Food & Dining
Spanish-Language Virtual Expert Answers Food Safety Questions on Your Smartphone PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Catherine Cochran   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 13:37

Take “Mobile Pregúntele a Karen” with you for on-the-go tips to prevent

foodborne illness this summer

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2012—A new Spanish-language food safety app is available to consumers around the clock on their mobile devices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. “Mobile Pregúntele a Karen” is the Spanish-language version of Mobile Ask Karen, the virtual expert who answers smartphone users’ questions about properly handling, storing and preparing food to prevent illness. The English version of Mobile Ask Karen was launched in May 2011.


“Expanding our food safety information to multiple languages means we are reaching a wider audience and preventing more foodborne illness,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “As consumers become familiar with these user-friendly mobile applications, they will develop good food safety habits and have instant access to reliable food safety information.”


The Pregúntele a Karen website has been available from desktop browsers since September 2010. However, FSIS recognized that consumers often need answers to questions like, “To what temperature should I cook steak?” or, “How can I keep food safe outdoors?” when they are not able to access a computer. The new mobile format now allows people to take the food safety information “Karen” provides in Spanish with them to the barbecue grill, farmers market, grocery store and kitchen.


Both Mobile Pregúntele a Karen, which is optimized for iOS and Android devices, and the desktop-based Pregúntele a Karen are available 24 hours a day at or, with more than 1,200 food safety answers searchable by topic and by product. Consumers can also email, chat with a live representative, or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline directly from the app. To use these features on the app, simply choose “Contact Us” from the menu. The live chat option and the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), are available in Spanish and English from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.


Mobile Pregúntele a Karen is part of a multi-faceted USDA initiative to prevent foodborne illness. As part of this initiative, USDA recently joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch Food Safe Families, a consumer food safety education campaign. Food Safe Families is the first joint public service campaign to empower families to further reduce their risk of foodborne illness at home by checking their key food safety steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill. For more information, go to


Today's action is in addition to other significant public health measures FSIS has put in place during President Barack Obama's Administration to date to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:

  • Test-and-hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
  • Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
  • Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
  • Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.


Iowa Distillery Releases Seasonal Strawberry Vodka PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Ryan Burchett   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 12:55

Le Claire, Iowa, June 26, 2012 – Mississippi River Distilling Company is excited to announce the release of their newest seasonal product, “Pride of the Wapsi Strawberry Vodka” on June 29, 2012.  MRDC is once again partnering with an Iowa business on this product.  This time Pride of the Wapsi, a berry patch near Long Grove, Iowa.  The new spirit is just in time for Independence Day celebrations.


“The whole idea of the seasonal spirits is to bring some unique products to the market and also partner with other local businesses,” Ryan Burchett, MRDC owner and distiller, says.  “We were really excited when the gang at Pride of the Wapsi said they would have enough strawberries to pull this off.”


MRDC used 1,600 pounds of hand-picked strawberries in this latest creation.  They loaded their still with fresh strawberries and their signature River Pilot Vodka.  After a 12-hour infusion, the strawberries and vodka were redistilled for a one of a kind flavor.


“We’re so excited about the result,” remarks owner and distiller Garrett Burchett.  “Our unique distillation technique gives us the essence, fragrance and flavor of strawberry without the sugary sweetness of a liqueur or other artificially flavored vodkas.  The aroma of this product is amazing.  It smells like fresh strawberry jam.”


For Pride of the Wapsi owners Pat and Lora Dierickx, this was a big project.  “This year we closed the patch down a little sooner than we had hoped, but we were happy to be able to get the 1,600 pounds of strawberries picked for the distillery before that.” Pat says.  “We think this project will bring a whole new awareness to our farm.  We never dreamt that our berries would be used for vodka.  But we’re so pleased to see this collaboration work out.”


The first bottles of the strawberry vodka will be released this Friday, June 29.  The following week, Pride of the Wapsi will be specially featured at MRDC’s First Friday event held Friday, July 6 from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Along with the farmers being on hand, fans who purchase bottles that evening will be able to get a free commemorative pint glass marking the release of the new vodka.


Mississippi River Distilling Company is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday and from 12 to 5 PM Sundays.  Free tours are offered to the public daily on the hour from 12 to 4 PM or by appointment.  The tour takes visitors through the entire distilling process.  Tours end in the Grand Tasting Room with free samples of products for those patrons over 21 years of age.



Food experts tell it like it is on Best Food Facts PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Best Food Facts   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 13:03

Best Food Facts gives you the opportunity to connect with food experts from around the country who have done the research, checked their work and want to share the results. Through blog posts, experts provide answers to your questions about food. Best Food Facts encourages open discussion - please send us your questions.


Cast your vote!

How do you define "local" food?

Take the poll!


What's Cookin'?

Recently we’ve talked with University-based food experts/researchers about these topics

Are Superweeds Taking Over Our Fields?
Dr. David Shaw talks about weeds becoming resistant to herbicides.

Does Cage-Free = Better Hen Welfare?
Dr. Joy Mench discusses the welfare aspects of raising hens in cages.

Hormone Confusion: Cow Milk vs. Human Breast Milk
Dr. Ann Macrina explains why human steroids and animal steroids are notcreated equal.

Farm Size: Environmental Impacts
Dr. Hongwei Xin says farm size is an important variable ... but not the only one.

GMO Labeling: What You Need to Know
Dr. Patrick Byrne explores the pros and cons of labeling GM food.

Agave - Healthier Than Sugar?
Watch a fun video from Joy Bauer on the differences between agave and sugar.

What's Your Summer Food I.Q.?
Think you know what it takes to keep food safe in the summer? Take this quiz!

It's My Right: Genetically-Modified Labeling
Dr. Peggy Lemaux discusses the implications of the California initiative to label GM food.

Check out all the Food for Thought posts!


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Coming soon: A new Best Food Facts website design! All the great content you love in a fabulous new design. Check back soon to see the new site!


Meet Our Featured Expert!

Alice Henneman, R.D., is an extension educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County. She promotes healthy eating, with emphasis on providing culinary information, tips and recipes that translate into making healthier food choices. She regularly uses social media to promote healthy eating. You can find her on Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

Alice contributes to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's website She received her M.S. in nutrition from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and her R.D. from Indiana University.

Alice has contributed to the following Best Food Facts posts:


Coming Right Up!

Best Food Facts readers asked questions – and our experts will be providing answers! Look for these topics to be covered soon!

Water: What's the magic number? How much water should you drink per day?

Is there concern about BPA in food packaging?

Does the type of hen housing matter in regards to worker safety?

Have a food question you'd like answered? Click here to ask our experts!


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©2012 Best Food Facts | Kansas City, MO

USDA Joins Nation’s Communities to Feed Children during Summer Meal Gap PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by Amanda Browne   
Tuesday, 12 June 2012 07:22

By Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

While the kids are exuberantly shouting, “School’s out!” many parents may be quietly worrying just how they’re going to feed their kids all summer long.  I want to assure those moms, dads and caregivers that USDA has a program that can help.

All it takes is a toll free phone call to find a USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) site where children in low-income areas can get a free meal during the summer months when schools are closed.  The National Hunger Hotline (1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-866-348-6479) can give you locations of Summer Food Service Program sites open in your local area.  Just provide your zip code and the Hotline operator will tell you if there is a site near where you live.  This information is also available to Spanish speakers, 1-877-8-HAMBRE.

Summer meals are free for children 18 and under at open sites.  In addition to a healthy meal, the program offers enjoyable learning activities held in a safe place where kids can play with friends and make new ones.

Summer meal sites are located at libraries, schools, family centers, youth drop-in centers, park and recreation centers, faith-based organizations, day camps and food banks, and many other locations where children come together during the summer months. Sites offer activities such as arts and crafts, drama, sports, computer training, music and reading that keep kids interested and coming back day after day.   I’ve personally visited many sites and know that the kids have a great time and enjoy good meals.

We need to spread the word so that more families, parents and children know about this program and can find a site in their community. I encourage parents and sponsoring organizations to work with their schools to send Summer Food Service Program flyers and other outreach materials home with students before the end of school.  Our Website, includes templates for creating these materials.

SFSP is vitally important to the millions of kids who eat school lunch and school breakfast during the school year but have no nutritious alterative in the summer.  Only 3 million of the 22 million students who receive free or reduced price meals in the National School Lunch Program participate in a summer feeding program either through SFSP or through their school.

Summertime should not be a hungry time for these kids. SFSP fills that gap.  Healthy food gives kids energy so they can enjoy all the summertime fun, but also maintains their nutrition so they feel well and do well once they’re back in school.

At USDA, we’re committed to ensuring that all students have access to “food that’s in while school is out.”  We are here to help parents and communities make that a reality this summer.

From the Ashes of The Red Avocado... PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Food & Dining
Written by The Red Avocado   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 14:42

...arises Burt Family Food Services

Most of you probably already know that The Red Avocado is now out of business. This is the last newsletter to inform you of continuing services from Chef Dave. Please follow the links to find out more about any particular subject. We hope you will support us by following our new blog and "liking" our new Facebook page.

We have started a new business called Burt Family Food Services. Chef Dave is preparing weekly meals for pick up once a week - standard is 4 meals for 2. This service continues the successful Meal Plans that were available the last few years at The Red Avocado. All meals are vegan and 99% organic.

Cooking classes are ongoing through Kirkwood Community College and New Pioneer Food Co-op. These focus on vegan and seasonal cooking including a 4 part vegan whole foods series, vegan 3-course meals and intensive classes focusing on one particular ingredient. We will also be presenting free cooking demos throughout the year at various locations. Look for us at the market this summer, at the Field to Family Festival in September and at Willowwind School in the Fall.

Our original recipe veggieburgers are available locally and larger shipments can be arranged nationwide. Email to arrange an order. If you are outside of Iowa City, our teas, frozen veggieburgers and other dried goods can be shipped. Within a month or so we should have online ordering available via PayPal.

Around town, veggieburgers are available at The Wedge Downtown, New Pioneer Food Co-op delis and The Trumpet Blossom Cafe. In the future we hope to have the veggieburgers available from the frozen section of the Co-op again as well as the tea blends that were so popular.

We hope to be shipping veggieburgers via Buykind, a website that specializes in delivering vegan foods from restaurants around the country.

Private Nutritional and cooking consultations are also available. Email to arrange an appointment specific to your needs.

If you'd like to subscribe to our bimonthly newsletter please reply to this email with "subscribe" in the subject line. The newsletter will include links of interest, local news, nutritional information, recipes and special offers.

If you are interested in the meal plans and would like to receive the menus with no obligation to purchase please reply with "meal plan" in the subject line.

If you'd like both please reply with "subscribe meal plan" in the subject line.

Again, please visit our website and our Facebook page, as we continue to grow.

Thanks for your ongoing support.

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