Things you can do to reduce foodborne illnesses

October 13, 2013

Did you know the CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick from contaminated food each year?

Most people will recover without a problem, however 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases annually. And for some the effects of food poisoning can have long-term health consequences.

For the past few weeks there has been an ongoing Salmonella outbreak associated with raw chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California. According to Wired.com there are seven strains of Salmonella circulating within this outbreak and four of the seven strains are drug-resistant.

The CDC reports 1,000 or more reported outbreaks that happen each year in the U.S. reveal familiar culprits—Salmonella, E. coli and other common germs. And health experts know (and people need to learn) that reducing contamination works.

foodborne illness-chicken-smDuring the past 15 years, a dangerous type of E. coli infection, responsible for the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef, has been cut almost in half. Yet during that same time, Salmonella infection, which causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of germ found in food and $365 million in direct medical costs annually, has not declined.

Each year, 1 million people get sick from eating food contaminated with Salmonella. Applying lessons learned from reducing E. coli O157 infections could help reduce illness caused by Salmonella.

But realize more than 250 different foodborne diseases have been identified and described on record. Most of these diseases are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be foodborne.

These different diseases have many different symptoms, so there is no one “syndrome” that is foodborne illness. However, the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, and often causes the first symptoms there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne diseases.

Common myths about food safety at home

Myth: It’s OK to thaw meat on the counter. Since it starts out frozen, bacteria isn’t really a problem.

Fact: Actually, bacteria grow surprisingly rapidly at room temperatures, so the counter is never a place you should thaw foods. Instead, thaw foods the right way.

Myth: I don’t need to wash fruits or vegetables if I’m going to peel them.

Fact: Because it’s easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind you’re cutting to the inside of your fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash/scrub all produce, even if you plan to peel it.

Myth: To get rid of any bacteria on my meat, poultry, or seafood, I should rinse off the juices with water first.

Fact: Actually, rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water can increase your chance of food poisoning by splashing juices (and any bacteria they might contain) onto your sink and counters. The best way to cook meat, poultry, or seafood safely is to make sure you cook it to the right temperature. (Or if you do rinse them [as we do], immediately clean sink, faucet and counters around sink with a bleach water mixture as explained below.)

Myth: Marinades are acidic, which kills bacteria—so it’s OK to marinate foods on the counter.

Fact: Even in the presence of acidic marinade, bacteria can grow very rapidly at room temperatures. To marinate foods safely, it’s important to marinate them in the refrigerator

Myth: Once food has been cooked, all the bacteria have been killed, so I don’t need to worry once it’s “done.”

Fact: Actually, the possibility of bacterial growth actually increases after cooking, because the drop in temperature allows bacteria to thrive. This is why keeping cooked food warmed to the right temperature is critical for food safety.

Things you can do to reduce food borne illnesses 

  • Clean. Wash hands, cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. To clean everything effectively use a mixture of 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart/liter (or gallon/4 liters) of water. Also wash cooking utensils used to handle raw meats before you use them to remove cooked food stuffs. And always wash your hands [and under fingernails] after cracking open eggs and handling raw meats of any kind.
  • Separate. Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods. If possible, use different cutting boards for meats and veggies (or at least always use 1 side for meats and the other for produce) … and wash it with a mixture of water and bleach (see above) to remove germs before turning it over since meat juices can spread. Also use separate plates or dishes for raw versus cooked meats.
  • Cook. Use a food thermometer to ensure that foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F (63°C) for whole meats (allowing the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or consuming), 160°F (71°C) for ground meats, and 165°F (74°C) for all poultry.
  • Chill. Keep your refrigerator below 40°F (4°C) and refrigerate food that will spoil.
  • Report suspected illness from food to your local health department.
  • Don’t prepare food for others if you have diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Be especially careful preparing food for children, pregnant women, those in poor health, and older adults.

 

Visit FDA’s Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill pages to see the most effective ways to help keep your family safe from food poisoning or learn more on www.foodsafety.gov or www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/. Take care, j & B

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Friday Fotos: Powerful and beautiful Niagara Falls

October 11, 2013

niagara falls-smFor this week’s Friday Fotos we’re sharing some interesting views of Niagara Falls ~ esp. in video at bottom.

According to Wikipedia, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States; more specifically, between the province of Ontario and the state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge.

From largest to smallest, the three waterfalls are the Horseshoe Falls (on the Canadian side) and the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls (on the American side). The international boundary line was originally drawn through Horseshoe Falls in 1819, but the boundary has long been in dispute due to natural erosion and construction.

Some interesting facts from Niagara Falls Canada

  • The Falls at Niagara are about 12,000 years old
  • Falls were formed when melting glaciers formed massive fresh-water lakes (the Great Lakes) one of which (Lake Erie) ran downhill toward another (Lake Ontario). The rushing waters carved out a river in their descent and at one point passed over a steep cliff like formation (the Niagara escarpment). From the original falls going over the Niagara Escarpment, the water began to wear its way back up the river. The path that it left is known today as the Niagara Gorge (a deeply-cut and very scenic river path).
  • Currently, Niagara Falls wears its way back another approximately 1 foot/year.
  • The Niagara River flows at approximately 35 miles/hour (56.3 kilometers/hour).
  • The Horseshoe Falls are 180 feet (57 meters) high and allow 6 million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) of water over the crestline every minute during peak daytime tourist hours (that is about a million bathtubs full of water every minute!)

The following photos are from Niagara Falls Canada and Niagara Falls USA

niagara falls2

Falls from the Skylon elevator

niagara falls night

The Falls at night

niagara falls us

Falls on USA side

We also found an amazing vid by questpact who explains “this video was taken from an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operating in US and Canadian Restricted Airspace. Operating a UAS in this airspace presents a hazard to other aircraft and people and requires specific approval of the FAA and other agencies.”

His video provides some fascinating aerial views of Niagara Falls from his remote control helicopter. Enjoy! j & B


Fire Prevention Week October 6 – 12, 2013

October 5, 2013

fpw13-200x200The National Fire Prevention Agency’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW) runs from October 6 – 12, 2013 and this year’s official theme is “Prevent Kitchen Fires”.

During FPW the nation will be spreading the word that more fires start in the kitchen than in any other part of the home—and help teach people how to keep cooking fires from starting in the first place.

Did you know…

  • U.S. Fire Departments responded to an estimated annual average of 156,600 cooking-related fires between 2007-2011, resulting in 400 civilian deaths, 5,080 civilian injuries and $853 million in direct damage.
  • Two of every five home fires start in the kitchen.
  • Unattended cooking was a factor in 34% of reported home cooking fires.
  • Ranges accounted for the 58% of home cooking fire incidents. Ovens accounted for 16%.

FPW is the perfect time to reach out to your community and empower people to have a hand in preventing home fires and protecting their families with life-saving technologies and planning.

The below short video by The Fire Brigade demonstrates how devastating an oil fire could turn if you don’t know what to do.

Learn more about Fire Prevention Week and find resources for agencies, teachers, and families & kids at www.fpw.org.

Also consider download NFPA’s free storybook app and eBook for your little ones!

Stay safe, j & B


Get Ready to ShakeOut October 17, 2013 (world’s largest earthquake drill)

October 4, 2013

ShakeOut Join Us 2013On October 17, 2013 at 10:17 a.m. (local time), individuals, families, schools, businesses, nonprofits, governments, organizations and groups across the North America and around the world will participate in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill.

The ShakeOut is an opportunity to practice how to protect ourselves during earthquakes. Federal, state, and local emergency management experts and other official preparedness organizations all agree that “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” is the appropriate action to reduce injury and death during earthquakes.

ShakeOut also has been organized to encourage everyone to update emergency plans and supplies, and to secure your space in order to prevent damage and injuries.

So how do I participate?

ShakeOut.org explains most people will practice how they will Drop, Cover, and Hold On during a large earthquake, which only takes about one minute. Some organizations conduct more extensive drills, which may take an hour or even all day. How to participate is your choice. For example, some ideas include…

Plan Your Drill:

  • Register at www.ShakeOut.org/register to be counted as participating, get email updates, and more.
  • Download a Drill Broadcast recording from www.ShakeOut.org/drill/broadcast .
  • Have a “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” drill at 10:17 a.m. on October 17. You can also practice other aspects of your emergency plan.
  • Discuss what you learned and make improvements.

Get Prepared for Earthquakes:

Share the ShakeOut:

  • Have a neighborhood party to discuss preparedness, and register for the ShakeOut.
  • Invite friends and family members to register.
  • Encourage your community, employer, or other groups you are involved with to participate.
  • Share photos and stories of your drill at www.Shakeout.org/share

What is Drop, Cover, Hold On?

According to the Southern California Earthquake Center, the greatest danger is from falling and flying objects. Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes over the last several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building. “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” will protect you from most of these injuries.

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquakes knocks you down). This position protects you from falling but allows you to still move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

What NOT to do during an earthquake:

DO NOT get in a doorway! An early earthquake photo is a collapsed adobe home with the door frame as the only standing part. From this came our belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. In modern houses and buildings, doorways are no safer, and they do not protect you from flying or falling objects. Get under a table instead!

DO NOT run outside! Trying to run in an earthquake is dangerous, as the ground is moving and you can easily fall or be injured by debris or glass. Running outside is especially dangerous, as glass, bricks, or other building components may be falling. You are much safer to stay inside and get under a table.

DO NOT believe the so-called “triangle of life”! In recent years, an e-mail has circulated which has recommends potentially life threatening actions , and the source has been discredited by leading experts. Visit Earthquake Country Alliance to find statements, articles and other materials refuting this theory.

Learn more about the Great ShakeOut and find drill manuals, flyers, games and many other resources at www.shakeout.org

Also check out our Earthquakes 101 post describing some basic science about quakes and things you can do to prepare for them.


October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (cyber safety tips and tools for #ncsam)

October 2, 2013

ncsam-logo-2014October is National Cyber Security Awareness MonthNCSAM, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), is a national public awareness campaign to encourage everyone to protect their computers and our nation’s critical cyber infrastructure.

Fedhealth is proud to be an NCSAM Champion and we are encouraging everyone to learn more about NCSAM since cybersecurity is our shared responsibility. That means everyone has the potential to make a difference and educate others.

Whether you use one computer, a smartphone or a massive network, it is critical to keep systems protected from viruses and attacks.

  • Make sure computers and all wireless devices have current anti-virus and anti-spyware software and firewalls .. and schedule them to scan daily or weekly. Also set virus patterns, operating systems and browsers to update automatically. Encourage employees to protect their personal home devices too.
  • Set security preferences as high as possible on Internet browsers and anti-virus packages.
  • Be aware some flash drives may have trojans or viruses, or be used to copy sensitive data off secure systems, so consider limiting access to critical files and/or systems.
  • Although it is best to not open emails or attachments from unknown sources, that’s not feasible in the business world. But implement precautionary procedures like having employees save attached files into a temp directory and scan them before opening.
  • Discourage accessing financial institutions from mobile devices using apps or email links. Instead, visit banking and credit card sites directly using a browser window.
  • Be aware there are lots of “scareware” scams online! Do NOT download or click on a screen that says it found “X number of viruses or spyware on your system” suggesting you download their package — it will most likely be a virus.
  • Use long passwords (using both numbers and letters [and special characters if possible]), change them often, and don’t share them with others.
  • Backup data often and keep a daily or weekly backup off-site.
  • Make sure someone knows how to download patches or fixes in case a computer or system gets infected. And have a backup plan in case that person (or team) is not available.
  • If your business is hacked, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov

NCSA has many tools and materials available online for…

Learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month at www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam and get involved!


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