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Friday, August 31, 2012

September is Food Safety Month: Separate the Myths from the Facts

By Nan Jensen, Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences

We do our best to serve our families food that’s safe and healthy, to reduce their risk of food borne illness, a serious public health issue that causes approximately one in six Americans to get sick each year. Washing our hands, clean and sanitizing work surfaces, keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and cooking foods to the proper internal temperature are some of the steps we can take to ensure that our food is safe to eat.

Sometimes though, we don’t have all the facts right. Here are some common myths from The Partnership for Food Safety Education about food safety that might surprise you.

Myth # 1-“If I microwave the food, the microwaves kill the bacteria so the food is safe.”

Fact #1- Microwaves are not what kill bacteria- it’s the heat generated by the microwaves that kills bacteria in foods. Food needs to be heated to a safe internal temperature. Always check for a safe internal temperature after microwaving. Use a thermometer!

Myth # 2- “Of course I wash all the bagged lettuce and greens- I could get sick if I don’t.”

Fact #2- While it is important to wash most fresh fruits and veggies, packaged greens labeled “ready-to-eat”, “washed” or “triple washed” do NOT need to be washed at home.

Myth # 3- “I don’t need to use a food thermometer. I can tell when my food is cooked by looking at it or checking the temperature with my finger.”

Fact #3- The only sure way to know food is safely cooked is to check the temperature with a food thermometer and confirm it has reached a safe internal temperature.

Myth # 4-“I can’t re-freeze foods after I have thawed them. I have to cook them or throw them away.”

Fact #4- If raw foods such as meat, poultry, egg products and seafood have been thawed in the refrigerator, then they may be safely re-frozen without cooking for later use.

For more information on handling food safely visit or for more on food safety myths.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grilled or Fried? Consumer Seafood Survey

Libby Carnahan,
Pinellas County Sea Grant Extension Agent  

Popcorn shrimp, smoked mullet, blackened mahi mahi, grouper piccata…no matter how you sauté it, smoke it, fry it, or grill it, Florida offers many tasty seafood options. But how do you decide what seafood to eat and where to buy it? Is it the cost, health benefits, or origin of your seafood that weighs on your mind?

The University of Florida Extension Service and Florida Sea Grant want to know. We are asking for the input of Florida residents on a statewide consumer survey, which should take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. Your feedback will help in the development of future university extension education and outreach programs.

Sign up for The Water Column, Pinellas Sea Grant Extension Newsletter
Follow UF Pinellas SeaGrant on Twitter

Friday, August 10, 2012

What’s Happening in Your Watershed?

Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent  
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern  

The Tri-County Water School will be held at Brooker Creek Preserve on September 11-12, 2012. This program is designed to educate community leaders, natural resource managers, and decision makers about critical water issues facing Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties. The goal is to encourage improved public policy decision relative to water issues in the counties and throughout Florida. Registration information can be found at

Florida’s rapidly growing population and vulnerability to changes in water quality and quantity make it essential to understand and address the current issues and future concerns facing our region. Water resources affect not only the availability of clean drinking water, but also agriculture, fisheries, aquatic life, recreation, and the tourism industry. Water is a vital resource in need of protection for the health of Florida’s citizens and economy.

Many complex factors have an impact on the Florida’s water resources. One such factor is the amount of pollution in a watershed. All the land on Earth is divided into watersheds that feed into rivers, springs, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, coastal zones, and aquifers from which a vast majority of Floridians get their drinking water. Contamination occurs as rainfall and storm water runoff flows through agricultural, urbanized and other developed areas, picking up chemicals, bacteria, and other pollutants before draining into a body of water. Improved understanding of watersheds and other factors impacting water quality and quantity is necessary for resolving water resource issues and developing sustainability strategies.

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Explore the Florida Climate

Mary Campbell, Extension Director
and Urban Sustainability Agent    

Is there such a thing as too much information? In the area of climate change, many would say “yes”. There is an abundance of information on climate variability from many sources. It can be confusing to know what information is reliable and from a trusted source. There are several reliable resources that Extension recommends if you want to understand more about the science of climate change.

The Florida Climate Institute (FCI), is a network of national and international research and public organizations, scientists, and individuals concerned with achieving a better understanding of climate variability and change. The FCI, founded in 2010 by the University of Florida and Florida State University, has over 200 members. FCI provides many resources including an “Environmental Minute” radio show available online that provides information on sea level rise, sustainability, and climate patterns.

Climate variability and change pose significant economic, food security, and environmental risks worldwide. Drought, storms with heavy rain, high winds, flooding, and freeze events cause millions of dollars in losses to agriculture and natural resources in Florida and globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that by the year 2100 global average temperature is likely to increase by 2 to 11.5°F, global mean sea level will rise from 7 to 23 inches, and increases in precipitation intensity and variability will increase the risk of both flooding and drought.

For up to date climate change information choose a reliable resource, such as the Florida Climate Institute ( ), EPA (, NASA ( or NOAA ( Critical information is now available to better inform citizens of potential impacts due to climate variability and change.

NASA Video illustrates warming.

Florida State Climatologist Offers Florida Climate Summary, Seasonal Climate Outlooks, Information on topics of concern (agriculture, climate change, climate variability, and drought.)

Agroclimate a climate-based decision support system for agriculture.

Southeast Climate Consortium

NASA videos.