food safety

Online Artisan Dairy Food Safety Plan Coaching Workshop

glass of milk sitting outside with grass in backgroundUConn is currently offering a new Artisan Dairy Food Safety Plan Coaching workshop program. The online, self-paced Virtual Artisan Dairy Food Safety Plan Coaching Workshop is intended for small to mid-sized cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy food producers who are preparing to create, or are already developing, a Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliant, preventive control (PC)-based, food safety plan for their facility.   The goal of this online program is to combine self-paced food safety plan educational material with direct, real-time connections to dairy food safety coaches for artisan dairy producers wherever they may be in the country.  Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) lead trainers review key food safety plan topics in each self-paced module.Each month, there are two “office hour” Q&A sessions that provide participants with the opportunity to ask questions about the module topics or about their own specific food safety plan questions with food safety experts.  This way artisan producers can work through their plan at their pace throughout and have more readily available expert support throughout the process.

There are NO prerequisites. PCQI certification is recommended but not required prior to enrollment.

Who Should Attend: Small to mid-sized cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy food producers just starting off, those taking the next step in their Food Safety Plan Development, and those looking for a review of their current plans.

Attendees are encouraged to enroll and complete the Food Safety for Artisan/Farmstead Cheesemakers prior to taking this workshop. The link, along with a code, to this online training, will be provided upon registration.

These workshops are made possible through the support of a USDA grant, obtained in collaboration with Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, and the Innovation Center for US Dairy.

Register.

View the office hours schedule.

Ask UConn Extension: All About Cheese

cheese in a refrigeratorCan cheese be frozen?

Some cheese can be stored in the freezer but it’s not recommended because it can change the texture. Harder cheeses like Parmesan freeze better than other types. Therefore, it is best to freeze harder cheeses that you intend to use for cooking rather than eating alone. It is best to freeze cheese in its original, unopened package. If it is already opened, cut it into small pieces and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freezer paper. Thaw the wrapped cheese in refrigerator and use soon afterward.

Can I eat cheese if I’m lactose intolerant?

Yes, but it depends on the cheese. Harder cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar can contain little to no lactose since most of the whey (which contains lactose) is drained during production. Cheeses that are aged (e.g., 6 months or more) are safer since residual lactose is consumed by the cultures. It is best to avoid some softer cheeses like Ricotta and Mozzarella that are higher in moisture and are not aged.

Can I eat the rind of cheese?

It is always a good idea to ask your cheese seller first but many rinds are edible. Some cheeses are coated in wax or sealed with other materials and those should be removed or cut around. Other than that, it is really a matter of personal preference since the flavor of some rinds can be strong and at times can overwhelm the flavor of the cheese itself.

What is the liquid on the outside of my cheese and what should I do?

This is not uncommon and is usually just whey (like you find in yogurt) that you can just wipe off.

What should I do if my cheese gets moldy?

Cheese can develop mold after it is exposed to air. Thankfully, most molds are harmless and can be cut away from larger pieces.  To do so, cut away about a half inch on all sides of the visible mold growth avoiding contact with the mold so you don’t spread it. If it still tastes a bit musty or moldy, continue to cut away. The same does not apply to soft cheese like cream cheese, ricotta, etc. since the mold can spread more easily in these products and will be difficult to avoid. Similarly, it is best to discard sliced or shredded cheese that has developed mold.

How should I store and handle cheese?

It is best to store all cheeses in their original unopened package in the refrigerator at <40°F. Be sure to wash your hands and any utensils before handling and try to avoid touching cheese you plan to put back in the refrigerator. It is best to keep cheeses in their original package, especially sliced or shredded cheese. Don’t put your hand directly into the bag either- pour shreds out or use a clean utensil to remove slices or shreds. Tightly wrap or seal the cheese (or the original packaging) before putting it back in the refrigerator. You can also place the wrapped cheese in an airtight container if you have one. You can take cheese out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature before you plan on eating it but don’t leave it out for too long as the texture will change and fats may seep out as oil on the outside. Place any leftover cheese back in the refrigerator as soon as you’re done.

How long can I store cheese and can I eat it after the listed date on the package?

Code dates are not tied to the safety of the product but rather the quality. The length of storage depends on the type of cheese and the storage and handling conditions. Harder, aged cheeses like cheddar and parmesan will store well in the refrigerator for a few months but will eventually develop mold once opened.  Softer cheeses have higher moisture content and may spoil faster. They should be eaten by the date listed on the package. Be sure to check all cheese for mold, slimy textures, and off-odors before eating.  Shredded and sliced cheese should be used quickly after opening since molds can develop relatively fast.

What is the white stuff on the outside of my cheese and what should I do?

Assuming the cheese is unopened it is not likely to be mold but rather calcium lactate crystals. These are common and not harmful. Over time calcium and lactate can naturally migrate to the surface of cheese and crystalize to the point that they are visible to the naked eye.

Why are there crunchy things in some cheeses?

Some aged cheeses naturally develop “cheese crystals”. Most of the time they are either calcium lactate or crystals of the amino acid tyrosine. They are safe to eat and often desirable since they are usually a sign that the cheese has been aged for some time and has developed flavor.

Food Safety and Refrigeration

By Diane Wright Hirsch, MPH, RD

UConn Extension Educator – Food Safety

inside freezer
As I am writing this, it is snowing lightly outside my office window. I am thinking about the potential weather fluctuations. Lots of folks have filled their freezers and refrigerators in preparation for the storm. But what happens when the power goes out?

This time of year (as opposed to hurricane season), we are lucky that the temperatures are such that we can use the out of doors as one huge refrigerator/freezer. Over the next 8 days it looks like temperatures in my neck of the woods won’t reach much over thirty—and then only for a day or two and then it is back to the deep freeze.

One question I frequently get after a widespread power outage—or, at any time, really—is, “Is   it ok to refreeze food that has defrosted.” Many have been scared into thinking that once a food thaws, it is no longer safe to refreeze or, maybe, even to eat. So, let’s go through two possible defrosting/refreezing scenarios and use a bit of food safety science to explain what happens and what is your best course of action. Before we go any further, though keep in mind that having a couple of food thermometers on hand will help you to make food safety decisions. It would be best if you have one in the freezer (so you can tell if your freezer is still capable of freezing!). Also, have on hand a food thermometer—the same kind that you can use for checking to see if food has cooked to the proper temperature. This thermometer will tell you the actual temperature of the food you are checking on: this is not so important if the food is frozen, but once it defrosts, it can help you with the should I keep it or toss it question.

Your electricity is out—no freezer or refrigerator.

One tool, actually two, that will help you with this is the thermometer.

Once the food defrosts, try to keep it cold by keeping it in the freezer/refrigerator (or outside if it is cold enough). As long as the food stays at 40 degrees F or below, you can refreeze it within a day or two, or maybe even three (fish, ground meat and poultry and similar food with high perishability should be refrozen within 24-48 hours).

Alternatively, cook and/or eat it while it still registers 40 degrees F or below on the thermometer. If both your freezer and refrigerator are out of service, then keep in mind that you should only cook what you can eat – there will be no way to cool down the leftovers for refrigeration.

Best Practices for Cooking and Storing Meats – #AskUConnExtension

On this week’s #AskUConnExtension Showcase, we answer your questions about food preparation and storage. Extension Educator Dr. Indu Upadhyaya demonstrates the tips and tricks of ideal internal meat temperatures, best practices for storage, and more.
For more food-safe information, be sure to visit foodsafety.uconn.edu

squares with text and picture of Indu Upadhyaya
Text: Cooking meat can be a sensitive job. But, with some insider knowledge, one can easily learn the art of cooking the perfect chicken, ham, or steak before your next big outing. Dr. Indu Upadhyaya, an Assistant Extension Educator with UConn Extension, walks us through the basics around both cooking food and storing food safely, efficiently, and in a way that will impress.

Virtual Meat & Poultry HACCP Course – June 2021

 

Date/Time of Event:  June 22, 23, and 24, 2021 

Tuesday, June 22 (8.30 am-4.30 pm) 

Wednesday, June 23 (8:30 am -4.30 pm) 

Thursday, June 24 (8:30 am-2.00 pm) 

Instructors 

  • Indu Upadhyaya, Ph.D., Food Safety Specialist, UConn Cooperative Extension 
  • Diane Hirsch, MPH, Food Safety Specialist, UConn 
  • Lori Pivarnik, Ph.D., Food Safety Specialist, University of Rhode Island 
  • Jason Bolton, Ph.D., Food Safety Specialist, UMaine Cooperative Extension 
  • Robson Machado, Ph.D., Food Safety Specialist, UMaine Cooperative Extension 

 Summary

This virtual, three-day International HACCP Alliance approved Meat and Poultry HACCP course will be on a zoom platform, it will provide participants with the information they need to prepare a HACCP food safety program and also plan for a plant under USDA/FSIS Grant of Inspection. 

 If you work in a slaughter-only facility, email indu.upadhyaya@uconn.edu before registering. 

During this course, we will not prepare an HACCP plan for your specific operation but provide resources and guidelines for you to successfully prepare a HACCP plan. This course meets requirements for the training of personnel responsible for HACCP plan development and implementation, including plan validation and verification activities. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE:    

You MUST be present for the entirety of the course if you wish to receive the HACCP certificate. Please make sure you have a computer/laptop (no phones or tablets allowed) with built-in video or external webcam and microphone with sufficient internet connectivity for the entire duration of the course. There will be 10-minute breaks and Lunch break each day of the course. The agenda is tentative and subject to change.     

  • No more than 3 people from the same company should register for the course.    
  • Please become familiar with Google Docs, if you are not already.  
  • If you are joining in the same physical room as someone else, you must utilize headphones to minimize background noise and feedback.  

Registration Types and Their Associated Fees: 

Course registration fee (includes all course materials):  $425  

You must pre-register. Space is limited. Registration materials must be received by May 31st, 11.59 PM. 

Click Here to Register

Find more information here.

Educator Spotlight: Indu Upadhyaya

Supporting Farmers, Businesses, Students and Communities

Indu
Photo: Kevin Noonan

With positive vision and great ambition, Indu Upadhyaya joined UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources in June 2019 as an Assistant Extension Food Safety Educator. Indu obtained her Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry (equivalent to DVM) and a Master’s degree in Veterinary Biochemistry from Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research in Pondicherry, India.

After working as a practicing veterinarian in India for a year, she joined UConn to pursue her PhD from the Department of Animal Science focusing on poultry microbiology and safety.

After completing her PhD, Indu moved to the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, Fayetteville, Arkansas as a postdoctoral associate, working in collaboration with the USDA-ARS Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit.

Before returning to UConn as a faculty member, Indu worked as an Assistant Professor in the School of Agriculture at Tennessee Tech University for one year, where she led a collaborative research program in poultry and fresh produce safety. She also taught two upper-level undergraduate courses in poultry science and facilitated several outreach activities and recruitment drives in Tennessee.

“As I approach completion of two years in my current role, I feel respected and valued in my department and in the college community.” Indu says. “The majority of my work so far has focused on training Connecticut’s growers and producers to comply with the Produce Safety Rule (PSR), a part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that went into effect in 2016. I am also leading outreach efforts in several USDA, NE-SARE and CPS grants and look forward to contributing to them.”

Indu has conducted other trainings including Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) training for meat and poultry producers. These provide the framework for monitoring the total food system, from harvesting to consumption, to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Indu is working alongside extension educators in the Northeast to conduct successful trainings for producers and growers. Working closely with Diane Hirsch, an Emeritus Extension Educator for Food Safety, has made for a smooth transition. With 2020 throwing curveballs for many of us, it did not dampen UConn Extension training programs including Food Safety.

“We have successfully completed multiple farmer trainings using remote learning,” Indu says. “This includes the Produce Safety Alliance Grower training (three courses with 52 trainees) and a, three-day, Meat and Poultry HACCP training (17 participants). I have also continued farm visits during the pandemic following CDC guidelines. Various online platforms have helped me to serve the Connecticut community by remote consultation on various food safety and handling practices.”

Indu has been awarded a Hatch-Multistate Hatch grant as lead PI for mitigating the food safety risks associated with fresh produce production and is a co-PI on several USDA-NIFA, and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education grants.

However, the biggest highlight for her in collaboration with UConn CAHNR colleagues, is a $10 million federal grant to improve sustainable poultry production globally. The USDA-NIFA funded project is developing an integrated and sustainable program for enhancing the viability of antibiotic-restricted broiler production in the poultry industry. The project launched in September of 2020 and focuses on a systems approach integrating bird health, human health, and environmental remediations to improve the sustainability of antibiotic restricted poultry production.

As a critical element in this grant, Indu is focusing on poultry outreach for both consumers and stakeholders to educate them on interventions and sustainable methods of production. She will conduct workshops, train-the-trainer programs and on-farm demonstrations to disseminate the results of the research objectives, so the stakeholders can implement more sustainable production practices.

“While our communities face ever evolving and serious challenges due to the ongoing pandemic, associated financial difficulties and health risks, I will continue to support farmers, small business owners, students and other members of the community through research, trainings and consultation in the state, region and nationally.”

Article by MacKenzie White

2021 FSMA Produce Safety Alliance Remote Grower Training Course

radishes in a person's hand with the words food safety on the photo2021 FSMA Produce Safety Alliance Remote Grower Training Course :

Register here: http://cahnrconference.uconn.edu

Date/Time of Event:

Monday, March 8th, 2021: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Contact Person Phone and Email:

Indu Upadhyaya, 860-786-8191, indu.upadhyaya@uconn.edu

Instructors

  • Indu Upadhyaya, Ph.D., Food Safety Specialist, UConn Cooperative Extension
  • Diane Hirsch, MPH, Food Safety Specialist, UConn
  • Bruce Gresczyk, Owner, Gresczyk Farms

Course Summary:

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) Grower Training Course has been designed to provide a foundation of Good Agricultural Practices knowledge that includes emphasis on co-management of food safety and environmental management goals, while outlining the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule. The PSA Grower Training Course is one way to satisfy the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement outlined in § 112.22(c) that requires ‘At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.’ This course will be taught remotely on a Zoom platform as per the remote delivery guidelines established by PSA.

IMPORTANT NOTICE:

In order to obtain a certificate that provides evidence of compliance with the training requirements of the rule, you must be present for the entire two-day course. Please make sure you have a computer/laptop (no phones or tablets allowed) with built-in video or external webcam and microphone with sufficient internet connectivity for the entire duration of the course. There will be 15-minute breaks during the course.

  • No more than 2 people from the same operation should register for the course.
  • If you are joining in the same physical room as someone else, you must utilize headphones to minimize background noise and feedback.

Registration Types and Their Associated Fees:

Course registration fee (includes all course materials and certificate): $50

The preferred method of registration/payment is through the CAHNR Conferences site, paying with a credit card. Please include both a work and cell/home phone number and regularly used email address in case of emergency or cancellation.

ONLINE REGISTRATION is PREFERRED: To register: Go to https://secure.touchnet.com/C21646_ustores/web/store_main.jsp?STOREID=106&SINGLESTORE=true OR http://cahnrconference.uconn.edu/ : Click on “Register for an event” VISA and MasterCard are accepted.

Registration is first come, first served, so please register early. You must pre-register. Space is limited. Registration materials must be received by February 22nd.

Cancellation Policy: No refunds or cancellations will be accepted after February 22nd.

Food Safety Tips For Your Holiday Turkey

turkeyThe holidays are a time to enjoy your family and friends— Avoid putting a damper on the holiday fun because of unsafe food handling and cooking practices. Follow these tips to play it safe this holiday season: http://bit.ly/Turkey_FoodSafety.
Los días festivos son días para disfrutar en familia y con amistades— Evite poner un amortiguador a la diversión durante esta temporada debido a la manipulación de alimentos y prácticas de cocina incorrectas y poco seguras. Sigue estos consejos para evitar accidentes esta temporada navideña – http://bit.ly/Turkey_FoodSafety.