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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well


MU Extension answers call for nutrition help with toll-free number

Eileen Yager, Communications Officer, University of Missouri Extension Cooperative Media Group


Consumers are bombarded with results from new studies, advertisements for products to improve their health and ever-changing recommendations about what to eat and what to avoid.

The almost daily—and sometimes contradictory—barrage of information can leave even the most well-informed individuals wondering how to maintain and improve their health, said Jessica Kovarik, a registered dietician with University of Missouri Extension.

Kovarik answers questions for people who call MU Extension’s Show Me Nutrition Line, which is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number is 1-888-515-0016.

“Nutrition professionals can sift through that information and help consumers figure out what health and nutrition really means for them,” Kovarik said. “It’s important to help people understand what a single study means and doesn’t mean.”

Kovarik said she looks at study details, such as the number of participants and who conducted the research, then compares the authors’ recommendations to those of other studies.

When she can, Kovarik mails additional information or refers callers to regional faculty for follow-up information.

Though the phone line has only been operational for a few weeks, Kovarik has already handled some of those perplexing questions. When she researched a question on cooking jalapeņo and serrano peppers, which have been linked to recent salmonella outbreaks, she discovered that two federal agencies offered conflicting advice.

Kovarik found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said to avoid eating both cooked and uncooked peppers, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said cooked peppers were safe to eat. However, there were no recommendations on the cooking time or temperature needed to kill the pathogen.

Ultimately, Kovarik advised the caller that without time and temperature recommendations there was no way to assure the safety of eating cooked jalapeņo and serrano peppers.

Funding for the Show Me Nutrition Line comes from MU Extension’s Family Nutrition Education Programs, which focus on encouraging low-income audiences to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Though low-income families are the primary audience, any Missouri resident can get information through the Show Me Nutrition Line.


For more information contact:

Jessica Kovarik, 573-884-0809





Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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