sealPurdue Lifestyles News Briefs

September 1998

Expert says clean kitchens need more than shiny floors

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Shiny floors, spotless counters and neatly arranged cupboards are all tell-tale signs of a clean kitchen, right? Not so, says Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service educator Julie Gray.

Gray, a registered dietitian based in Indianapolis, said these things can help, but a truly clean kitchen relies on more than just good looks -- it ensures food safety through the three main operations that are performed there: food storage, food handling and cooking.

"Millions of people contract food-borne illness each year," Gray said. "Most don't realize they have it; they think they have the 24-hour flu. Proper food handling practices can help people avoid these food-borne illnesses."

One trap people fall into, Gray said, is the belief that "We always do it that way, and no one ever gets sick." But that doesn't mean it won't happen. Many people are simply unaware that some of their food-handling practices can be dangerous.

To check out their food safety habits, consumers can take the following quiz, which is an abbreviated version of a test that appeared in the October 1995 edition of FDA Consumer magazine.

  1. The temperature in my refrigerator is:
    a. 50 degrees Fahrenheit; b. 41 degrees Fahrenheit; c. I don't know; I've never checked

  2. The last time the kitchen sink, drain, disposal and connecting pipe in my home were sanitized was:
    a. last night; b. several weeks ago; c. can't remember

  3. Meat fish and poultry are defrosted in my home by:
    a. setting them on the counter; b. placing them in the refrigerator; c. microwaving

  4. The last time there was cookie dough in my house, the dough was:
    a. made with raw eggs, and I sampled some of it; b. store bought, and I sampled it; c. not sampled until baked

  5. The last time we had hamburgers in my home, I ate mine:
    a. rare; b. medium; c. well-done

To determine your food-safety savvy, examine your answers based on the following answers and rationale.

  1. Answer B. Refrigerators should stay at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less to slow the growth of most bacteria. This temperature will not kill the bacteria, but it will keep them from multiplying. The fewer bacteria there are, the less likely you are to get sick. Measure the temperature with a thermometer and, if needed, adjust the refrigerator's temperature control dial.

  2. Answer A is best. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the kitchen drain, disposal and pipe are often overlooked. They should be sanitized periodically by pouring a solution of one teaspoon bleach mixed in one quart of warm water down the drain. Food particles get trapped in the drain and create an ideal environment for bacteria growth.

  3. Answers B or C are correct if the food is cooked immediately. Never thaw meat, fish, or poultry on the counter or in a sink of cold water. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature.

  4. Answer B or C. If you answered A, you may be putting your family -- especially the elderly and children -- at risk for Salmonella enteritidis , a bacteria that can be found in raw eggs. Commercial products are made from pasteurized eggs, eggs that have been heated long enough to destroy the Salmonella bacteria.

  5. Answer C. Hamburgers must be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The only way to properly determine this temperature is to use a meat thermometer. Rare, or even medium, cooked hamburgers can cause E-coli or many other types of food poisoning.

"The most common mistakes people make are thawing food outside the refrigerator and not cooking hamburger until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit," Gray said. "But the number one mistake is probably not washing hands or not properly washing hands."

The best habit to form, she said, is to wash hands frequently -- after handling uncooked meats, fish or poultry; before touching food after handling money; and after using the bathroom. Proper hand-washing involves using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Gray suggests keeping liquid soap at all household sinks.

The entire test is available on the Web at Or for a free copy of the entire food safety test, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Gray at the Marion County Cooperative Extension Service, 9245 N. Meridian St., No. 118, Indianapolis, IN 46260-1874.

CONTACT: Gray, (317) 848-7351; e-mail,

Cash in on cost-saving tips

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's two days to payday, the cupboard is empty and so is your wallet. Sound familiar? Then maybe it's time to put some cost-saving strategies to work in your budget.

Cutting spending doesn't have to be painful, says Janet Bechman, Cooperative Extension Service specialist in family resource management at Purdue University. Before drastically changing spending habits, she suggests consumers record their spending carefully for one or two weeks. People often find that they spend more money on lunch, vending machines and cigarettes than they realize, she notes.

With spending habits in mind, Bechman offers three words that will help reduce expenditures: Simplify, share and substitute.

To simplify spending, consumers need to consider how much a particular item or service is worth to them personally. Questions to ask include:

  • Do I really need this item?
  • Why do I want this?
  • Is there something I want more?

Another method of cost-cutting is to share costs and use community resources. The rule of thumb may be "don't buy what you can borrow." For example, Bechman says that instead of purchasing books, use the library. For inexpensive recreational activities, use public parks instead of purchasing tickets to a theme park. When purchases are necessary, consider splitting the costs with someone else.

Substitution also can be an effective cost-cutting technique. Bechman says consumers can save by choosing less-expensive options or brands.

"Be aware of what's important in your life," Bechman says. She says that if you enjoy something but it is not a necessity, don't give it up if it will make you miserable. For example, cable television is not a necessity, but it may be cheaper than frequent trips to the movie theater.

Impulse purchases can undo even the best belt-tightening measures. To keep spending under control, Bechman suggests planning ahead by making shopping lists. And don't limit them to grocery shopping lists. Comparison shopping also may save money, because some stores honor other stores' advertisements, she says.

CONTACT: Bechman, (765) 494-8309

FDA requires warning labels on unpasteurized cider

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- They're not just found on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages anymore. Now, apple cider has to carry a warning label, too.

"It's official," says Peter Hirst, assistant professor of horticulture at Purdue University. "Cider made this year must have warning labels, unless the cider is pasteurized."

The Food and Drug Administration is requiring warning labels on all apple cider sold to the public, unless the cider has been processed to achieve a 100,000 fold reduction in the number of harmful microbes that may be present. "Ninety-eight percent of all fruit juice sold in this country is already pasteurized," Hirst says.

The FDA decided to require warning labels on unpasteurized juice after a number of outbreaks of illnesses caused by the bacterium E. coli in fruit juice. In 1996, an outbreak in the western United States and Canada caused by unpasteurized apple cider killed one child and sickened 66 people. The FDA estimates that unpasteurized fruit juice sickens 16,000 to 48,000 people each year.

The rule on warning labels applies to everyone who sells packaged cider, regardless of the amount they produce. However, unpackaged cider sold for immediate consumption on the premises -- for example, at a cider bar or at a festival -- does not require a warning label.

The warning should read: "WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems."

Hirst says the FDA decided to use the word "pasteurized" in the label even though other technologies may be used in the future, such as irradiation, to remove microbes. "The word was chosen because the FDA felt that it was something that the public could understand," he says.

For this year only, the warning may be placed on a sign on the cider display or case where the cider is sold. If warning labels are placed on cider jugs, they must appear on the principal display panel or the information panel on the cider container, Hirst said, and they must be large enough to, in the FDA's words, "be read and understood by the ordinary individual under customary conditions of use."

According to the FDA statement, it is the "principal responsibility" of the producer to make sure that the cider is properly labeled. However, the FDA statement goes on to say "... retailers and wholesalers also have legal responsibility to ensure that products they sell are properly labeled."

CONTACT: Hirst, (765) 494-1323; e-mail,

Web weaves new concerns about plagiarism

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The World Wide Web is the home for millions of pages of information on every topic that the human mind has been able to conceive. It also is a home for plagiarism.

Stuart Offenbach, a professor of psychology at Purdue University and a national expert in dealing with academic misconduct, says: "The area of professional misconduct has actually changed quite a bit over the past two, two and a half years. The Internet is a whole order of magnitude of a new kind of problem."

Offenbach and others are pointing to the Web as one reason for an increase in plagiarism. "Now to be a good plagiarist it helps to also be a technician and know how to use a computer," he says. "While it's true for words, it's also true for data and photographs. As of now there is no good form of electronic protection to prevent someone from just copying what's on your Web site. With a mouse and a few clicks, you can write the classics."

Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own work, according to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language.

Offenbach says that as a psychologist, he understands why plagiarism is considered such a large offense in academia and journalism. "It helps if you look at the roots of the word plagiarism," he says. "It means a kidnapping. To the author, it's the equivalent of stealing a child; there's nothing more precious for a writer than his or her own words. It gives you that same sinking feeling as when you walk into your house and find that someone has broken in and stolen a family heirloom that can't be replaced. The emotional impact is devastating to the person who was plagiarized."

Offenbach says the emotional impact for those who are the victims of plagiarism continues when they accuse the plagiarist. "This is an ethical matter, and perhaps a civil legal matter, but there will be no grand jury investigation," he says. "So the accuser has to be the victim and the prosecutor, too, and this takes a large emotional toll."

An on-line plagiarist may get away with the ethical infraction for a while, but Offenbach says that he or she eventually will be found out. "People read everything in their own field, and if plagiarized material is put on the Web, at some point the author will notice," he says.
CONTACT: Offenbach, (765) 494-6223;

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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