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Keeping Food Safe: Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D. '76

Andress photo
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Andress, Ph.D. '76

You may be the best gourmet cook on your block and serve the most delightful Bordeaux, but, if you don't think about salmonella or e. coli when preparing for a dinner party, a good time may not be had by all.

"There are plenty of opportunities to prevent foodborne illnesses," says Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D. '76, professor of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia. Andress, also a food safety specialist with the Georgia Cooperative Extension since 1994, is recognized as the definitive source of information on home food preservation, food safety and quality, and foodservice sanitation.

"Bacteria and viruses, the most common causes of food poisoning, send more than 100,000 Americans to the hospital each year," Andress says. "People just hate to throw food out," she adds. "I often get asked whether you can still eat food if mold is growing on it. I encourage people to think about the cost of that container of food vs. hospital and medical costs if they get sick," she says.

Growing up in Haddonfield, N.J., Andress, 58, was introduced to roadside farm stands brimming with the season's freshest, locally grown produce, agriculture products and fruits of the season. Along with the fresher and healthier products that were so appealing, came her involvement in a 4-H club with practical, hands-on projects.

For the South Jersey girl who loved to cook and sew, Albright's home economics major was a natural fit. Andress admits that she now has little time to do either. "I like the science of cooking but I don't cook much at home," she says, "especially after handling and preparing food all day long."

Since July 2010, Andress has been serving as interim director for the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences. She teaches a senior level class on food sanitation and safety for the department and is the director of a USDA-funded
National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation. Currently conducting applied research on home canning methods and serving as a resource to many other institutions and agencies in Georgia, Andress has co-authored articles and books, including the Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving (2009; 1999).

Andress received a master's degree in family and child development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a doctorate in food science from The Pennsylvania State University, and was a 2002 recipient of Albright's Distinguished Alumna Award.

When it comes to teaching people how to keep their families safe from food poisoning at home, her best advice, she says, is to tell people to "clean, clean, clean and to cook, cook, cook – select foods wisely; wash hands, cooking surfaces, utensils often; thoroughly cook food and cool and store the finished product properly." Although Andress cautions people to be careful about contaminated food, she says, "don't let it drive you crazy."

When Andress is not teaching, she likes to travel and check out the farm stands that dot the roadsides. She enjoys admiring the variety of fresh, locally grown edibles, baked goods, jams, jellies and pickles – and almost always carries a camera. "I take photos of what not to buy," she says.

–Linda L. Mecca '08

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