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UC Food Safety

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Protecting California’s parsley crop

Parsley with disease symptoms.
When most people think about parsley, they likely think of it as an inedible garnish a chef places on their plate. But parsley is widely used in dried spice mixes, soups and other prepared foods as well as in salads and other recipes. Currently, California produces almost 2,600 acres of parsley at a value of $18 million a year, with Monterey and Ventura counties accounting for 49 percent of the state's parsley production.

California parsley is produced typically in high volumes and with high quality. However in the past few years, growers began to observe unfamiliar disease issues in their parsley fields. Leaf spots, blighted foliage and yellowed plants contributed to loss of quality and reduced yields. Steven Koike and Oleg Daugovish, UC Cooperative Extension advisors in Monterey and Ventura counties respectively, stepped in to investigate the new parsley problems. They collaborated with farmers and pest control advisers to understand the extent of the problems and to obtain samples of the diseased crops. 

The UC Cooperative Extension plant pathology diagnostic lab in Salinas was successful in isolating and identifying several pathogens that were responsible for causing the disease symptoms. Working with USDA, they found that three new diseases were present in California parsley crops: bacterial leaf spot, Stemphylium leaf spot, and Apium virus Y disease.

Two of these problems are seedborne, so future management will include the use of pathogen-free seeds. The Apium virus Y pathogen is found in weeds, so growers will need to remove poison hemlock, among others.

Previous to this research, some growers were spraying symptomatic fields because they believed that a disease called late blight was responsible for the disease symptoms. Growers have now ceased making these sprays, eliminating the use of unnecessary chemicals and saving costs.

Click here for more on this research.

California produces almost 2,600 acres of parsley at a value of $18 million a year.
Posted on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 11:03 AM
  • Author: Jennifer Rindahl

A New Year and a 'new'tritious new you!

It's that time of year when many people choose a resolution that helps them kick a bad habit, but sometimes making a sudden change is hard to stick to. This year, make a resolution you can actually keep by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Need some ideas to get started?

Breakfast: Drink 4 oz. of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. Top cereal or yogurt with 1/2 cup of berries or sliced banana.

Lunch: Try a salad as your main dish with the dressing on the side.

Snacks: Trail mix with dried fruit or a piece of fruit such as an apple or an orange is an energizing snack that can also be satisfying if you have a sweet tooth.

Dinner: Enjoy a side of mixed vegetables or have fruit for dessert. All forms of produce count: dried, fresh, 100% juice, canned, and frozen. Try a variety of fruits and vegetables so you don't get bored!

Here are some tips for you and your family to try new foods:

New foods take time. Offer new foods many times. Children don't always take to new foods right away.

Keep portions small. Let your kids try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. When they develop a taste for many types of foods, it's easier to plan family meals. 

Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself and describe its taste, texture, and smell to your family.

Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that is familiar to your child along with the new food. Offering too many new foods all at once could be overwhelming. 

Tex Mex Skillet


  • 1/2 medium head lettuce
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic or 1/4 tsp garlic   powder
  • 2 oz low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15 1/2 oz) can of black beans
  • 1 pound ground beef, chicken, or turkey
  • 1 (12 oz) bag of frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and cumin
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 whole wheat flour tortillas


  1. Rinse and peel vegetables.
  2. Chop lettuce, mince garlic, halve jalapeños, and dice peppers.
  3. Grate tomato, onion, and cheese.
  4. Drain and rinse beans.
  5. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook meat, bell pepper, and garlic until meat is lightly browned.
  6. Stir in corn, beans, water, and     spices. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. Make a salsa using jalapeño, tomato, and onion. Stir and set aside.
  8. Divide meat mixture among       tortillas. Top with cheese, salsa, and lettuce. Roll up and enjoy!

Melissa Tamargo is a program representative with the UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program state office.





Posted on Monday, December 22, 2014 at 8:58 AM

Five ways NOT to poison friends and family during the holidays

The food-safety danger zone is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
‘Tis the season for gathering with friends and family and eating. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus for the rest of us, many of us invite people to our homes during the holidays and leave food out to graze. Leaving food out for more than two hours can be hazardous to your health and that of your guests, caution UC Cooperative Extension nutrition experts.

You may be thinking, “My family has eaten food that has been sitting on the table longer than two hours and survived.” Consider yourself lucky.

“We keep learning more about foodborne illness,” says Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor in San Diego County. “We probably did get sick, but we thought it was something else, like the 24-hour flu.”

She added that kids, diabetics, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

For the holidays and all year long, Wooten Swanson offers these food safety tips:

  • Thaw turkey or meat in the refrigerator.
  • Don't wash raw meat or poultry in the sink before cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when meat or poultry is done.
  • Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
  • On the fourth day, throw leftovers away.

Guacamole and salsa shouldn't be left out for longer than 2 hours.
Thawing foods correctly and storing them at the right temperatures is important, said Wooten Swanson.

“Bacteria grow very rapidly,” she said. “From 40 degrees to 140 degrees is what we call the danger zone. We encourage you to get food out of that temperature range as soon as possible. Don't let food sit on the table after you finish eating and go to watch TV.”

While you're watching football, she also recommends not leaving food out the length of a game.

“Chips are fine to leave out,” Wooten Swanson said, “But put the salsa and guacamole in small containers, then put out new bowls at halftime. Take away the original containers to wash or discard.You don't want to refill a bowl that has been out for 2 hours.”

Washing your hands can prevent bacteria from spreading to food.
Food safety begins with clean hands.

“We put an emphasis on hand washing because it can prevent cross-contamination, which helps prevent foodborne illness and can keep us healthy during the flu season,” said Connie Schneider, director of the UC Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program.

She recommends rubbing your hands together with soap and water for 20 seconds to thoroughly clean them.

The UC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) teaches hand washing as a food safety practice in its nutrition classes for adults and children. After taking the class in San Diego County, 72 percent of the 340 participating adults improved their safe food-handling practices and 55 percent of 1,231 children improved, said Wooten Swanson, who oversees the nutrition and food safety education program.

For more food safety resources, visit UC Cooperative Extension's  "Food Safety for the Holidays" website and Nebraska and Iowa State Cooperative Extension's food safety website at  For USDA recommended temperatures for cooking meat, visit

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Taste a colorful rainbow of citrus at UC research facility

Hundreds of different citrus varieties are available for tasting at last year's citrus tasting event.
The UC citrus research center swings open its doors this week to give farmers and the public the opportunity to view and taste dozens of mandarin varieties - which in recent years have emerged as Americans' favorite citrus – as well as sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, kumquats, blood oranges, tangors and many other types of citrus fruit.

The 175-acre UC ANR Lindcove Research and Extension Center is situated where the valley and Sierra Nevada foothills meet in eastern Tulare County. Research conducted at the center plays a major role in maintaining California's position at the forefront of high-quality citrus production for markets throughout the United States and the world.

Citrus Industry Day - Dec 12: From 9 a.m. to 12 noon, citrus growers, pest control advisers and other industry professionals are invited to taste citrus fruit at their leisure, discuss new low-seeded mandarin varieties with UC Riverside plant breeder Mikeal Roose, and consult with UC Cooperative Extension advisors Neil O'Connell of Tulare County and Craig Kallsen of Kern County. At 10 a.m., UC Riverside plant pathology specialist Georgio Vidalakis, director of the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program, will explain the center's role in providing the citrus industry with disease-free citrus propagative material. Immediately following the CCPP presentation, UC Riverside principal museum scientist Tracy Kahn will lead a tour of the Lindcove demonstration orchard and discuss new citrus varieties.

General Public Day – Dec 13: From 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Lindcove is open to the public. In addition to citrus tasting, there will be a special activity for children and the opportunity to consult with UCCE Master Gardeners about backyard citrus horticulture and pest management. The tasting event is free. Visitors wishing to take home samples of Cara Cara, Washington navels, mandarins and assorted fruit, may purchase a tote bag full of fruit for $5. All funds raised by the bag sales will supplement educational activities at the center.

At both events, Mary Lu Arpaia, UC Riverside post harvest specialist and David Obenland, plant physiologist at the USDA-ARS San Joaquin Valley Agriculture Center, will be inviting visitors to participate in a research project that involves taste testing of citrus fruits.

The weekend's events mark the launch of Lindcove's Conference Center Outdoor Enhancement Campaign. Funds will be used to upgrade the conference center parking area, plant demonstration orchards and add an outdoor amphitheater where school children can learn about citrus.

“We want to increase our outreach to the community,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, Lindcove director and UC Riverside citrus entomology specialist. “These planned improvements will enhance our ability to accommodate school children, tour groups and community organizations for educational experiences at Lindcove.”

The Lindcove Research and Extension Center is at 22963 Carson Ave., Exeter. The tasting takes place in the conference center building, located at the end of Carson Ave. on the right. For more information about the tasting events, contact Anita Hunt, (559) 592-2408, ext 151,

The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Gardens contribute vegetables, ease hunger among San Jose residents

A Santa Clara County resident works in a community garden.
People who grow their own vegetables in a garden typically consume enough fresh produce to meet the USDA Dietary Guidelines for a healthy diet, according to a recent UC Cooperative Extension survey of San Jose residents.

A diet containing lots of vegetables is lower in calories and higher in fiber and good for our health. Yet, not everyone has easy access to fresh vegetables in the United States.

“Growing vegetables and having a garden is an effective intervention to promote increased vegetable consumption among all Americans,” said Susan Algert, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Santa Clara County, who conducted the survey. “This is evidence for bringing back popular home gardens or ‘Victory gardens' of the past rather than investing exclusively in SNAP benefits for purchased foods.”

SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps), now allows participants to buy seeds with their benefits, which helps low-income people who want to grow their own veggies, she said.

Vegetable consumption falls well below the U.S. Dietary Guidelines in much of the U.S., particularly among African American, Latino, low educational attainment, and low-income populations.

Algert and fellow UC Cooperative Extension researchers looked at background characteristics, vegetable intake and program benefits of people who cultivated a home garden versus those who participated in a community garden.

“The home gardeners were significantly younger, had lower incomes, were less likely to have completed college and were more ethnically diverse than the community gardeners,” said Algert, who specializes in nutrition. “In other words, the background characteristics of the two groups varied significantly. In spite of these significant demographic differences, both groups increased their vegetable consumption from the garden to the same extent, by about two servings.”

In fact, by supplementing with food from their gardens, both groups met the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for recommended daily servings of vegetables to promote optimal health.

A lack of experience as gardeners didn't affect the results much. Fifty eight percent of the home gardeners reported having less than two years of experience whereas only one-third of community gardeners were novices.

“This study demonstrates that growing fresh vegetables in either a home or community garden setting can contribute significantly to a person's nutritional intake and food security at all income levels by making it a more affordable to maintain a healthful diet,” said Algert. Urban gardeners also experience a number of other benefits including exercise, stress release, and learning about gardening from their peers and mentors.

The study was a partnership with the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department of the City of San Jose and La Mesa Verde, a project of Sacred Heart Community Services of San Jose. The UCCE research group worked with the Parks Department to administer a 30 question background survey to 83 community gardeners in four different gardens during April through September 2012. The same survey, slightly modified, was administered to a group of 50 home gardeners participating in Sacred Heart's La Mesa Verde project between September 2013 and April 2014.

Posted on Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 1:14 PM

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