. Depending on the growth stage of corn crops stuck in waterlogged soils, some growers could experience a yield loss of over 10 percent in corn crops that experienced as few as two days of flooding, said Alexander Lindsey, an assistant professor of horticulture and crop science at Ohio State. Corn crops that are still in the vegetative growth stage and standing in waterlogged soils for longer than two days could experience up to a 50 percent yield loss,...
  4. Caution: Eating raw flour can make you sick. Photo: Thinkstock

    Chow Line: Don’t Eat Uncooked Flour

    Is it true that you can get sick from ingesting uncooked flour? While many people are well aware of the warnings against eating foods with raw eggs for fear of contracting salmonella or other foodborne illnesses, fewer people are aware of the dangers of eating uncooked flour. It too can cause a mean case of foodborne illness. In fact, eating raw dough or raw batter could make you sick, in part, because flour can contain bacteria that cause disease, according to a warning from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent incidents in the U.S. and Canada underscore the issue. Between December 2015 and September 2016, some 63 people across the U.S. developed an E. coli infection after eating raw flour. And in Canada, 30...
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    Chow Line: Reusable Water Bottles Need to Be Washed Between Uses

    I heard recently that reusable water bottles can sometimes be a hotbed of germs. Is that true? Yes, at least according to a recent analysis from Treadmill Reviews that found that unwashed reusable water bottles could harbor significantly high levels of bacteria that are harmful to humans. In fact, the report goes as far as to say that “drinking from the average refillable bottle can be many times worse than licking your dog’s toy.” According to the study, the average athlete’s water bottle has 313,499 colony-forming units, or CFUs, of bacteria per square centimeter while the average pet toy has 2,937 CFUs. Yuck. The study, which was performed by EmLab P&K, a New Jersey-based environmental testing firm, analyzed 12 types of water bottles and found...
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    Ohio State Researchers: Eating Tomatoes May Protect Against Skin Cancer

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Could eating a tomato a day help keep skin cancer away — or at least lessen the risk of developing non-melanoma skin cancers? Researchers at The Ohio State University think the answer is maybe, based on promising results of a new study of how nutritional interventions can modulate the risk for skin cancers in mice. The study, published in the July 11 edition of Scientific Reports, found that mice fed tomatoes daily over 35 weeks and exposed to ultraviolet light experienced a 50 percent decrease in developing skin cancer tumors compared to mice that didn’t consume tomatoes. The theory is that dietary carotenoids, the pigmenting compounds that give tomatoes their color, may protect skin against UV light damage, said Jessica Cooperstone, co-author...
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    Chow Line: Eating Healthy at the Amusement Park

    My friends and I are planning to spend the day at an amusement park. Do you have any tips on how to avoid the sugar and calorie overload and eat as healthy as possible while there? Amusement parks can still be a fun, wonderful way to enjoy a summer day without overindulging in the sugary, deep-fried, calorie-laden foods that the parks are traditionally known for. Despite the temptation to feast on mounds of cotton candy, deep-fried candy bars, funnel cakes, snow cones, chili cheese fries and, of course, those infamous giant turkey legs, you can have nutritious foods and drinks at the park that taste good and are better for your health. One of the best ways to eat healthy at the park is to pack some nutritious meals to bring with you. While many amusement parks won’t let...
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    Chow Line: Safe, Healthier Options for Picnics

    I’m planning to pack a picnic for our 4th of July celebration in the park. To save time, can I partially cook the ribs at home and finish cooking them later on the grill during the picnic? While it’s understandable that you’d want to save time by partially cooking your meats before heading to the park, doing so could result in a case of foodborne illness. This is because partial cooking does not destroy bacteria that can cause illness. The added heat during partial cooking can allow these bacteria to grow to unsafe levels. A safer option is to fully cook the meats to a safe internal temperature on the grill at the picnic. You should also use a meat thermometer to judge the doneness of the meat — don’t rely on the color of the food as an indicator of...
  9. Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew. Photo: Thinkstock

    Chow Line: Tips to Pick the Best Melons

    It’s the age-old question: How do you choose the best melon? Whether it’s watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or other melons, summer days (or any day!) are a wonderful time to indulge in these delicious, nutritious fruits. Not only do these fruits taste wonderful, they are healthy low-calorie treats that are packed with vitamins. For example, a cup of cantaloupe has 60 calories and is rich in vitamins A and C, while a cup of honeydew has 64 calories and is rich in vitamin C and potassium and provides B vitamins. A cup of watermelon has about 45 calories and has significant amounts of vitamins A and C. Watermelon is also 93 percent water, and the red variety is a good source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that gives watermelon its color. Lycopene appears to protect...
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    Chow Line: Eating More Vegetables, Lean Proteins Could Help With Fertility

    I want to have children at some point in the near future. My mom says that the types of foods both my husband and I eat could help impact my chances of conceiving. Is that true? It’s well-known that eating healthy, incorporating plenty of exercise into your normal routine and maintaining a healthy weight contributes to your overall health and well-being. And, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nutrition and a healthy body weight for both partners can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive. The issue is significant for many people considering that some 10 percent of the population is impacted by infertility, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The Alabama-based multidisciplinary organization says that achieving and...
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    Chow Line: Wash Fresh Produce Before Eating to Ensure Food Safety

    My boyfriend insists that we have to rinse off all fruit before eating it – even watermelon, kiwi and cantaloupe. I say fruit that I cut to eat, like melons, doesn’t need to be rinsed first, and it’s OK to just wipe off an apple or grape before popping it into your mouth. Who’s right? Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a great choice that promotes a healthy diet. As such, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest you should fill half your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal. But, because fruits and vegetables can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria, it is important that you rinse all produce under running water before preparing or eating it. That includes fresh produce that was purchased from a grocery store, a farmers market or even grown...
  12. Chow Line: Healthy Breakfast Choices Include Whole Grains, Protein

    I often find myself running out the door to avoid being late to work, so oftentimes that doesn’t leave me much time to eat in the mornings. What are some quick, easy breakfast ideas on a busy morning? Eating a meal in the morning helps your body fuel up for the day, especially if you make that first meal a healthy one. The best options for breakfast are those that include whole grains, protein, and fruits or vegetables, according to researchers at Harvard University Medical School. Healthy breakfast options also include low-fat or fat-free milk and other dairy items, meats, and meat alternatives, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The benefits to eating breakfast are many. Adults who regularly eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to control their weight,...
  13. USDA advises consumers to use a food thermometer to accurately measure if meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria. Photo: Thinkstock.

    Chow Line: Grilling this Weekend? Use Meat Thermometer to Increase Food Safety

    My dad considers himself a grill master, but I think some of his techniques are questionable, like marinating the meat in a dish on the countertop or checking the doneness of burgers or chicken by color. What can I tell him to convince him these methods aren’t safe? Your dad is not alone — many people use color as an indicator of doneness when grilling meats. In fact, according to recent research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, only 34 percent of the public uses a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers. But, in order to avoid foodborne illness, the USDA advises consumers to use a food thermometer to accurately measure if meat is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria such as salmonella...
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    Mental Health First Aid: Helping Ohio State Help Ohioans

    COLUMBUS, Ohio – If someone were having a panic attack, delusions, suicidal thoughts or an overdose from alcohol or drugs in front of you, would you know what to do? Ohio State University Extension professionals will soon be trained in how to identify and handle such situations. Mental Health First Aid, offered by the National Council for Behavioral Health, is being offered to OSU Extension staff statewide. The goal is to help people gain the skills needed to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance/opioid abuse challenges and crises. OSU Extension professionals are in all 88 Ohio counties, making it invaluable to arm them with the ability to respond to a mental health or substance abuse crisis, said Roger Rennekamp, director of OSU Extension...
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    Chow Line: Wedding Season Food Safety Tips

    My fiancé and I are getting married in June and we want to make sure our guests have a wonderful experience. But I’ve heard some horror stories about people getting sick from food during wedding receptions. What can we do to make sure that doesn’t happen at our wedding? Adhering to good food safety guidelines during a wedding reception will help ensure that your guests leave your wedding with only happy memories. No one wants a bad case of food poisoning that could leave them sick for days or even land them in the hospital as a wedding favor. That has been the case for some wedding guests, according to published reports. More than 300 guests were sickened during a 2014 wedding in Sullivan, Mo. after consuming gravy that was not cooled and reheated correctly....
  16. When temperatures rise, getting enough fluids is even more important whether you’re playing sports, traveling or just outside in the sun. Photo: Thinkstock.

    Chow Line: Stay Hydrated in Warmer Weather

    Now that spring is here and the weather is warming up, I plan to be outside more doing all kinds of strenuous outdoor activities. What are some ways to keep hydrated? Staying hydrated is a key part of staying healthy. Consuming an adequate amount of fluids helps to maintain body functions, including those of your heart, brain and muscles. Fluids also serve to carry nutrients to your cells, keep your temperature normal, digest food, flush bacteria from your bladder and prevent constipation. However, when temperatures rise, getting enough fluids is even more important whether you’re playing sports, traveling or just outside in the sun, according to the American Heart Association. In fact, your body needs more fluids when you are more physically active, are running a fever, or...
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    Chow Line: Food Safety after the Storm

    Our neighborhood lost power after a round of violent storms hit our area and some of our neighbors’ homes were also flooded. Now that the storms are over and the power is coming back on, can we still eat the food in our fridge and freezer? That depends on how long the power was out, how you managed the food in your refrigerator and freezer while the electricity wasn’t on and whether any of the food or beverages were touched by floodwaters. If your home was flooded, it is important that you throw away any food that may have come into contact with floodwater. That includes cartons of milk, juice or eggs and any raw vegetables and fruits. In fact, any foods in your home that aren’t in a waterproof container that came into contact with floodwater need to be thrown out...
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    Chow Line: App Tells How to Store Foods Safely

    I go grocery shopping once a month for my family and I tend to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in larger quantities. What is the best way to safely store these items to keep them fresh? The “best way” to store your food depends on the food items that you’ve purchased. Storing foods properly can greatly impact their quality and safety over time. For specific storage information at your fingertips, try the U.S Department of Agriculture Foodkeeper app. This recently updated app offers consumers information on how to avoid food waste by providing information on how to store food safely and information on how long certain foods last. Not only does the app offer tips on how to keep and store fresh foods, it also includes information on how to store more than 400 food...
  19. Chow Line: Frozen Vegetables Are Healthy Options

    My wife and I disagree on whether or not it’s better to eat fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables. I say that frozen veggies are just as healthy as fresh vegetables, but my wife disagrees. Which one of us is right? Both of you. As long as you both are eating vegetables, you are making the right decision. Eating vegetables, whether they are frozen or fresh, is a great idea and a very healthy food choice. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines recommends that you make half your plate fruits and vegetables at every meal. They can be raw or cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, or even dried or dehydrated. There is new research, however, that says frozen veggies are as healthy as fresh vegetables. In a study to be published in the June 2017 issue of the...
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    DeviceReady Workshop Focuses on Business Online Marketing Strategies

    COLUMBUS, Ohio – Business owners, do you ever wonder what consumers think about your business website? Are you confident that your customers can easily find your business online? Business owners statewide can learn how to better manage their online presence to promote their businesses at a workshop offered by marketing experts with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. The DeviceReady marketing workshop is April 25 and will be led by specialists from the Direct Agricultural Marketing Program of Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college. The workshop is designed to offer business owners information on key marketing strategies to promote their businesses and products by enhancing...
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    Chow Line: Save Time and Money at the Grocery Store

    Lately I’ve found that I am spending more time and money at the grocery store, sometimes even buying things that I don’t need. What are some strategies to help me spend less and save time? One of the first things to remember when grocery shopping: never shop on an empty stomach. Shopping while hungry could lead you to buy less nutritious impulse items and cause you to spend more money than you’d intended. It’s also important that you have a shopping list prepared before you get to the grocery store. Make a list by looking in your kitchen cabinets, pantry and refrigerator to see what food items you need at home. And when you get to the store, stick to your list. This will help you avoid buying unnecessary items. Other smart shopping tips from the U.S....
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    Chow Line: To Eat or Not to Eat – An Egg-cellent Question about Easter Eggs

    My mom is hosting Easter dinner this year and plans to have an Easter egg hunt for the grandkids. Growing up, we always ate the eggs used in the egg hunt, and my mom insists this is fine. But I’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat those eggs. You should have a separate batch — one to eat and one to hide and use for decorations. Which one of us is right? Well, that depends. You both are right – in certain circumstances. Eggs are an important source of protein and are delicious to eat. However, they must be handled safely to prevent the chance of contracting a foodborne illness. One such outbreak occurred nationwide in 2010 when nearly 2,000 consumers reported becoming ill and some 550 million eggs were recalled due to salmonella contamination, according to the...
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    Chow Line: New Rules Require Calorie Postings in Restaurant Menus

    My family likes to eat out several times a month, but I’ve heard recently that many restaurant menu items contain plenty of calories. So how can we avoid eating too many calories when dining out? One way of avoiding consuming a lot of calories when eating out is to first be aware of exactly how many calories are in the foods before you eat them. Beginning May 5, that will be much easier for consumers to figure out. That’s when the Food and Drug Administration will officially require restaurants with 20 or more locations to post nutritional information facts for their regular menu items, including beverages. While some food establishments already provide calorie counts on their menus or menu boards, the new regulations will require all impacted restaurants nationwide...
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    Chow Line: The Devil’s in the Details When It Comes to Added Sugar in Foods and Drinks

    I’ve decided that I want to eat healthier and lessen the amount of sugar that I consume. But how can I tell what foods and drinks have added sugar? Whether a food product is labeled honey-baked, maple-flavored or has dried raisins or fruit juice concentrates, what those words are really telling you is that you’re are about to eat or drink has added sugar. People often don’t realize that many of the foods and beverages they consume have added sugar. According to a study by the University of North Carolina, of the most common packaged foods and drinks purchased in grocery stores across the country, 60 percent of them included some form of added sugar. But what exactly is added sugar and why is it an issue? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, added...
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    Agritourism Conference Focuses on Adherence to Ohio Law

    WALDO, Ohio – Whether it’s a corn maze, a zip line, a hayride or a pick-your-own operation, Ohio farm operators who offer agritourism attractions must be properly insured and have warning signs posted at each activity notifying visitors that the operator is not liable for any injuries related to those inherent risks. That’s just a few of the provisions found in an Ohio law signed last summer regarding agritourism. The law, which took effect last August, not only defines what agritourism is, but also offers protections for agritourism operators, and addresses issues including civil liability risks, property taxation and local zoning authority. To help farm operators understand exactly what language is contained in the law and to help those in the agritourism...

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