Episode 3: Food Safety with Dr. Sparks Transcript

Sept. 7, 2020
[00:00:03.810] - Kayla

Hi everyone! Welcome to Nutrition Navigator's podcast, Bringing Nutrition and Wellness to You. Together, we learn from a variety of health professionals about their stories and how they contribute to the world that is wellness. This podcast is an extension of our campus health program, Nutrition Navigators spotlight series presentations. We are a monthly podcast where we interview health professionals in the field about health and wellness topics for college students. This is our opportunity to grow and build community with the University of Arizona students. My name is Kayla, I'm the student coordinator for Nutrition Navigators. Ashley Munro is my co-host and one of the nutrition counselors at Campus Health and the advisor for Nutrition Navigators. And we also have a third co-host today who will be joining us. She's a wonderful volunteer for Nutrition Navigators. Kirsten and I'll let her introduce herself.


[00:00:52.220] - Kirsten

Hi, guys. I'm Kirsten Ludwig. I am a pre-nursing major and I am about to start sophomore year. And the reason I decided to start with nutrition navigators is because I took nutrition 101 as a freshman and the course really interested me so I wanted to get more involved with nutrition on campus.


[00:01:09.450] - Kayla

Awesome. Thank you so much for introducing yourself Kirsten. I'm happy to have you here for today's podcast. So let's get started. On today's episode, we have the amazing Dr. Patricia Sparks from the Nutritional Sciences Department. She'll be sharing more about the awesome work that she does in her department. And now let's welcome Dr. Patricia Sparks.


[00:01:32.280] - Kayla

So hi, Dr. Sparks, welcome. If you could, please let our listeners know who you are, where you are from, and what it is you do.


[00:01:41.580] - Dr. Sparks

Well, I am an instructor in the nutritional sciences department. I have PHD in nutrition, but my background is more in foods; I started working in the food field when I was in high school and I have an undergraduate degree in foods. It was actually called experimental foods. Then from there I got a master's degree in journalism. But journalism with a subject matter, which was really at that point home economics. And then worked in a test kitchen in Chicago for a number of years where when people would ask me what I did, I'd say, well, I cook and I write about it. Then for a few years, I worked for the Chicago Board of Trade. And when I was working for them, I actually wrote about agricultural commodities. And then when I left there, I moved to Tucson, Arizona, and bought a restaurant. So for 13 years, I owned a small French restaurant. So I was the chef and owner. And then while I had the restaurant, I started working on my PHD in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona. And people would ask me if I was nuts. And you know, I really kind of looked at them and said, I own a restaurant. Sort of goes hand in hand. And then when I closed the restaurant, I was sort of at the right place at the right time. And was finishing up my PHD and started teaching at the U of A. I taught food science. The both the lab and the lecture and then the food management classes. And from there, I'm still doing all the food, not all, but I'm still doing food related classes. But I did a food and culture class, developed the food and culture class, developed a food safety and science class.  And I'm now working on a class that addresses the food system and where there are gaps in the food system. So that's kind of a really thumbnail sketch of where I came from and where I am.


[00:03:42.930] - Ashley

That's so awesome. This is Ashley. I love the variety in your background and just all the experience and things that you've done throughout your career. It's like a testament to nutrition and all the different ways you can kind of interact with food in your career. I guess I was interested; your background includes this culinary piece, the culinary world, writing about food, food test kitchens, owning a restaurant. You know, we're gonna touch on some food safety today. So how does all of that experience play into your understanding of food safety and maybe how you teach students about food safety?


[00:04:20.730] - Dr. Sparks

Well, anytime you have have a restaurant or a food service facility, there is food safety training that's required for someone in the facility. You know, you don't want to make your clientele sick. So you need to be really diligent and vigilant about how you handle the food. And that started I mean, when I was when I was a teenager, I worked in a small restaurant. It was more of a fast food restaurant, but it wasn't one of the big chains. But we were very conscientious about cleaning and making sure all the surfaces are clean and that the food is stored the way it needs to be stored. And that's just, you know, you might say it's common sense, but sometimes people don't necessarily think about all the ramifications if food sits out for a long time or if something from one food might drip into another food that can cause contamination or what we call in the business, cross contamination, that's really important.


[00:05:19.830] - Ashley

Do you find that students have a good understanding or curiosity, curiosity about food safety?


[00:05:28.350] - Dr. Sparks

 I think that students and people in general have a curiosity about food safety. I thought it was really fascinating when I owned the restaurant, if somebody was in the restaurant and then they had some sort of gastric upset, they would always call, you know, whenever your stomach feels kind of rumbling. The first thing that people do, people will think about is where did I eat, where have I been out? And in fact, the places you go to, the food service facilities may well be cleaner than your own kitchen. But people never stop to think that maybe they made themselves sick, that maybe they're responsible for making themselves sick because sometimes we don't have the practices in place all the time in our own kitchens, where you're sanitizing your surfaces and sanitizing your utensils between uses. And, you know, if you're making a stir-fry, you're gonna cut up some meat and then you're going to cut up vegetables. Well, in what order did you do that or did you that on two separate boards and use to separate knives. And these are things that people may or may not think about when they're doing their food preparation at home. Of course, if you cook that to the proper temperature, you'll probably take care of any issues that you might have caused by cross contamination. So yeah, I think there's a very big interest and fascination, or maybe not fascination, but interest in food safety.


[00:07:00.780] - Ashley

Yeah, I think everyone remembers a time that they got food poisoning or sick or.


[00:07:07.620] - Dr. Sparks

And food poisoning is very you feel like you're going to die and you want to die if you get food poisoning, because that's just how bad you can feel with it.


[00:07:18.320] - Kayla

Right. And I think that's such a great point that you make, because when I think about all the times like I've gotten sick from food, you know, we immediately think of, OK, what restaurant did I eat at or what fast food place did I eat at. Like, we're so quick to blame it on our restaurant because we think, oh, well, I didn't get myself sick at home. Like there's no way I could have done that. But in reality, what percent of people have actually been taught like the proper food safety methods. And I'm grateful to have known them because, I mean, not only from taking all these nutrition classes, but from working in a commercial kitchen with the garden kitchen at the U of A. So I know all of the procedures that we do there and I've actually taken it at home and I have practiced it at home and make sure to continue to do that and even kind of like stress it to my family members, like, "hey, that's not how you hold a knife or like make sure to use two different, you know, surfaces" like things like that.


[00:08:17.000] - Ashley

Don't thaw chicken on the counter


[00:08:20.530] - Dr. Sparks

In the current environment, the last thing you want to do is add to everybody's stress. And, you know, and using those same principles that are that are food safety principles will also help you disinfect areas in your home that can prevent other kinds of bacteria or viruses from surviving.


[00:08:42.840] - Kirsten

And I I think it's amazing that you've been able to do all these things like own a restaurant and then also work at the U of A. In terms of working at the U of A, of all the things that you've taught your students what are some of the most intriguing or your favorite things to teach at the University of Arizona?


[00:08:59.010] - Dr. Sparks

Well, there are a couple of things that I that I really sort of enjoy teaching. One of them, I no longer teach, but I used to teach the foods lab and that was always fun. And the lab that was everybody's favorite, interestingly enough, was the candy lab, because candy is something that it's a great venue to teach both chemistry and physics, because you're going from an amorphous to a crystaline state when you're making candy and you're breaking down sugar and those sugar molecules, as they break down, they release water. And that's why if you put sugar in a pan and you start when you start adding heat to it, you have those crystals that turn into a liquid and then eventually they come back into a crystaline state. But that was one thing that was really fun to teach. And the other thing that I really find fascinating or I really find that is so beneficial to the students is that I teach a food management class that is really a business class with a food service emphasis. And there are so many aspects to that class. You may never go into business for yourself, but in that class, you write a mission statement, you write smart objectives-- those are objectives that you can measure-- there are some other issues there, too. But you learn how to write those and you do an executive summary, in the midst of doing this entire project. And those are things that so many people at some point in their career are going to be asked to do. Students also do something called a SWOT analysis, and that's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. And a lot of times businesses or departments might not be in a business, it could be in a university, will take a look at and do that kind of analysis of their department or of some specific program that they're working on. So those are things that regardless of where you go with your career, they're really useful and they're really helpful. And unless you're in business classes, you're not going to ever gonna be exposed to these things. And they're really important concepts and it's an important skill set for students to have some opportunity to explore.


[00:11:18.510] - Kirsten

Right. I think that's amazing. Along with that, what is a good resource for students to learn about food safety?


[00:11:24.540] - Dr. Sparks

Well, there is the the National Restaurant Association has a program called, Serve Safe, and they have a serve safe book. And it is pretty comprehensive. It keeps up with the FDA food code, which is updated every two or three years, and they'll sometimes change little things in there. Like I mean, I've been teaching for quite a while. And during the course of the time that I've been teaching some of the temperatures and times for food safety measures have changed. So that's really good. And once you have consulted that book or taken a class, you can always get certified in food safety. That's not probably necessary for most people, but for the students in our department who are going to go on to be dietitians, they need some sort of food safety credential before they do their food service rotation as a dietitian. And that's a safety credential that is valid and it works, it's a nationwide credential or a nationwide certification. So it's a good thing for students in that area to have. And I know at one point there was talk of a program and this was through through family studies where they were going to be teaching people to work with care centers, whether they were child or adult care centers. And initially, when I developed the food safety and science class, it had the the serve safe as a component in it, that class has subsequently evolved into something else, because I'm not sure that program ever really developed in an FCS or family and consumer sciences.


[00:13:08.200] - Ashley

 I taught a class once for the United Way that was like teaching caretakers food safety and food, like how to prepare simple meals from. Was it something like that?


[00:13:21.210] - Dr. Sparks

Yeah it was, it had the food safety component and then most of the rest of the class dealt with basics of food preparation.


[00:13:30.850] - Ashley

And I was just like a volunteer opportunity that I did as a dietitian through United Way. And I don't, they probably still do it. I just haven't revisited that. I took Dr. Spark's food lab when I went to the U of A, so that was very fun. So I can definitely attest to that being a good health class.


[00:13:49.390] - Dr. Sparks

Yeah well it's the most fun you'll have in a lab class because you get to eat your experiments.


[00:13:55.630] - Ashley

So I loved bread week.


[00:13:59.650] - Dr. Sparks

Yeah everyone likes that one too. It's like bread and candy are their favorites.


[00:14:03.760] - Ashley

But it's true in the management class. You know, there's so much of this stuff that you learn. I felt like in a nutrition degree was so applicable in your life. You use it again in your life because it is those business and leadership and just kind of program and management. It's just so much of that is like applicable in lots of different ways. So yeah, I liked all those, those classes. Sorry Kayla go ahead.


[00:14:34.680] - Kayla

No, no that's awesome. I didn't even have any idea that there was a serve safe book like that, that is so cool.


[00:14:44.540] - Ashley

We'll have to put the link in the show notes for people if they want to kind of go down that route. And like, looking up temperatures and and things to learn, you know, you can find a lot of that stuff on either the FDA or the USDA web sites too, times and temperatures.


[00:15:03.530] - Kayla

Right. And it makes sense that it continually gets updated because it's always changing.


[00:15:08.470] - Dr. Sparks

Right, and the updates are based on the research. If they if there's accumulation of research that says, you know, like they reduce the temperature from 140 to 135 degrees. And that was based on research. And that research still builds in a buffer there so that, you know, if something is not properly cooked.


[00:15:38.690] - Ashley

Is that for the temperature danger zone?


[00:15:40.210] - Dr. Sparks

I'm sorry, yeah that's for the temperature danger zone. Yeah the upper end of that went from 140 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. But that was quite a few years ago, that's probably been, you know, ten or twelve years ago that that happened. But that's one thing I saw a change. And lately, recently, some of the times have changed, like when you're cooking chicken, it needs to go to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and it used to say for 15 seconds. Now it says instantaneous, as long as you get it to 165 degrees, it doesn't have to stay there for fifteen seconds. And chicken is a higher temperature because that's the temperature necessary to kill the salmonella.


[00:16:20.350] - Ashley

Right. That makes sense that it's instant, though, because you get you get a little. Is it because you get a little carryover? When you pull it 165.


[00:16:28.840] - Dr. Sparks

Well you will get a little carryover because a lot of times food will continue to cook a little bit once you take it off the heat.


[00:16:36.890] - Kayla

Interesting. Good stuff, good stuff people. Alright, so to close out the show with our Rapid Fire questions, I hope you've been thinking of your answers.


[00:16:50.020] - Dr. Sparks

 I can't even remember the questions.


[00:16:52.930] - Kayla

It's fine, it's fine. So there's like four super quick questions. But the first one's going to be if you could only have three foods ever again, what would they be?


[00:17:02.380] - Dr. Sparks

Well, I'd have to have a salad. I'd have to have ice cream. And I'm not sure about the third one. But the salad has a lot of different things on it. So yeah that kinda covers me there. Yeah so salad, ice cream, coffee.


[00:17:23.690] - Kayla

And then you've got some caffeine. All right. So next question is breakfast or dinner?


[00:17:30.370] - Dr. Sparks

Dinner. Definitely dinner.


[00:17:34.270] - Kayla

Next one, crunchy tacos or soft tacos?


[00:17:38.020] - Dr. Sparks

Well, usually soft. Just because they're not quite as messy as crunchy.


[00:17:42.290] - Kayla

Agreed. And last question: if you could have dinner with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?


[00:17:49.510] - Dr. Sparks

Well, this is an odd combination. I've got to tell you. Julia Child, Abraham Lincoln, and maybe somebody contemporary, Savannah Guthrie.


[00:18:09.290] - Ashley

 Alumni? I like it. Is Julia going to meet making dinner or is she just, you know, there to be fun and herself?


[00:18:21.710] - Dr. Sparks

Well, I hadn't really thought about that, but that's a good one. Yeah, well, I don't know. We could probably, you know, give each other a run for our money.


[00:18:35.320] - Ashley

Oooo like a cook off, it's like, okay. Dr. Sparks vs. Julia Child, ready and go.


[00:18:43.550] - Ashley

I love that.  Well, thank you Dr. Sparks, so much for coming on the show today, we really appreciate


[00:18:49.070] - Dr. Sparks

Well thank you for having me, this was really fun.


[00:18:52.730] - Ashley

I think any way we can kind of remind students of resources and, you know, different things we can do with nutrition and our careers and, you know, food safety, I think it all plays to be those practical things we need as humans to move through the world safely.


[00:19:11.900] - Dr. Sparks

Well, and it's kind of important now because I think people are doing more of their own cooking than maybe they did , you know, even four months ago.


[00:19:20.540] - Ashley

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. We really appreciate you.


[00:19:24.320] - Dr. Sparks

Thank you. It was my pleasure.


[00:19:27.170] - Ashley

And that's our show. Thank you so much for listening today. Please share with your friends and connect with us on all our campus health social channels. You can also e-mail us at chs/nutritionnavigators@ email.arizona.edu, to submit your questions and comments about the show. We're so excited to be bringing you monthly content to spark curiosity and further empower you to feel your best. We're sponsored by Campus Health and our program in health promotion and preventive services. We want to thank Dr. Sparks so much from the Nutritional Science Department for coming on the show today and taking the time to connect. We'd also like to thank our sound engineer, Brian Paradise, for coordinating our show.


[00:20:07.160] - Ashley

Until next time, be well, wildcats.