Save the Stress by Doing Thanksgiving Right

Posted by Admin | Posted in FDA, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, For Fun, FYI, In the News, Salmonella, Seasonal | Posted on 16-11-2012

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Thanksgiving Stress

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting task: shopping, prep, cooking, and, finally, guests judging the centerpiece of most celebratory dinners, the turkey. Though I don’t mean to add to holiday stress, we must privilege food safety just as we do taste. As your turkey thaws, bacteria can multiply, so as you prep the bird, keep a few things in mind.

On thawing: It’s tempting to put a frozen turkey on a plate in the corner and let the room temperature do all the work. We’re busy, after all. But as soon as that bird begins to defrost, it approaches the “danger zone”—between 41 and 135 °F—temperatures where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. As such, use one of these three thawing methods to ensure a safe feast.

  • In the refrigerator: Should you choose to marshal the refrigerator, plan ahead, but not too far ahead. A thawed turkey will last 1 to 2 days.  Keep the temperature below 40 °F and allow 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of meat. To prevent juices from contaminating other food, use a tray or container of some sort.
  • In the microwave oven: Most turkeys come with microwave instructions, so a wise chef will follow them. A wise chef will also cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed, as parts will have already warmed and cooked during microwaving. We really don’t recommend this method though.
  • In cold water: Use a leak-proof bag to prevent cross contamination or a water-logged main course. Allow for 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes or so until the turkey thaws. Like microwaving, a cold-water-thawed turkey must be cooked immediately after.

On stuffing: Where I come from, we cook stuffing in a casserole dish. But advanced cooks and/or purists actually, you know, stuff the turkey. For tasty and safe results, stuff the turkey just before cooking.  Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, a minimum of 165 °F.  Foodborne bacteria can survive in stuffing that doesn’t reach 165 °F.

On cooking: Set the oven to 325 °F. Place your thawed turkey breast-side up in a shallow cooking pan.  Cooking times will vary, but the most important tool (aside from your baster) is a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing.   Like the stuffing, the meat should reach an internal temperature of 165 °F.

A Happy Thanksgiving is a safe one, folks. Enjoy those closest to you and feed them well.

Stress-free Thanksgiving

Whitney Nelson

Source: CDC.gov, FSIS.USDA.gov

Debunking Popular Food Safety Myths

Posted by Admin | Posted in Food Safety, foodsafety.gov, For Fun, FYI, In the News, Online Resource | Posted on 27-09-2012

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Food Myths

When it comes to food safety, knowing the basics is important. Most of us regularly prepare food for ourselves and our families, and sometimes for dinner or party guests. As I have observed individuals prepare food in their kitchens, I have noticed that every person and family has a specific way of doing things. Often, these differences are trivial and perfectly safe. However, sometimes I feel a bit unsettled to see how certain situations with food are handled.  Foodsafety.gov has a page on its website called “Food Safety Myths Exposed.” It discusses several myths about food safety that many food handlers believe to be true and follow. Some of these myths can lead to foodborne illness and must be corrected to create a safer food environment. Here are just a few of the dangerous myths I have seen “in action.”

  • Myth: “It’s OK to thaw meat on the counter. Since it starts out frozen, bacteria isn’t really a problem.”
  • Fact: Actually, bacteria can grow at a surprising rate when left at room temperature because it is warm. For this reason, you should always thaw your meats in the refrigerator, cool water, or a microwave. If you use the microwave method, be sure to cook the meat immediately after you thaw it.
  • Myth: “I don’t need to wash fruits and vegetables if I’m going to peel them.”
  • Fact: While it is true that you won’t be eating the peel, it is also true that your peeler is touching both the peel and the inside of the fruit. Therefore, the potential bacteria can still find its way to the part of the fruit that you eat. Always rinse your fruits and vegetables before eating or peeling them. As a side note, do not use any soaps or detergents on your fruits and veggies, as they may linger on the food and create more problems for you. Water is best.
  • Myth: “To get rid of any bacteria on my meat, poultry, or seafood, I should rinse off the juices with water first.”
  • Fact: Rinse off your fruits and veggies, but do not rinse off your meat. When you do, you run the risk of getting the meat juices in your sinks and on your countertops, which greatly increases the risk of cross-contamination with other food and potential foodborne illness. Instead, simply cook your meat thoroughly to rid it of potential bacteria.
  • Myth: “Once food has been cooked, all the bacteria have been killed, so I don’t need to worry once it’s ‘done.’”
  • Fact: Bacterial growth actually increases after the food has been cooked, as the food is now at a warmer temperature. You must keep your cooked food at the correct temperature to avoid this risk. Do not leave food sitting out for hours after you have cooked it and then store it as leftovers. Plenty of bacteria will have settled in by then.

These are just a few of the ten myths from foodsafety.gov. The website also discusses the fact that food poisoning and foodborne illness is not necessarily as short-lived as we might think.  Some foodborne illnesses create long-lasting effects, and approximately 3,000 Americans die each year from foodborne illness. So make sure you “know your stuff” when it comes to food safety and preparation in order to keep yourself and your family safe.

If you want to learn about more food safety myths, visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/myths/index.html

Angela Bond

Protecting Your Baby During Pregnancy

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, CDC, FDA, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, FYI, Kids, Listeria, Online Resource, Raw Milk | Posted on 24-09-2012

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Pregnancy Nutrition

As a woman who is 33 weeks pregnant, I know all about the paranoia of a new, or soon-to-be mother. Endless thoughts run through my head such as “If I lift this object, will it hurt my baby?” and “If I take this medicine, will it be okay for my baby?” It seems that all my concerns and worries are focused on keeping him safe and healthy. I assume I am not unique in this situation.  One major thing many women worry about during pregnancy is their food intake. What foods are dangerous or healthy for your baby?

One serious thing to be aware of during pregnancy is a foodborne illness called Listeria, also known as Listeriosis. The CDC, in an article entitled “Pregnant or Older? Be Safe With Ready-To-Eat Meats,” writes “Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one in six (17 percent) cases of listeriosis occurs during pregnancy.” In healthy kids and adults, Listeria is not usually life-threatening, but it is a potential killer of unborn babies. The FDA writes “Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, premature delivery, serious sickness, or death of a newborn baby.” For this reason, mothers-to-be should be very cautious with what they eat.

According to the CDC, pregnant women may want to consider avoiding ready-to-eat hot-dogs, lunch meats, and cold cuts, as they have a higher risk of Listeria. Fortunately, most of the barbeques and picnics are wrapping up for the year, so it shouldn’t be too much of a bother to avoid these foods. If these foods are a “must have” for you, the CDC counsels to only eat these foods when they have been heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. It also counsels pregnant women to avoid meat spreads, soft cheeses, and refrigerated smoked seafood. In addition to these Listeria hazards, pregnant women should avoid any raw foods such as meat or eggs (stay away from that cookie dough!) as they can cause other complications involving Salmonella and other foodborne illnesses.

Staying away from these foods is a small price to pay to help keep your baby (and yourself) safe and healthy. To learn more about food “Dos and Don’ts” during pregnancy, you can visit the CDC and FDA websites.

Angela Bond

 

Sources: CDC, FDA

Spoiled Chicken: A Breath-Taking Experience

Posted by Admin | Posted in Food Safety, In the News, Salmonella, Uncatagorized | Posted on 13-09-2012

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Fried Chicken

“It just smelled. When you walked in there, it took your breath away.”

Generally when something is described as “taking your breath away,” it’s for a good reason. Then occasionally there are times when you’d rather keep that breath and run for your life. A KFC in Conroe, Texas recently got shut down for a week due to its improper food safety practices. The issue?  This restaurant had knowingly cooked and served spoiled chicken to its patrons. Just a bit unsettling…

Toisha Corpuz, a former employee of the restaurant, added to her comment about the breath-taking odor, saying “I almost threw up back there when the cooks opened the bags.” Scott Noll, of KHOU, a Houston, Texas news outlet, writes “Corpuz and other workers said despite a KFC policy that raw poultry must be used within 10 days of being killed, chicken as old as 16 days was still cooked and served.”

Another employee at the restaurant commented “There would be times I would know that food that was going out the window or to the public sitting down, that it wasn’t any good and it just makes you sick to your stomach.” As if this isn’t disturbing enough, the manager of the restaurant seemed to actually be aware of the expired chicken! A local health inspector commented that most of the time, when it comes to food safety, such misuse is not deliberate, like it seemed to be with this particular restaurant. The establishment did get shut down for a week in order to get additional (or perhaps I should say basic?) food safety training. My concern is whether or not that would help an establishment that was not ignorant of its dangerous practices in the first place.

As one who enjoys eating out every once in a while, I must admit I was quite disturbed by this article. There’s no question that I will be a bit more aware of where I choose to eat. I would suggest you do the same. And if you’re in the food business, always be on the “look out” for food safety violations in your restaurant and work to make it a safer place to eat.

Oh, and am I the only one thinking “How did that restaurant get permission to ever open back up? Is a week really long enough?”

If you’re interested in the full article, you can find it here.

 

Angela Bond

Source: WFAA.com,

The Raw Milk Debate: Education is Key

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, CDC, E. coli, FDA, Food Safety, FYI, Kids, Raw Milk, Science and Technology | Posted on 07-09-2012

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This blog has featured lots of articles on raw milk, from both angles of the argument. Our take is, the best decision is an informed decision. This week, Amanda Salisbury breaks down the debate.

Raw Milk

The consumption of milk in the United States has been a topic of debate, most recently with an emphasis being placed on raw or unpasteurized milk. With the agricultural movement toward raw milk and away from processed foods, raw milk has caught the attention of many Americans.  The FDA has spoken out against distributing and drinking raw milk in an effort to show the negative effects raw milk can have on individuals.  Those who support raw or what they call “real milk” speak out for the health benefits of unpasteurized milk.

Pasteurization is a process whereby milk and other dairy products are heated to a certain temperature to ensure dangerous microorganisms found in raw milk are destroyed. Some dangerous pathogens found in raw milk include: E. coli O157, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella species, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Brucella species, Coxiella Burnetii, and Yersinia enterocolitica.   The more familiar sounding pathogens of Salmonella, E. Coli, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis are all quite dangerous and the side effects of these diseases can lead to serious issues for the contaminated individual.

Consider these statements from leading government and news officials concerning raw milk.

“Based on CDC data, literature, and state and local reports, FDA compiled a list of outbreaks that occurred in the U.S. from 1987 to September 2010. During this period, there were at least 133 outbreaks due to the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products. These outbreaks caused 2,659 cases of illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages. Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk likely is greater.” -FDA.gov

 

“Before the invention and acceptance of pasteurization, raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other foodborne illnesses. These illnesses killed many people each year, especially young children. In the 1900s many mothers recognized this risk and would boil milk (bringing it to a temperature of 212°F) before giving it to their infants and young children.”-CDC.gov

 

“States where the sale of raw milk was legal — states like Pennsylvania — were twice as likely to have outbreaks as states that don’t allow it. The outbreaks were all caused by bacteria, such as E. coli O157, which can lead to severe illnesses.” -NPR.org

Education on the subject of raw milk is key to understanding and making good decisions concerning your health and that of your family. There is no debate about whether or not harmful pathogens are found in raw milk, but many raw milk consumers are adamant against consuming the chemicals found in pasteurized dairy products, cow diet, and soil contamination. They believe that the effects of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics that are found in standard milk have a greater potential to harm the body than do the biological hazards, such as E. coli. In addition, advocates argue for the benefits of various bacterial strains for the immune and digestive systems.

As is true with any good (and long-standing) debate, there are compelling arguments on both sides. In the video below, a farmer discusses his personal beliefs about the benefits of organic farming and raw milk.

We cannot over-emphasize the importance of thoughtful and thorough research regarding the raw milk debate, especially if you have children in your home. In the vast majority of modern cases, drinking raw milk has not led to any serious health problems. However, for those considered highly-susceptible to foodborne illness, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly, the pathogens in raw milk can lead to symptoms as serious as kidney failure and death. For a list of Pros and Cons concerning the effects of raw milk, visit milk.procon.org.

Amanda Salisbury

 

Sources: NPR, FDA, CDC, Procon.org, Food Safety News, Raw-Milk-Facts.com