Holiday food safety tips (Fight Bac!, food intolerance + pet safety)

November 23, 2016

food-safety-fight-bacFood is a huge part of the holiday season so we wanted to share some resources and tips about food safety for your public education campaigns, as well as for you personally.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education develops and promotes effective education programs to reduce foodborne illness risk for consumers. The Partnership states the US food supply is among the safest in the world, but organisms that you can’t see, smell, or taste – bacteria, viruses, and tiny parasites – are everywhere in the environment.

Each year 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. can be traced to foodborne pathogens, according to the CDC.

The Partnership’s Fightbac.org site explains foodborne illness is much more than the “stomach flu”, and it is a serious health issue and economic burden for consumers. The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA says each year $6.9 billion in costs are associated with five bacterial pathogens, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and 2 forms of E. coli. These costs are associated with medical expenses, lost productivity, and even death.

Food Safety tips from Fightbac.org

  • Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours; one hour in air temperatures above 90°F. This also includes leftovers taken home from a restaurant. Some exceptions are foods such as cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruits.
  • Whole roasts, hams and turkeys should be sliced or cut into smaller pieces or portions before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Wrap or cover the food. Leftovers stored in the refrigerator should be consumed within 3-4 days, and leftovers should be heated to 165°F prior to consumption.
  • Foods stored longer may become unsafe to eat and cause foodborne illness. Do not taste leftovers that appear to be safe, bacteria that cause illness does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.
  • Frozen storage times are much longer, but some items such as salads made with mayonnaise do not freeze well. Foods kept frozen longer than recommended storage times are safe to eat, but may be drier and not taste as good.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

Find more safety data, kids games and activities, videos, brochures and other resources at www.fightbac.org

Food intolerance

Be aware some guests may have dietary issues and/or food allergies so please don’t be offended if they decline meals or drinks or if they bring their own food and beverages.

food-safety-label-spinach-cropFor example, Bill has celiac disease so he must avoid all gluten, plus we both have issues with carrageenan, various gums (e.g. xanthan, guar, carob bean, etc.), MSG, yeast extract and more so we are very cautious about eating anything we don’t prepare ourselves.

If you purchase special foods and snacks for guests with allergy issues read product packages and ingredient labels carefully and watch for statements that say if items are processed on shared equipment. Sometimes you’ll be amazed just simple things like packaged fruits and vegetables can be cross-contaminated as shown in this photo from Oh Mah Deehness’ blog.

Many companies are getting better about including allergen information on labels and websites, plus some even offer special toll-free numbers and email ids so you can reach out to them direct.

Don’t forget about pets

food-safety-k9We all love sharing people food with our furbabies, but remember to keep toxic foods like chocolate, nuts, onions, mushrooms, grapes, raisins and xylitol (a sugar substitute) away from pets. Also limit rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose and dairy products since they can cause digestive issues.

For more information on foods that could be unsafe for pets, visit the HumanSociety.org and ASPCA.org , and check out 2 great infographics on “Thanksgiving food safety: Do’s and Don’ts” and “Toxic Foods for Dogs” .

Also keep in mind holiday plants like poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and amaryllis can be toxic to pets.

If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, take note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Find more holiday tips in our “Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock” blog post … and we hope everyone has a nice, safe Thanksgiving and Christmas season! Stay safe, j & B

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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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