Food Safety Start at the Store

While the safety of the food supply has been monitored and regulated all along the food chain, it's your responsibility to select foods carefully at the store, then keep them safe until they're eaten.

  • Only buy food from reputable food businesses that follow government regulations for food safety.
  • Check the package. It shouldn't have holes, tears, or open corners. Frozen foods should be solid, and refrigerated foods should feel cold. Frozen foods shouldn't show signs of thawing.
  • Check safety seals and buttons. Safety seals often appear on milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Jars of foods often are vacuum-sealed for safety. Check their safety buttons or seals with your finger. If the indented safety button on the cap pulls down, it's still in place; if it's up, don't buy or use the food. Report the incident to the store manager.
  • Reject cans that are swollen, damaged, rusted, or dented. These are warning signs for bacteria that cause botulism. See "Bacteria: Hard Hitters" in chapter 12.
  • If you suspect food tampering, report it to the store manager. Once you're home, contact a public health authority, the local police, or, for meat and poultry, the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline (800-535-4555) or for other foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (888-SAFEFOOD).

Soybeans! Made into many food products, they're very versatile and nutritious. Compared with many other legumes, soybeans are a rich, unique source of high-quality, plant-based protein-unique because soybeans contain complete protein as does meat, with all nine essential amino acids needed to build and repair body cells. That's why many soy products make good protein alternatives in meatless meals!

Beyond that, soybeans are a good source of B vitamins. A source of essential fatty acids (including some omega-3s), soybeans' fat is mostly poly- and monoun-saturated. Tofu made with calcium sulfate, and calcium-fortified soy beverage and soy yogurt, deliver calcium.

Health benefits of soy may go beyond nutrients. Many soy foods contain isoflavones that may help lower risks for some diseases. Their two main isoflavones-genistein and daidzein-have weak estrogenlike effects. Current soy research is looking at potential benefits to heart health, blood pressure, and cancer protection, among others.

Fresh, canned, dried, or frozen . . . soybeans fit in soups, stews, casseroles, salads, pasta sauces, and Mexican dishes. And look for these soy foods next time you shop:

  • Produce Department: tofu, tempeh, edamame (ed-ah-MAH-may) (in the pod or shelled), soy sprouts
  • Grocery Aisle: canned black and yellow soybeans, dried soybeans, soy pasta (sold in many shapes), soy pudding, soy jerky, soy-nut butter (like peanut butter), soy cereal (soy flakes, granola, soy mixed with other cereals, soy grits), soy flour, soy baking mixes (for pancakes, muffins, brownies), soy protein and soy beverage powders (to add to drinks and other foods), seasoning mixes for burgers, chili and tacos with soy
  • Dairy Case: soy beverage, soy cheese, soy eggnog, soy yogurt, soy smoothies, dairy milk and dairy yogurt with soy protein, soy beverage-juice blends, soy sour cream. Although cholesterol free, these soy foods don't have the same characteristics as milk products.
  • Frozen Foods: edamame, soy entrĂ©es, soy sausage and patties, soy bacon, soy-based burgers, soy crumbles, soy ice cream
  • Snack Aisle: soy nuts, soy-nut trail mix, soy protein bars

Some notes about a few soy foods:

  • egg replacers: made from potato starch and lecithin, a soy-based product
  • miso (MEEsoh): fermented soybean paste, most commonly used as a flavoring in Japanese cooking. With a consistency like peanut butter, miso can be used as a condiment. But it's also prepared in dips, marinades, sauces, and soups. Depending on the amount used, miso adds protein, calcium, and some B vitamins to dishes. Unless it's a low-salt variety, miso tends to be high in sodium.
  • soy flour: flour that's much higher in protein but lower in carbohydrate than wheat flour. In baking, it's usually mixed with other types of flour.
  • soy mayonnaise: typically made with tofu. Read the ingredient list to find out if it's made with eggs.
  • soy oil and margarine: unsaturated fat extracted from whole soybeans. The most commonly available vegetable oil is made from soy. (Partially hydro-genated soy oil has more trans fat.)
  • soybeans (in the pod): picked immature and sold frozen or fresh. Edamame (ed-ah-MAH-may) are soybeans cooked in the pod and eaten as a snack.
  • soy sauce: a condiment in many Asian dishes, it comes from fermented soybeans. Although it adds flavor, it's not a significant protein source. Tamari is a wheat-free variety; shoyu is not.
  • tempeh (TEHM-peh): soybeans, mixed with rice, millet, or other grain, then fermented into a rich soybean cake. Tempeh has a smoky or nutty taste that adds flavor to soups, casseroles, chili, or spaghetti. It can be grilled or marinated. Like tofu, tempeh is a good protein source, but it has somewhat less calcium.
  • textured soy protein, or TSP: soy flour that's high in protein and often sold as granules, flakes, or chunks. You can use TSP to replace or extend meat or poultry. Vegetable burgers and sausages often are made with TSP, too.
  • tofu (TOH-foo), or soybean curd: a cheeselike curd, made from curdled soybean milk and pressed into soft cakes. Tofu easily takes up the flavor of other ingredients in a dish, including stir-fries, chili, tacos, salads, noodle dishes, and pizza. You can also buy flavored tofu, such as smoked, teriyaki, Mexican, and Italian tofu.

Tofu is sold in several forms: soft or silken for dressings, smoothies, soups, dips, shakes, and sauces; medium-soft for puddings, cheesecakes, pie fillings, and salads; and firm or extra firm for grilling, marinating, slicing, and stir-frying and in casseroles, soups, and sandwiches; baked for stir-frying and grilling. Tofu sold in bulk (not packaged) or in water needs to be refrigerated and used within a week because it's very perishable. It should be kept in water that's changed daily. Bought in an aseptic package, tofu doesn't need refrigeration until opened. You can freeze tofu for up to three months for a chewier texture.

Tofu is a good source of protein. Its calcium content is highest when it's calcium fortified. Look for calcium sulfate on the ingredient list and on the label.

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