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

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,

Keeping Food Safe During Severe Weather Conditions

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, Emergency Outbreak, FDA, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, FYI, In the News, Online Resource, Science and Technology, Seasonal | Posted on 31-08-2012

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Leading Fridge

Severe weather in any of its varieties can be a nerve-wracking experience, causing anxiety, fear, and frustration. With hurricane season upon us and lightning and thunder storms looming as the summer comes to a close, an increase in severe weather conditions are imminent. Hurricane Isaac has already created problems involving food supply and power outages, affecting the livelihood of those individuals in its path. During times of natural disaster, keeping one’s food edible and free from pathogen growth is essential for staying physically healthy—and a strong and safe food supply does wonders for the mental aspect of survival as well.

When the power goes out—whether it be for minutes or days at a time—the safety of refrigerated and frozen foods comes into question. A refrigerator may be stocked full of different types of food, including meats and dairy. These foods can be expensive to replace and may become unsafe to eat within as few as two hours. Losing power to run your refrigerator can be frustrating, but being prepared for the time when the power goes off will keep your refrigerated food items safe for a certain amount of time.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, you can prepare your home for a power outage to ensure the safety of your food supply. The goal is to keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40º F and the freezer temperature at 0º F or lower. If a storm is brewing but the power is still on, prepare for the outage by keeping freezable ice packs stocked in the freezer, so when the electricity does go out, the ice packs or dry ice can help to maintain the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer. When using dry ice, set it on a piece of cardboard on an empty shelf. Approximately fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days. Remember, dry ice can be a dangerous item to handle. Never touch it with bare hands or breathe in the fumes. Heavy gloves should be worn when handling dry ice.

Thermometers in Fridge and Freezer

UNL also recommends setting the thermostat of the refrigerator and freezer to their coldest settings in preparation for a power outage. Thermometers should be kept in the refrigerator and freezer at all times. Once again, the rule is to keep the refrigerator temperature at or below 40º F and the freezer temperature at 0º F or lower. Foods kept above these temperatures for longer than 2 hours are no longer safe for consumption.

Once the power goes out, avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer doors, as doing so will allow the coolness to escape and cause the food to warm faster. As a general rule, a stocked freezer will keep food frozen for two days after the power has gone down, and a half-full freezer will keep food frozen about one day as long as the doors are tightly shut and only opened when it is essential to do so. It is a great idea to separate raw meat and poultry from the other foods and keep them on the bottom shelf. Once the meats begin to thaw, juices may spill onto the other foods and contaminate them.

As the power comes back on, resist the temptation to taste the foods in the refrigerator to determine their safety. Instead, look for signs that the foods are still good. Check the thermometer to ensure the refrigerator and freezer stayed well below the danger zone. Some foods in the freezer may have thawed but not reached the danger zone of 40º F. These foods should be cooked and served or refrozen.

Any perishable food items such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items that have slipped into the Temperature Danger Zone for more than two hours should be discarded immediately. Most importantly, when in doubt, throw it out. On the upside, highly-acidic condiments (such as ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise) should be fine.

We love this little video put together by the FDA last year. It reiterates all the critical points you’ll learn in this article, and many others across the web. Enjoy!

When it comes to emergency preparedness, a little goes a long way. A thermometer in both the freezer and the fridge, and a well-placed block of dry ice, can keep your family healthy and comfortable regardless of what Mother Nature sends your way.

 

Amanda Salisbury

Sources: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NOLA.com, CDC.gov, UNL (Forgotten in the Fridge)

Natural Disasters Give Reason to Think Twice About Food Supply Safety

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, Emergency Outbreak, Food Safety, Foodborne Illness, FYI, In the News, Seasonal, USDA | Posted on 29-08-2012

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Hurricane Isaac

While nobody likes to think of being caught in a natural disaster, it is certainly something to prepare for and consider as a real possibility. This is especially evident with current disasters swarming around us, such as the Gulf Coast’s hurricane Isaac. Those who live in regular danger zones are probably well aware of the precautions to take for such a storm, but what about the rest of us who perhaps have never experienced a natural disaster? While many important factors must be considered when preparing for such an event, safe food preservation must be at the top of the list. So what can you do to be prepared in case a disaster comes your way?

Naturally, you should have plenty of water and food on hand. Large water containers can be purchased from emergency essential stores. Changing that water every six months or so is a good idea to keep it fresh and safe. Concerning your food supply, the USDA counsels “Be prepared for an emergency by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on the outdoor grill. Shelf-stable food, boxed or canned milk, water, and canned goods should be part of a planned emergency food supply…Be sure to keep a hand-held can opener for an emergency.”

In addition, we are counseled to keep food off the ground and on shelves. If a flood enters your house, your food has a high possibility of becoming contaminated. Eating food that has come into contact with flood water will leave you at a high risk of foodborne illness, so keeping it on a shelf at least six inches off the ground will help ensure the quality and safety of your food. If the food is in a waterproof container, you should be fine to eat it, however the USDA counsels that containers “with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps” are not waterproof, like some might believe.

As always, a major factor in food safety is the temperature at which the food is stored. Some helpful hints from the USDA include having a thermometer on hand to check the temperature of food in your refrigerator, storing plenty of ice at any given time, and keeping the fridge door closed as much as possible. The food in your fridge should be 40 degrees or below, while the freezer food should be at 0 degrees or below. Obviously, this can be a bit difficult during a natural disaster, particularly if that disaster leaves you without electricity. If the power does go out, you can keep the food in your fridge cold for longer if you have ice stored and can put it around your food. Also, grouping cold foods together will keep them cold longer. Having coolers on hand, and putting your food in those coolers with ice, is another trick to keep that food cold a bit longer. The USDA also suggests that knowing where dry ice is sold is helpful during such an emergency (assuming you can get to the store during such a time.)

Obviously, natural disasters strike when we least expect it. By knowing how to properly store and use your food storage, you will be able to keep your family and yourself safe from foodborne illness and keep your food usable for a longer period of time.

 

Angela Bond

Sources:  thekitchn.com, USDA.gov

The Dangers of Botulism: Food Storage and Expired Cans

Posted by Admin | Posted in Be Healthy, CDC, FDA, Foodborne Illness, FYI, Science and Technology | Posted on 23-08-2012

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http://s3.amazonaws.com/estock/fspid2/438200/canning-food-preserves-438295-o.jpg

Recently I helped dispose of years’ worth of food storage from an old home we were preparing to move into. As I went through each and every can of food, I carefully checked their expiration dates and looked for any signs of dangerous spoilage. Canned food, as well as other items processed through Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP), may show signs of danger including bulging, leaking, dents, or discoloration when the pathogens that cause botulism are present.

There were hundreds of cans to sort through. Some cans had expired in 2001/2002, others were from 2008. Of all the cans of food taken out of the old house, maybe only 10 had not yet reached their expiration date.  Unfortunately, the home had previously belonged to an older individual with a history of mental illness. This individual had been put into a care center after repeatedly eating from the old cans of food and becoming extremely ill. Although there was safe food to eat in the house, the individual was unable to differentiate between the safe and contaminated foods.

Botulism is a very serious foodborne illness caused by a deadly bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum. In addition to the wide variety of canned foods available in the marketplace, cured or smoked fish, honey, canned vegetables, pork, ham, and corn syrup are also susceptible to Clostridium botulinum growth as they are packaged in low oxygen, or anaerobic, environments. The elderly, individuals with mental illness like food hoarding, and those living in cluttered and disorganized households are more susceptible to botulism as they are less able to prepare food safely or recognize the signs of pathogen growth. Additionally, many consumers do not realize that there are some strains of bacteria, like the one that causes botulism, that thrive best when little to no oxygen is present.

Approximately 15% of the 145 botulism cases reported every year in the United States are foodborne cases. Most foodborne outbreaks of botulism are caused by home-canned foods. Although 145 cases might seem inconsequential, the symptoms of botulism are very severe. Symptoms appear within 8-36 hours of consuming toxic food. According to PubMed Health, the most common symptoms of botulism are, “abdominal cramps, breathing difficulty that may lead to respiratory failure, difficulty swallowing and speaking, double vision, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and weakness with paralysis (equal on both sides of the body).” However, if left untreated, botulism is fatal.

For anyone who has an expired can on the shelf, there is a potential danger of foodborne illness. Be mindful of expiration dates, remember the “first in, first out,” or FIFO, rule to keep food storage fresh and well-rotated, and remember—when in doubt, throw it out.

Amanda Salisbury

 

Sources:  FDA Bad Bug Book, NCBI PubMed Health, CDC