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


Winter Safety Tips for Pets and Livestock

December 23, 2014

winter-tips-pets-livestock4Unfortunately many people think since animals have fur or thick hide they are able to withstand the cold better than humans, but often this is not the case. Cold weather can be as hard on critters as it is on people and may lead to serious illness, injury or death.

Gimme shelter: When the temperatures drop in the winter months, bring your pets and critters indoors since they can be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you don’t have a barn or structure for livestock and other outdoor animals, at least make some type of windbreak to help keep them safe and out of the wind.

If you do keep livestock indoors, make sure the barn / building is well ventilated since ammonia can build up. Also add plenty of dry bedding (such as straw) to stalls, coops and cages so animals aren’t standing or lying on the cold ground, and provide a blanket for pets to sleep on. Space heaters and heat lamps should be avoided because of the risk of burns or fire. Heated pet mats should also be used with caution because they are still capable of causing burns.

Water and food: Make sure pets and livestock have plenty of fresh food and water, and constantly check their bowls and troughs to ensure their water isn’t frozen. Increase feed amounts for pets and livestock during cold snaps since they’ll burn more calories trying to keep warm. Also try to keep at least several weeks worth of feed on hand since you don’t want to run out when it may be difficult to have another load delivered.

Watch for signs: Take extra time to observe livestock, looking for early signs of disease and injury. Ready.gov explains severe cold-weather injuries or death primarily occur in the very young or in animals that are already debilitated. Cases of weather-related sudden death in calves often result when cattle are suffering from undetected infection, particularly pneumonia. Sudden, unexplained livestock deaths and illnesses should be investigated quickly so that a cause can be identified and steps can be taken to protect the remaining animals.

winter-tips-petsAnimals suffering from frostbite don’t exhibit pain. It may be up to two weeks before the injury becomes evident as the damaged tissue starts to slough away. At that point, the injury should be treated as an open wound and a veterinarian should be consulted.

Your pets will give you signs too. If it is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia.

Also, the AVMA suggests you check your dog’s paws frequently for signs of cold-weather injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. During a walk, a sudden lameness may be due to an injury or may be due to ice accumulation between his/her toes. You may be able to reduce the chance of iceball accumulation by clipping the hair between your dog’s toes.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association…

  • Frostbite happens when an animal’s (or person’s) body gets so cold it pulls all the blood from extremities to the body’s core to stay warm. An animal’s ears, paws, and tail can get so cold that ice crystals form in the tissue damaging it. Frostbite can be tricky because it is not immediately obvious. Sometimes the tissue doesn’t show signs of damage for several days. If you suspect your pet may have frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Hypothermia is body temperature that is below normal. This condition occurs when an animal is unable to keep its body temperature from falling below normal. It occurs when an animal spends too much time in cold temperatures, or when an animal with poor health or circulation is exposed to cold. In mild cases, the animal will shiver and show signs of depression, lethargy, and weakness. As the condition progresses, muscles will stiffen, the heart and breathing rates slow, and the animal will stop responding to stimuli.

winter-tips-pets-cat-ck2Cat check: Outdoor and feral cats have a tendency to curl up against a warm vehicle engine during cold spells so check beneath your car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to scare the critters away.

Hoof check: If you have hooved livestock, hoof care is very important during winter months since wet ground combined with dirty conditions (esp. bacteria and fungi) may cause thrush and foot rot. Robyn Scherer (author of “Managing Livestock in Winter Conditions” article in Countryside magazine) explains regular trimmings should be performed to keep feet in good condition. Also, if you own horses in cold country, pick their feet on a regular basis to prevent ice balls from forming, as this can cause stress on tendons and ligaments.

Antifreeze: It only takes a few tablespoons of highly toxic antifreeze to seriously jeopardize an animal’s life. Ethylene glycol, the most common ingredient in antifreeze, can cause crystals to form in an animal’s kidney, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death. Learn more about this sweet but deadly toxin on USFRA

winter-tips-pets-tinsel-by-petflowHoliday food and decorations: Avoid giving your pets rich, fatty foods like ham, turkey or goose since they can cause stomach problems, plus bones can splinter easily. And keep toxic foods such as onions, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute) and chocolate away from dogs, as well as plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Dogs – esp. puppies – like to chew and eat anything … and cats love to play with shiny, dangly things so keep an eye on decorative strings of lights (both indoors and out) as well as ribbons, tinsel, ornaments and candles.

Heaters: Check your furnace to make sure it’s working efficiently, and install (and test) carbon monoxide detectors to keep your pets and family safe. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible, but it can cause problems ranging from headaches and fatigue to trouble breathing to even death. Also use space heaters with caution since they can burn your pets or the units can be knocked over, potentially starting a fire.

Move it: Exercise is good for pets, livestock and humans during the long winter months, but just make sure you don’t overdo it in the chilly temps and watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia (see above). Also make sure you wipe down pet’s paws after playing or walking outside to remove any ice chunks or salt that may have gotten wedged in their pads or between their toes.

Be prepared: Cold weather also brings the risks of severe storms, blizzards, tornadoes and power outages. Create disaster supplies kits for your home and vehicles and don’t forget to pack supplies and water for your critters too. Download the Family Emergency Plan section and several topics from our IT’S A DISASTER! book to help you and others get prepared.

Sources:
American Animal Hospital Association
American Veterinary Medical Association
Countryside magazine
Grit.com
Ready.gov
U.S. First Responders Association  

Above appeared in our Dec 2013 enews

Additional Resources:

Holiday Fire Safety Tips  (about Christmas trees, lights, candles, etc.)  

Preparing for winter storms (tips to winterize home, prevent ice dams and more)

Winter Driving Tips  … and download our Winter Storm preparedness and safety tips (PDF)

12 Days of Winter Safety (a comprehensive + cost effective list by FLASH.org)

‘Tis the season for Pet safety (infographic in PDF by Pets Unlimited)

 


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