Newsworthy Info About Rhubarb, Coffee, and Pork

RhubarbIs rhubarb dangerous? Is coffee good for your health?  What did the USDA recently recommend about pork? The answers are all in the following article.


RHUBARB: Watch out for those leaves!


Rhubarb is in season and in the news right now.  The annual Rhubarb Festival in Lanesboro, Minnesota was held on June 4, and other such festivals are scheduled worldwide in the near future. 


What’s that, you say?  You never touch the stuff?  Well, give it at try.  Of course, it’s great in strawberry-rhubarb pie, but there are many other ways to use this deliciously tart member of the buckwheat family.  (Nope, it’s not a fruit.) At the Rhubarb Festival, rhubarb soup and nut-and-rhubarb bread are on the menu. Rhubarb is great in sauces, especially with roast pork, says Judy Hevrdejs, writing for the “Good Eating” section in the Chicago Tribune.  And her article includes a recipe for spiced rhubarb ketchup.  To learn more about how to integrate rhubarb into your meals, read Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook


Warning: Eat only the stalks. Rhubarb leaves are toxic.


COFFEE: yet another benefit added


We caught up with  this good news in three publications (listed in our “sources,” below):  According to a Swedish study published in March 2011, women who drank at least a cup of coffee every day were about 24% LESS likely to have a stroke over the following ten years (compared to those who  drank a smaller amount or none.) However, drinking more than one cup didn’t seem to be associated with an even lower stroke risk, the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter reported. Other studies have reported that coffee is protective against stroke for both men and women. Researchers have attributed this benefit to the antioxidant polyphenols in coffee and/or to the phenolic acids. This recent Swedish study did not consider whether the coffee was decaffeinated or not.


According to an EatingWell article posted on the Liquid Heaven blog, in the past few decades there have been more than 18,000 studies of coffee use and its effects.  In recent years, more and more researchers are finding health benefits in moderate coffee drinking (2-4 eight-ounce cups a day).  Moderate coffee drinking may help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Frequent coffee consumption (4 or more cups a day) is associated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (Decaf probably works better for this benefit.)  Furthermore, it seems that the more coffee people drink, the lower their risk of diseases of the liver.


BUT, though caffeinated coffee perks a person up, it has its down sides, too.  A daily habit of 5 cups or more is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.  And, as we all know, caffeinated coffee can lead to the jitters and a sleepless night. Caffeine stays in the body for 3-12 hours after consumption, the length of time being affected by many factors.  (For more on this point, click here.) With that in mind, your Shelf Life Advice guru drinks her final daily cup of caffeinated coffee with lunch. 


PORK: new USDA recommendations


Cooking whole cuts of pork: On May 24, 2011, the USDA lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 ºF to 145 ºF with the addition of a three-minute rest time. “Rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature after it has been removed from a heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed  from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which continues to destroy harmful bacteria.


Cook raw pork to 145 ºF, as measured with a food thermometer, before removing it from the heat source.  Add a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will result in a product that is both safe and at its best quality—juicy and tender. It is just as safe to cook  pork to 145ºF with a 3-minute rest time as it is to cook it to 160ºF, and the quality is likely to be better.


Color of cooked pork: Historically, consumers have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat. However, if raw pork is cooked to 145 °F and allowed to rest for three minutes, it may still be pink, but it is, nevertheless, safe to eat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients, or other factors. Cured pork (e.g., cured ham and cured pork chops) will remain pink after cooking.


Appearance in meat is not a reliable indicator of safety or risk. Only by using a food thermometer can you determine if meat has reached a sufficient temperature to destroy pathogens of public health concern. Any cooked, uncured red meat--including pork--can be pink, even when it has reached a safe internal temperature.


Cooking whole cuts of other meats: For beef, veal, and lamb cuts, the USDA’s recommended safe temperature remains unchanged at 145 ºF.  However, the agency has added a 3-minute rest time for beef, lamb, and veal also. 


Cooking temperature for ground meat:  The USDA recommendation for cooking ground meat remains the same as in the past—cook to 160ºF.  No rest time is required. 


This isn’t the first change the government has made in cooking temperatures.  In 2006, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reduced the recommended cooking temperature for poultry from 180ºF to 165ºF. Since 2008, pork producers have been requesting this lowering of the cooking temperature recommendation on their product. 


By the way, don’t forget to serve a tangy rhubarb sauce with your 145ºF pork entrée.






Parade, “Eat Your Way Across America,” May 22, 2011.


Chicago Tribune, Good Eating section “Rhubarb adds sass to supper”   May 25, 2011.


Consumer Reports on Health, Health Wire section “Coffee perks.”  June 2011.


Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, “Women Coffee Drinkers at Lower Risk of Stroke” June 2011. “The Health Pros and Cons of Coffee” “Antioxidants:  “How Long Does Caffeine Stay in Your Body?” “Cooking Meat? Check the New Recommended Temperatures” USDA’s “New Recommended Pork Cooking Temp: 145ºF” by Mary Rothchild, May 25, 2011 “USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperature for All Whole Cuts of Meat, Including Pork, to 145ºF”


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