News Release Distributed 10/02/15
BATON ROUGE, La. – At the Red Stick Food Swap, cooks and crafters share their wares with fellow swappers. Items must be homemade or homegrown, and if it is a food item, prepared safely.
“When you share your food with other people, that means bigger responsibility, so you don’t want to make other people sick,” said Wenqing Xu, a food safety specialist with the LSU AgCenter.
Following food safety guidelines is emphasized at the swap, according to Toni Gatlin, who coordinates the Red Stick Food Swap.
Swap sheets ask how and when the food was prepared, how it should be stored and if it is perishable.
“We ask people to use some common sense at home. Make sure their preparation is clean and they’re using the proper utensils,” Gatlin said.
Janelle Gianelloni enjoys coming to the swap with her daughter and sister-in-law. She works in a microbiology lab at a local medical clinic and said she takes strict food safety precautions when preparing food.
“We keep all the foods refrigerated. We clean the counter,” Gianelloni said. “Anytime we touch anything, wash your hands before you do something else.”
Janelle’s sister-in-law, Janet Gianelloni, brought canned pepper jelly. Xu said canned foods and preserves can be an issue because the bacterium that cause botulism – Clostridium botulinum or C. bot. – can grow in foods improperly canned.
Xu says maintaining the proper pH level is important because C. bot. spores can’t grow in levels below 4.6.
“If you are canning fruit that have a low pH – a high acidity – it’s relatively safe, so you don’t have to add acid, and you can use a boiling water bath,” Xu said.
Before canning fruits with a low acidity, which include figs, Asian pears and tomatoes, you must add citric acid to get the pH to 4.6. or use a pressure canner, which gives you a higher processing temperature than a boiling water bath, Xu said.
For other low-acidity foods such as vegetables and meats, a pressure canner must be used to ensure the food is safe.
Xu said all cooks, when sharing their food with others or simply cooking for themselves, should remember to separate cooked foods from raw foods, keep foods out of the danger zone temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and clean utensils, hands and counter surfaces.Tobie Blanchard