Community calendar

The Wyandotte Daily News is interested in news of your community event in Wyandotte County. Send information to news@wyandottepublishing.com and include your name and phone number.

Sign up for library’s reading program
The Kansas City, Kan., Public Library’s summer reading program has started signing up readers. The program runs from June 1 to July 31. Participate at any of the five library branches. After signing up, participants may start logging books on June 1. For more information, visit the website at www.kckpl.org.

Croquet tourney scheduled May 16
The fifth Downtown KCK Cork House croquet tournament will be held at 4 p.m. May 16 at 509 N. 6th St.  The tourney could be held on the City Vision Champion Lawn and another course could be added to the south near St. Mary’s Church. The cost of the tournament is $10, including food and drinks. For more information, call 913-371-1944.

Democratic breakfast to be May 17
The Wyandotte County Third Saturday Democratic Breakfast will be May 17 at the Eisenhower Room in the Hilton Garden Inn, 520 Minnesota Ave. Breakfast is at 8:15 a.m.; the program starts at 9:15. Speakers will be State Sen. David Haley and State Reps. Kathy Wolfe Moore and Tom Burroughs. A precinct and campaign training workshop, led by Kansas Democratic Party political director Kerry Gooch,  will take place immediately after the breakfast forum.

Free bike rodeo May 17 to provide bike helmets for kids
The free KCK Kiwanis West Bike Rodeo returns Saturday, May 17, to the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, 9400 State Ave., Kansas City, Kan. Elementary-aged kids will have the opportunity to learn tips on cycling safety, participate in interactive activities that promote health and safety and to sneak a peek at attractions at Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark at the eighth annual bike event. Hours are from 9 a.m. to noon May 17. The event sponsors plan to distribute up to 300 free bike safety helmets and T-shirts to participants. Activities will take place in the parking lot and entrance area of Schlitterbahn, and a large turnout is anticipated. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Kids are encouraged to bring their bicycles. Helmets will be fitted, bikes will be inspected for safety, and kids may visit bike riding stations to earn a safety certificate. Those with questions on the day of the event may call 816-751-4227.

Time management class offered
Keeler Women’s Center, 2220 Central Avenue, KCK, will present a workshop, “Time Management for Women,” from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Monday, May 19, presented by Chiquita Miller of K-State Extension. Call 913-906-8990 to register.

African-American Art Festival planned Aug. 9
The MoKan African-American Art Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at Quindaro Park, 35th and Sewell, Kansas City, Kan. Those attending the free event may bring a blanket, enjoy artwork, stilt walkers Gullah basket weathers, African drummers and dancers, food and vendors. For more information about having an art exhibit there or being a vendor, contact 913-788-7330.

Take precaution when spicing your foods

Research from Kansas State University in Olathe has shown that four out of 10 spices, sold in bulk in the Kansas City metro area, contain contaminates that could be harmful to your health.

If you’re using bulk spices, you might want to consider not sprinkling the black pepper on your already cooked meal.

About six months ago, Patrick Williams, a research assistant professor at K-State Olathe who works in bio-molecular testing, began studying spices as they relate to food safety.

“Spices are somewhat of the last frontier in food safety,” Williams said. “In fact, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) recently published a white paper calling attention to foodborne pathogens and other materials present in spice products.”

The recent FDA report (http://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/foodscienceresearch/risksafetyassessment/ucm367337.pdf) cited that the types of microbial pathogens found in spices might include salmonella, bacillus and staphylococcus aureus, among others. Filth adulterants found have included live and dead whole insects and insect parts; excrement from animals, birds and insects; hair from humans and animals; and many other foreign materials.

Twelve percent of spices brought to the United States are contaminated, according to the FDA. Williams and his colleagues found a much higher percentage of contamination in the spices they tested, but he said they tested only bulk spices from a specific area, the Kansas City metro area, whereas the FDA tested a much broader pool of spices.

Of all the spices the K-State group tested, Williams said four out of 10 showed contamination by one or a combination of three items: heavy metals; mycotoxins, which indicate fungal contamination; and bacteria.

“Our research has found that some of the spices we’ve purchased from farmers’ markets and bulk spice vendors are positive for salmonella,” he said. “There are four spices that are typically associated with salmonella contamination: black pepper, thyme, oregano and turmeric.”

Williams added that many of the spices were also contaminated with a variety of non-pathogenic, soil-associated bacteria, such as enterobacter, klebsiella, pseudomonas and bacillus subtilis.

None of the cinnamon and ginger bulk spices tested were contaminated. Williams said this might be due to the antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of these spices that make them less susceptible for contamination.
 
Be careful buying in bulk

Bulk spices are more prone to contamination, particularly at the point where they are being sold, Williams said, as it’s at that point where the quality control measures tend to cease.

“If you’ve been to a farmers’ market or bulk vendor where they have the spices out in barrels or boxes that don’t have lids on them, they are open to the public,” he said. “You can watch people put their hands in them and savor the spices, which means there is a high risk for contamination.”

There is a risk at farmers’ markets, Williams said, and also in U.S. grocery stores that sell bulk spices. Many spices sold in stores are imported, as the United States is not a major producer of spices.

U.S. governmental organizations continue to push hard to establish safe-handling food and agricultural practices across the entire food industry, he said, including working outside the United States with other countries to establish similar practices. But, this will take time.

“One aspect of this research that we find particularly intriguing is some spices that come from mostly India and Asia are contaminated with bacteria associated with soils,” Williams said. “These soil bacteria are considered non-pathogenic and could be carrying plasmids, which carry genes for antibiotic resistance.”

Because one of the key public health concerns today is antibiotic resistance, Williams hopes to study this area further with imported spices.
 
Reducing your risk

Understanding how the spices could have been contaminated and properly cooking bulk spices is important in helping reduce the risk of getting foodborne illness.

Heavy metals are a concern, Williams said, as people can contract metal toxicity from consuming high levels of lead, iron or other industrial-associated metals in spices. If rusty farm equipment is used to process the spices, that rust will likely show up in the final product.

“There’s been concern that some spices are being irrigated with industrial wastewater,” he said. “If that’s the case, the plants will take up these heavy metals, and they will ultimately end up in the spice product.”

Mycotoxins are toxic molecules that are left behind by molds and fungi, Williams said. They likely contaminate the spice product shortly after harvest or if the spice is allowed to get damp from farm to vendor.

“The molds grow on the spices, and they leave behind toxins,” he said. “Many of these toxins, like aflatoxin, are considered to be carcinogens. Mycotoxins like ochratoxin may in fact be a carcinogen.”

Williams said he continues to catalog toxins present in the spices he’s tested and focus mostly on those bulk spices consumers can buy in and around Kansas City.

For those who buy bulk spices to cook with, they have little need to worry. Always cooking these spices to at least 160 degrees will eliminate the bacteria, he said.

“If you use spices a lot at home and you’re cooking them, it should be fine,” Williams said. “If you’re going to use them on an item that’s already been prepared, sprinkling oregano on your pizza for example, I would tend to favor brands of spices that are prepackaged for you at your local grocery store.”

In the coming weeks, Williams and his team will conduct studies where they will prepare cold summertime dishes, such as deviled eggs and potato salad, sprinkle known contaminated spices onto the dishes and culture the actual foods to see if they can recover the pathogenic strains on the foods. He said they will simulate this much like foods would be prepared, handled and stored by people at home, to make it as real-world as possible.

More information about food safety can be found at local extension offices throughout Kansas or by going online to K-State Research and Extension’s food safety website (https://www.ksre.ksu.edu/foodsafety/) and the K-State Rapid Response Center’s website (http://www.rrc.ksu.edu/).

Facts about the war on wheat

by Lori Wuellner

There’s a good chance that you know someone who has banned wheat from their diet or even declared that they have gone gluten-free.  What’ up with this evolving craze?  A number of books and television programs have popularized this diet by claiming that wheat is responsible for belly fat, gastrointestinal issues and mental health conditions.  However, there isn’t enough science to back up the authors’ claim.  So, if you are thinking about eating gluten or wheat-free, here are the facts:
Celiac Disease, Wheat Allergy and Wheat Sensitivity/Gluten  Intolerance
Wheat isn’t for everyone.  Just less than 1 percent of people in the U.S. suffer from an autoimmune condition called celiac disease.  In addition, an estimated one-half of one percent of people in the U.S. are allergic to wheat, and unknown number of Americans have a less well-defined condition often characterized as wheat sensitivity or gluten intolerance.  The key here is that you should be diagnosed with one of these conditions by your health care provider before eliminating these foods from your diet.  People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance should avoid eating foods that contain any type of wheat, and may have to avoid barley and rye which also contain gluten.
True celiac disease is wicked, and the diet is not fun to follow.  People with it wish they could occasionally eat just one slice of bread but that one slice of bread will ravage their gut.  People without the disease may feel better eating gluten free but most likely they are experiencing the “halo” or placebo effect.
Belly fat
Eating too many calories and not exercising contributes to belly fat, and it’s easy to eat too many refined grains found in pastries, snacks and other processed foods.  So, instead of eliminating all wheat, choose more whole grains.  A recent study found that people who at least 3 servings of whole grains each day including wheat had 10 percent lower belly fat compared to people eating no whole grains.
Your brain on wheat
The claims about what effect wheat may have on the brain don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny either.  The brain needs carbohydrates for energy, and grain foods are an excellent source.  When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, you will feed tired, unable to focus, irritable and may have headaches, and memory and learning problems.
Gut health
Followers of these popular diets may say that they feel better when they give up wheat and as mentioned they may be experiencing a “halo” or placebo effect.  However, when you eliminate grains from your diet, it’s difficult to get the fiber you need to maintain a healthy gut, immune system and overall health.  Fiber helps with maintaining good blood sugar control and good blood cholesterol and avoiding constipation.  Fiber also serves as food for the friendly bacteria that keep your gut healthy.
Bottom line
If you still want to try a gluten-free or wheat-free diet, look for other whole grains that you can include instead like brown rice, quinoa, or popcorn.  Visit the Whole Grains Council for more ideas and recipes and for gluten-free recipes you might want to check out www.celiac.com.
(Source:  Lisa Martin, MPH, RD, LD, County Extension Agent, Shawnee County)

Lori Wuellner is a Wyandotte County Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, K-State Research and Extension, 1216 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. Telephone 913-299-9300, email lwuellne@ksu.edu.