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UC Food Safety
University of California
UC Food Safety

UC Food Blog

Free information on food: Nutrition, food handling, safety, cooking, etc.

Mention that something is free and useful, and most of us will stop to take a look. And for good reason — the University of California has a number of websites that offer free information related to food.

Take your time to peruse the sites listed below. There is some fascinating and very handy information to be had. Many of these sites also offer terrific publications at nominal prices, but this blog lists only those that are free . . . and we all love a bargain! Many more publications and programs are available than those listed below.

After looking at these lists, you never know when you’ll be inspired to pickle some olives or field dress a deer. As for me, my latest food craze is cheese-making. Two weeks ago I made goat cheese (chèvre, to be sure), and last weekend I made camembert and blue cheeses. Now I just have to be patient for two months while they ripen . . .

Bon appétit and healthful eating!

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publications [link]

  • Tomatoes: Safe methods to store, preserve, and enjoy [link]
  • Olives: Safe methods for home pickling [link]
  • Egg basics for the consumer: Packaging, storing, and nutritional information [link]
  • Guidelines for food safety during short-term power outages: Consumer fact sheet [link]
  • Key points of control and management for microbial food safety: Edible landscape [link]
  • Safe handling of fruits and vegetables [link]
  • Safe methods of canning vegetables [link]
  • The healthy brown bag: 15 lunches for school-aged children [link]

Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center [link]

  • Storing fresh fruits and vegetables at home – poster (first copy free) [link]

Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center [link]

  • The Backyard Orchard – A plethora of publications on growing and harvesting in the home orchard [link]

Nutrition publications from UC Davis [link]

  • Nutrition and health information sheets on everything from energy drinks to osteoporosis to anemia, and more [link]
  • EatFit - An interactive web program to aid middle-school students in personal dietary analysis and "guided goal setting" [link]
  • “Nutrition Perspectives” newsletter - Research-based information on ongoing nutrition and food-related programs [link]
  • “Nutrition to Grow On” - A curriculum for grades four through six that offers teachers a direct link between the garden and nutrition education [link]

Food Safety Videos

  • Take a look at these humorous — but serious — music videos on food safety by renowned food safety expert Dr. Carl Winter. Who knew that the Beatles’ classic “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” could morph into “You’d Better Wash Your Hands”? [link]
  • More food safety music [link]

Cooperative Extension Offices [link]

  • Many county offices have publications on food production that is specific to climatic or regional needs of that county.

Publication of the Day!

  • Protecting food safety when shooting, field dressing, bringing a deer home, and cutting the carcass [link]
Posted on Friday, October 1, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Growing organic farmers

Well bef

ore Safeway launched a line of organic products or Craigslist posted openings for school garden coordinators, UC Santa Cruz was training students for careers in organic farming.

The UC Santa Cruz Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture started in 1967 when the concept of organic was in its infancy. Forty-three years later, organic has gone mainstream and the apprenticeship program is more popular than ever.

A recently published study looking at the apprenticeship’s last 20 years found that a large percentage of its alumni are still involved in growing and marketing organic food and teaching others how to do so.

“It’s like an incubator,” said lead study author Jan Perez, research specialist with the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. “It’s a place for people to really experiment and live their values and be in a supportive community.”

The six-month residential apprenticeship program, which the center runs in conjunction with UC Santa Cruz Extension, features hands-on training in gardens, greenhouses, orchards and fields. The program combines theoretical and practical instruction, with students not only studying in the classroom but also taking fields trips and marketing organic produce on campus.

Of 299 alumni surveyed, more than 80 percent have done some type of farming or gardening work since graduating, with 65 percent still doing this work. Forty-two percent said they created jobs that did not previously exist and 35 percent are working in an educational area, according to the study in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

For example, two apprentice alumni started Pie Ranch, a working Peninsula farm that educates high school students from San Francisco to Santa Cruz about sustainable agriculture. The farm, which grows ingredients for pies on its pie-shaped ranch, even has its own apprenticeship program.  

“They’re really spreading what they’ve learned,” Perez said.

Meanwhile, interest continues to spread in the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. Last year, applications rose to 187 for more than 30 slots. This year’s application period closed Thursday (Sept. 30).

The apprenticeship program takes place at UC Santa Cruz's farm and Chadwick Garden
The apprenticeship program takes place at UC Santa Cruz's farm and Chadwick Garden

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Elementary school students learn food science

Sixth-grade students from Hamasaki Elementary School in Los Angeles were surprised to learn that they could actually see iron in their breakfast cereal through a simple experiment involving ground up cereal, water and magnets. These same students also found out that learning about science could be fun.

The students were taking part in a celebration of 4-H National Youth Science Day at UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County Sept. 24. LA County advisors and program coordinators teamed up to give the students the opportunity to learn about nutrition, physical activity and the environment through fun, interactive science-based activities. The students learned about the body’s need for iron in the diet, what types of foods are rich in iron and how to identify these foods by reading the nutrition facts label.

For the experiment, the students were given plastic bags filled with ground up, iron-fortified breakfast cereal and water. They learned that the small bag represents their stomachs after consuming a big bowl of iron-fortified cereal. The kids were instructed to move a magnet slowly across the outside of the bag. Lo and behold, they observed tiny black particles trailing behind the magnet – they could actually see the iron in the cereal mixture. The students learned that once the cereal makes its way into the stomach, the iron is separated and dissolved by stomach acid and absorbed into the body.

Everyone was eager to take a turn with the magnet, including the teachers and chaperones.

Ellen Sandor and Cynthia Avila, youth Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program and and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program program coordinators, and Brenda Roche, the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, worked with the students to uncover the seemingly invisible mineral that is commonly fortified in many breakfast cereals.

Variations of this experiment are described on a number of different websites, including:

Other information presented to the students at the event included:

  • Climate change by Keith Nathaniel, the 4-H Youth Development advisor
  • Environmental and watershed conservation by Sabrina Drill, natural resources advisor
  • Physical activity and the science of physiology by Carly Marino, coordinator of the Power Play Campaign

For more information about the event, contact Roche at bkroche@ucdavis.edu, (323) 260-3299.

Students find iron in their breakfast cereal.
Students find iron in their breakfast cereal.

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:13 AM
  • Author: Brenda Roche

Obesity is linked with low earnings

Minimum-wage employees are more likely to be obese than those who earn higher wages, according to a new study by UC Davis public health researchers. The study is the latest in a growing body of evidence that shows being poor is a risk factor for unhealthy weight.

"Estimating the Effects of Wages on Obesity" was published in May 2010 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The authors, DaeHwan Kim and John Paul Leigh, identified several possible reasons why lower wages could support the tendency to be obese:

  • Poorer people tend to live in less-safe neighborhoods with reduced access to parks and other means of physical activity

  • Healthy, lower-calorie foods tend to be more expensive

  • Low-income families have less access to healthier foods and often have to travel greater distances than others to find healthier food options and lower cost


"The outcome leads us to believe that raising minimum wages could be part of the solution to the obesity epidemic," Leigh said.

In a news release, Leigh noted that a novel statistic technique used for the study gave the scientists a chance to evaluate an independent factor that is definitely not caused by obesity - minimum wages.

UC Davis Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr said experts are aware of the higher incidence of obesity among the poor, and believe that the causal relationship may go both ways.

"We know there have been cases of discrimination against the obese seeking employment for various types of positions," Zidenberg-Cherr said. "It is also true that, for minimum-wage earners, it is easier and cheaper to buy foods that are high in fat and sugar. They may not have the access or the education to make healthy food choices."

Leigh noted that the scientists' sample for the study were 85 percent men and 90 percent Caucasian.

"Future research should address wage and obesity correlations among samples that include more African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and women," Leigh said. "Obesity is a complex problem that likely has multiple causes. The more we can pinpoint those causes for specific populations, the greater chances there are for reducing its impact."

Low wage earners are more likely to be obese.
Low wage earners are more likely to be obese.

Posted on Monday, September 27, 2010 at 7:27 AM

A new approach in teaching healthy eating

UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educators have discovered that, when it comes to teaching consumers how to eat right, a picture is worth of thousand words.

“We’ve been teaching people for years about MyPyramid and the dietary guidelines, serving sizes and the number of servings they should eat, but many were having a hard time translating that to what exactly to put on their plates,” said Cathi Lamp, the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor for Tulare County UCCE.

In an effort to simplify nutrition education, UCCE started with a graphic of a plate, with half designated for fruits and vegetables and a quarter each for protein and grains. However, the concept was still too abstract for concrete thinkers.

“Then we hit upon the idea of photographing familiar foods in the right proportions and showing actual serving sizes arranged on a plate,” Lamp said.

Lamp, and the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisors for Fresno County, Connie Schneider, and Kern County, Margaret Johns, set out to review 24-hour recall surveys that had been conducted by participants in UCCE nutrition education classes. The 24-hour recall surveys, a mainstay in nutrition research, ask participants to write down everything they have eaten in the previous 24 hours. Each of the advisors focused on recalls from target population groups – Latinos, African-Americans and the general population.

Once they knew what foods people eat, Lamp, Schneider and Johns began the labor-intensive process of preparing and photographing test pictures showing healthy food combinations. Meals included chicken, pizza, spaghetti, sandwiches, tacos, pork chops, fish, stir fry, hamburger, soup and eggs.

Eighteen plates of food were photographed for initial, informal testing. Lamp took the photos to an education session at the local WIC office, where pregnant women and new mothers receive federal nutrition support.

“We handed out a little form and asked the moms if they could identify the foods, whether these were foods they would eat and, if not, what changes they would make,” Lamp said. “The WIC educators loved the images. They could see the value of images of healthy food right off the bat.”

The next step will be cognitive testing of the photos with target clientele, adjustment of the photos based on the results of the testing, retesting the photos in a nutrition education setting and analyzing the results.

Posted on Friday, September 24, 2010 at 6:26 AM

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