Q. I was surprised to hear about the flour recall. Typically we hear about animal products causing illness, but flour causing people to get sick?
A. It’s important to understand that any food can cause foodborne illness, either through direct contamination of the product or cross-contamination through contact with other products. Flour is made by milling wheat, something grown outdoors that carries with it risks of bacteria that are rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling Because it is expected that foods made with flour will be cooked before eating, processors do not include a heating step, also known as “kill” step.
The important message for consumers is to use agricultural products as intended, i.e. avoid eating raw cookie dough or any other product that is supposed to be cooked or baked. Consumers should follow the package directions for cooking at the proper temperatures and for specified times. Consumers are also reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products or flour.
When using all agricultural products, caution is needed when foods are used in ways they were not intended. For example, there are numerous DIY recipes available for making playdough at home, using flour as an ingredient. This is not a safe practice and puts children at risk for foodborne illness.
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Q. My strawberries have notched edges on the entire outside of the leaf. Is something eating the leaves?
A. You likely have strawberry root weevil adults feeding on your leaves. You can apply an insecticide to the leaves and the base of the plant where the weevils rest.
Q. I have volunteer buckwheat in my hay. Should that be a concern for my livestock?
A. Buckwheat forage contains the photosensitizing agent fagopyrin, a dianthroquinone present in the green and dried plant, but not the ripe seeds. This compound, when absorbed into the blood and the surface of the skin, reacts with sunlight, causing photodermatitis (photosensitivity).
Light-skinned animals are particularly susceptible if they are fed a ration that is greater than 30 percent buckwheat and they are in the sun. Dark-skinned animals are not affected except for showing photophobia if the eyes are nonpigmented. Initially, nonpigmented skin becomes reddened, swollen and painful. Affected animals become agitated and look for shade. Keep affected animals out of the sun.