This blog is a place where parents and teachers of children 3-7 years of age can find information about topics specific to children in this age group, share ideas and access free resources for home and the classroom.

USDA Offers Summer Food Safety Tips In Advance of Memorial Day Weekend

foodWarmer temperatures call for extra attention to food safety when cooking and eating outdoors.

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and many Americans will celebrate with cookouts, camping, road trips and other activities that involve food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding families to take extra care not to let foodborne bacteria, which grows more quickly in hot weather, ruin the fun.

“This Memorial Day weekend and all summer long, I encourage families to get outside and enjoy our natural resources, national parks and forests, and the variety of food America’s farmers are able to provide,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “It’s important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures that people enjoy, so extra care needs to be taken to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home. USDA reminds everyone to use a food thermometer, and take advantage of resources like our FoodKeeper app to help with any food handling questions.”

Last month, USDA launched its FoodKeeper mobile app, which contains specific guidance on more than 400 food and beverage items, including safe cooking recommendations for meat, poultry and seafood products.

The app provides information on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. This will help keep products fresh longer than if they were stored improperly, which can happen more often during hot summer days. The application is available for free on Android and Apple devices.

Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. To help Americans stay healthy and safe, USDA offers the following food safety recommendations.

Bringing food to a picnic or cookout:
• Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
• Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
• A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
• Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer.
Cooking on the grill:
• Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
• Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures
• Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
• Ground meats: 160 °F
• Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
• Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
Serving food outdoors:
• Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
• Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 140 °F or warmer.
• Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
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Let’s Hear it for Fluoridation!

The Centers for Disease Control(CDC) shares the following update about the success of  water fluoridation.

fluoridation

Community Water Fluoridation 70th Anniversary

 Fluoridation began in 1945.  Each generation has enjoyed better oral health than the previous one. Drink fluoridated water if it is available where you live and use fluoride toothpaste.

This year, the United States marks the 70th anniversary of community water fluoridation, one of public health’s greatest success stories.

Almost all water contains some naturally-occurring fluoride, but usually at levels too low to prevent tooth decay. Water fluoridation is the process of adding a small amount of fluoride to public water supplies to a level known to make teeth stronger and prevent cavities. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first city in the U.S. to fluoridate its water, and by the early 1950’s, results were clear: Compared to school children from nearby areas that did not fluoridate their water, children in Grand Rapids had fewer cavities.

Since then, water fluoridation has been a major factor resulting in lower rates of tooth decay in the United States, with each generation enjoying better oral health than the previous one. As of 2012, more than 210 million people, or 3 in 4 Americans who use public water supplies, drank water with enough fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

Community Water Fluoridation helps maintain good oral health.

Effective and Safe

Fluoridated water is effective, because it keeps a low level of fluoride in the mouth, specifically in the dental plaque and saliva, all day. Even with the use of other fluoride products, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by 25% among children and adults. In communities with water fluoridation, school children have, on average, about 2 fewer decayed teeth compared to children who don’t live in fluoridated communities.

That’s important because oral health affects every aspect of our lives—diet, sleep, mental health, social connections, school, and work. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain, school absences, difficulty concentrating, and poor appearance—all contributing to reduced quality of life and ability to succeed.

Fluoridation has been identified as the most feasible and cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all members of the community, regardless of age, education, or income. These advantages combined with fluoridation’s contribution to dramatic declines in both the prevalence and severity of tooth decay led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to name water fluoridation as one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Scientists in the United States and other countries have studied the safety and benefits of fluoridated water for decades, and found no convincing evidence to link water fluoridation and any potential unwanted health effect other than dental fluorosis.

Dental Fluorosis

Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of tooth enamel. It can occur when young children (less than 8 years of age) regularly take in fluoride when their permanent teeth are still developing.

Today there are more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinse, than when fluoridation was first introduced. With greater availability of fluoride, there has been an increase in the dental fluorosis. Most dental fluorosis in the U.S.—more than 90 percent—appears in its milder forms as white spots on the tooth surface that may not be noticed.

To balance the benefits of fluoridation with the chance for dental fluorosis, the US Public Health Service just published an updated recommendation for the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water to prevent tooth decay[403 KB]. The new recommendation sets the level of fluoride in drinking water at 0.7 mg/liter. This new guidance updates and replaces the previous recommended range of 0.7 mg/L to 1.2 mg/L. It is important to note that there is no federal “requirement” to fluoridate. States and local communities decide whether to fluoridate or not. CDC’s Division of Oral Health does provide technical help and training for state fluoridation programs.

Basic Tips for Good Oral Health

Drink fluoridated water if it is available where you live and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride’s protection against tooth decay works at all ages. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, ask your dentist, family doctor, or pediatrician if your child needs oral fluoride supplements, like drops, tablets, or lozenges.

 

Our Children are Part of a Digital Generation

More and more you see young children been pushed in carriages or riding in a car, while playing video games and watching movies on hand-held, digital devices.

Yes, it keeps them entertained. It also helps with eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity.

Yet, pediatricians and other child development specialists are warning about the excessive viewing and playing of video and computer games at the expense of needed daily physical activities and developing social skills that come from interacting with other children in community activities.

The commonly held belief is that children need a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activities each day.

According to a number of recent studies, many school-age children spend hours each day on their home computers and hand-held devices in non-academic activities. One such study, in the journal Pediatrics, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, looked at the value of active video games as a way of making a child more active. The outcome of this research is no surprise…no, children were no more active while playing an active video game.

Dr. Tom Baranowski,  a professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital commented,”If Mama brings a video game home, can she expect that her child will get more physical activity, and the answer is, as far as we can tell, no. Parents who want to have their kids to be more physically active should enroll their children in school-based sports teams, and other kinds of physical activities.”

Computers and hand-held devices are here to stay and that is not a bad thing. We just need to decide how much time each day is a reasonable amount of time for our children to spend in recreational use on these digital wonders.

Children, Teens and Fast Food Calories

Recent studies demonstrate that few children and teens pay attention to the nutritional information, especially calories, listed on the menu when ordering in fast food restaurants. They also significantly underestimate the calories in the foods they order, often by 500 or more calories.

 Eating out, for many teens, is about eating what they want with no regard for the effect it has on their weight.

According to the Journal on Obesity, eating fast foods out on a regular basis is part of in the growing problem of obesity in the U.S. Mandatory labeling of calories in foods in restaurants has been proposed as one way to help people make healthier food choices.

New York City was the first city to implement a posting calories requirement in chain restaurants. Now calorie labeling is mandated nationally by the Affordable Care Act. The law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide to post the calories in each food item either on menu boards or printed menus.

Most of the children  and teens interviewed in the studies, that took place in Boston and in New York City, were not aware of how many calories they needed each day for a healthy diet and what foods were the best choices for meeting their daily intake of calories.

The answer is not that children and teens give  up the fun of eating out in a fast food restaurant, but rather they need to learn how to eat out and keep food choices in line with their calories for the day.

Occasionally eating out at fast food restaurants as a family can be a way to help young children learn about how to use the calorie labeling to make good meal choices. Ordering based on calories and the nutritional value of each food on the menu will hopefully have carry over value to when they are making those choices on their own,  as teens, and eating out with friends.

Source:Journal of Obesity

 

Old Enough to Stay Home Alone?

aloneThere are few states that have laws stating how old a child must be before he or she can be left at home alone.

Yet, the National SAFEKIDS Campaign states that no child under 12 should be left home alone, no matter how mature they appear to be. They advise:

While 12 years is the earliest age to even consider that a child can stay home alone, each child is different and may not be ready at 12. Once the decision is made to begin allowing a child to stay at home alone the following suggestions can help insure a safe, comfortable experience for parent and child:

  • Practice by letting your child stay at home for brief periods of time
  • Always leave a phone number where you can be contacted
  • Call your child regularly while they are alone
  • Be sure your child understands your expectations about he or she is to use alone time. Review what is and is not permitted, such as:
    • TV viewing
    • Answer the phone
    • Cooking or making a snack
    • Using the computer
    • Entertaining friends
    • Going out or visit friends
  • Make sure your home is safe for your child:
    • Keep medications in a locked cabinet
    • If you have guns, keep them a locked cabinet
    • Correct anything your child could get hurt on
  • Practice correct behavior in emergencies such as:
    • What to do in an emergency
    • What to do if someone were trying to get into the house or apartment
    • What to do in case of a fire
  • Before you make the decision to try letting your child be home alone, ask your child if he or she feels confident and ready to stay home alone. If he or she is hesitant, hire a sitter and revisit being home alone in six or more months.

Sources: National Child Care Information Center, National SAFEKIDS Campaign, Jennifer Wolf, About.com