The Perfect Lunchbox

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, Food Safety, For Fun, FYI, Kids, Seasonal | Posted on 10-08-2012

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This is the second article in our feature on school lunch–just in time for the new year!

Lunchbox

As the school year approaches, the health and safety of your child, while at school, is at the forefront of your mind. In order to keep a child’s mind keen and his or her body healthy and active, safe and proper nutrition is key. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to do this, as you control which foods are presented to your child. Here are a few tips on packing the perfect lunch box and keeping the food packed in a safe way.

1. Clean the lunchbox before and after use. After your child has picked out the perfect lunch box with matching food containers, thoroughly clean the lunch box, food, and drink containers properly with warm water and soap. A good thorough cleaning will not only get rid of that all-too-familiar lunch box smell, but it will also keep foodborne pathogens at bay and away from your child’s immune system. If dish duty cuts into your time, use a clean paper bag and clean plastic bags to store lunches.

2. Consider perishable and non-perishable food items. A school lunch box will have a good mixture of perishable and non-perishable food items. Some popular favorites that are easy to store are known as non-perishable food items. These are items that can be kept at room temperature for more than a few hours without danger of rapid bacterial growth. Perishable food items include cold foods that must stay cold or hot foods that should be kept hot for the hours between morning and lunch time, or they run the risk of foodborne illnesses. Some of these perishable food items include milk and other dairy products, sandwich or deli meats.

3. Control temperature and stay out of the “Danger Zone.” To ensure the safety and preservation of the food packed, be sure to keep foods at their appropriate temperatures, and far away from the “danger zone.” The USDA explains, “Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone”–the temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. So perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.” Some ideas to keeping food away from the “Danger Zone” is packing non-perishable food items, cold gel packs, or even frozen juice boxes to keep foods cold until they can be eaten at lunch. Opting to buy milk straight out of the school’s refrigerator is another safe option. If you have trouble differentiating between perishable and non-perishable food items, pack a cold pack just in case.

4. Remind your child to clean his or her hands. Before your child eats their lunch, remind them of proper hygiene. Washing their hands and using hand sanitizer before they eat can cut down on the dangers of foodborne illness. Pack a small container of hand sanitizer and a little reminder note to wash their hands with soap before eating. Teaching them that they can get sick from germs if they don’t wash their hands will keep them informed and encourage proper hand washing habits.

5. Dispose of unsafe food items to protect your child from foodborne illness. When the lunchbox comes back home with the child after a long and hard day at school, throw away all perishable food items that were not consumed, like the half eaten and browning banana and the rest of that crumbling cheese stick. These items will not have kept all day in a lunchbox. All plastic and paper products should also be thrown away after one use. As children are among those highly susceptible to foodborne illness, take extra precautions when preparing and storing their lunchboxes.

 

–Amanda Salisbury

 

Sources: foodsafety.gov, USDA

Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Family from Food Poisoning

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, Handwashing, Kids | Posted on 11-04-2012

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  1. Wash your hands properly with soap and water before and after food preparation. Make sure family members also wash hands before and after eating.
  2. Buy all meats, seafood, and dairy products from reputable suppliers
  3. Examine canned foods for bacterial contamination
  4. Store raw meats and other potentially hazardous foods below ready-to-eat foods in refrigerator. For example, if you have a thawing turkey, place it below cans of Coca-Cola.
  5. Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the “Temperature Danger Zone” (41 to 135 degrees F)
  6. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them
  7. Do not prepare food when you are sick
  8. Avoid cross contamination by cleaning knives and cutting boards especially when switching from one food item to another. It’s also a good idea to keep your kitchen cleaned, sanitized, and free of pests.
  9. Cook foods to their appropriate temperature
  10. Use your best judgment when preparing, eating, and serving food!

Madelyn Tucker

What Really Happened in 2011’s Cantaloupe Outbreak?

Posted by Emilee | Posted in FDA, Food Recall, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, FYI, In the News, Listeria, Total Recall | Posted on 01-03-2012

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Contaminated Cantaloupe

It’s been five months since cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, CO were discovered to be tainted with Listeria monocytogenes in what has become one of the USA’s most deadly Listeria outbreaks. Last February, 68 year-old Mike Hauser died of Listeriosis after falling ill in September 2011. His passing brings the estimate of adult deaths associated with the outbreak to 34. However, experts agree that nailing down an exact number of deaths continues to be a challenge, especially when the victims do not show symptoms for weeks or even months after having consumed Listeria-tainted food.

Listeria  Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium that is frequently foodborne because of its association with animal feces. In fact, it is estimated that around 10% of human gastrointestinal tracts are colonized by Listeria. Among persons with normal, healthy immune systems, Listeriosis is relatively rare. But for high-risk populations, especially newborns, pregnant women, and the elderly, Listeriosis can be extremely dangerous; causing fever, aches, vomiting, septicemia, early delivery, miscarriage, meningitis, and death.

The number one question our staffers have received in association with this outbreak is “How could cantaloupe become contaminated with Listeria?” It’s a good question, especially considering all the regulations we have domestically regarding food manufacturing and farming. So how did these cantaloupes pass under the radar to affect so many people? The FDA and local health inspectors think they may have found the answer.

In a report issued last fall, investigators stated that waste cantaloupes were taken by truck from a packing facility to a nearby cattle farm. Cows and other livestock are common carriers of Listeria and the truck’s wheels likely became contaminated with cattle feces. The feces (and its associated pathogens) were then transported back to the cantaloupe packing facility where standing water, building materials and equipment that were difficult to clean, and second-hand washing machines created a breeding ground for Listeria. This bacterial perfect storm resulted in countless melons becoming contaminated and ending up in grocery stores nationwide. Ironically, Jensen Farms had used a third-party auditor to review and approve their safe farming and growing practices. The farm was given a seal of approval just days before the contaminated fruit was shipped.

Last month, Larry Goodridge, associate professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality at Colorado State University, urged Colorado farmers to no longer rely on third-party inspectors to ensure their products and processes are safe. The proverbial “buck” will always stop with the farmer. “Each farm or processing facility has to be able to assess their own risks,” he stated at the governor’s annual forum on Colorado agriculture, “Everybody who produces food has to be responsible for the safety of the food they produce. You cannot rely on third parties. You just can’t.” He also urged manufacturers and farmers to focus on cleanliness and sanitation, which practices could have prevented last year’s deadly outbreak.

So as a consumer, what can you do? Before preparing whole, unpeeled fruits or vegetables, like melons, StateFoodSafety.com recommends thoroughly scrubbing the rind with a drop of mild detergent or an equal-parts mixture of water and vinegar, and then rinsing the item in clean, potable water. Contamination on fruit and vegetable rinds will not often enter the edible portion of the food until a knife or other kitchen implement is introduced as a vector, pulling pathogens down into and through the food. We do not recommend washing fruits, vegetables, or bagged greens that have already been cut or prepared. If there is contamination present in the items, “washing” will merely spread pathogens around the food and your kitchen, increasing your likelihood of becoming sick.

For more information on this outbreak, hit up the source links below.

 

Emilee Follett

Sources: usatoday.com, msnbc.msn.com, denverpost.com, dailycamera.com, Wikipedia, nutrition.about.com

Foodborne Illness Without Food?

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Be Healthy, CDC, Foodborne Illness, For Fun, FYI | Posted on 29-02-2012

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Parts of the following story are true.  No names have been changed to protect the innocent, because there are no innocents. (Cue Law & Order sound effect)

Nice Pen

I received the following text from my wife (sorry ladies) the other day:  “Some stranger at the library borrowed a pen from me, and now it’s in her mouth.”  To which I replied, “But how does she know you didn’t use it to scrape gum off your shoe?”  I just threw up a little in the back of my mouth.

When she gave it back, my wife tossed the pen in the nearest garbage can.  Who knows where this strange woman’s mouth has been? The mucous membranes in one’s mouth are full of germs that can potentially cause pneumonia, ear infections, strep throat, cold sores, etc. On the flip side, who knows where that pen has been? Maybe that pen was sitting next to the raw chicken my wife was preparing before going to the library, and she put it in her purse on the way out the door.  Maybe it was the pen I used to get that stupid super-bouncy ball from underneath the fridge because my five year old couldn’t live without it. Would you want to put something in your mouth that had been underneath the nasty fridge?

Babies put things in their mouths all the time to explore and find out about their world. It is apparent that as adults, we haven’t lost this drive. However, we should think twice about chewing or sucking on our pens or other inanimate objects because harmful bacteria and viruses can live on surfaces for extended periods. The influenza virus, for example, can potentially survive on surfaces for two to eight hours or more. In addition, we should avoid touching our eyes, mouths, and noses with our hands which is something all of us are guilty of. In a recent study by the University of California- Berkeley, researchers counted the number of times the participants touched their faces in an hour. Results showed that on average, each person made hand-to-face contact 16 times. Why is this concerning? Bacteria and viruses thrive in the mucus membranes of our noses, mouths, and eyes. In other words, your risk of contracting a cold or other diseases and infections increases when you touch these areas of your face.

Thus, while sharing a pen seems like a nice gesture, you could be passing on harmful germs to the pen borrower, and he/she might be passing some back to you when the pen is returned. To avoid this potentially hazardous exchange, bring your own pen to the library, and keep it out of your mouth. In addition, remember to wash your hands often with soap and water to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria you’re leaving behind on the surfaces you touch.

 

Tim Snarr

 

Madelyn Tucker also contributed to this post.

Sources: CDC.gov, usatoday.com

 

Best Field Trip Ever! . . . Almost

Posted by Emilee | Posted in Food Safety, FYI, Handwashing, In the News | Posted on 13-01-2012

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School Bus On Field Trip

Back in 2010 some Minnesota students went on a field trip, killed some deer, dressed them, and ate them.  That’s pretty awesome.  We didn’t even get to go to the Jelly Belly Factory when I was in school, and it was only about an hour’s drive away. The field trip wasn’t all fun and games though.  Twenty-nine students were infected with E. coli O103:H2.  Maybe my field trip to the Railroad Museum isn’t looking so bad now.

Cross contamination was the most likely culprit with students not washing their hands or utensils between handling raw and cooked meats.  Skewers taking the bacteria into the middle of the meat upon insertion could have been a carrier as well if the meat was undercooked.  But what’s the moral of the story?  Well it’s really two-fold:

  1. Let’s be more creative about our field trips.
  2. Make ABSOUTELY 100% SURE you are following safe food practices. People can get sick and possibly die.

Please make sure you’re safe with your food.  In this case nothing very serious happened.  In too many cases it does.  For the full story from Food Safety News, click here.

Tim Snarr