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.

Food Handlers Cause Most Food Poisoning Cases

Eating out is supposed to be enjoyable. Yet, sometimes the food we eat in a restaurant makes us sick.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that the Norovirus spread in restaurants accounts for two-thirds of all food poisoning outbreaks. The Norovirus, the leading cause of food poisoning outbreaks in the United States, sickens at least 20 million Americans a year with vomiting and diarrhea.

They CDC clarified that the Norovirus, often referred to as the “cruise ship virus,” is more often caused by infected restaurant workers than outbreaks on cruise ships, which only accounted for 1% of the more than 1,000 food-borne outbreaks examined by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most outbreaks are the result of infected kitchen employees touching food with their bare hands, according to a CDC report. Restaurant workers need better hygiene practices if these outbreaks are to be prevented.

For the report, CDC researchers looked at Norovirus outbreaks caused by contaminated food from 2009 to 2012 and included in CDC’s National Outbreak Reporting System. Restaurants accounted for nearly two-thirds of the outbreaks, and catering or banquet facilities accounted for 17 percent. Among 520 of the outbreaks, food workers were implicated in 70 percent of the cases. Of these, 54 percent involved food workers touching ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands, according to the report.

Among 324 outbreaks in which a specific food was implicated, more than 90 percent of the contamination occurred during final preparation, such as making a sandwich with raw and already cooked ingredients. Another 75 percent occurred in foods eaten raw, such as leafy greens.

Tips for Preventing Food Poisoning When Eating Out

  • Be careful of Salsa – The Center for Disease and Control says that salsa and guacamole are increasingly causing food poisoning since they are often made in large batches and not always refrigerated properly.
  • Avoid Fish on Monday – If the chef bought  fish for Saturday night and didn’t sell out, then by Monday night, it is not so fresh.
  • Check Out the Staff– Cooks and staff should not be wiping their hands on their uniform (which harbors bacteria that can spread to food). Dirty aprons are not a good sign.
  • Avoid Buffets and Salad Bars – The Food Poison Journal puts it bluntly: eat at a salad bar at your own risk.  The Journal says this is one of the main places people get sick in a restaurant. Food in salad bars and buffets are rarely kept to the correct temperature. Also, lots of people touch both the food and the utensils.
  • Beware of Specials – In high-end restaurants, specials can be great fresh meat or fish prepared using a unique recipe. In low-end restaurants, specials are sometimes a way to “fancy up”  meat or fish that’s been sitting around awhile so they can get rid of it.
  • Smell Your Food – Your food has a funny odor or taste, send it back.
  •  Chain Restaurants are Safer– According to MarketWatch, you’re statistically safer if you eat at a chain restaurant as they have much to lose if their diners get sick. Chains have the  resources to help manage food safety, as well as cleanliness standards that employees must maintain
  • Send it back – If your meat is under-cooked, send it back.
  • Be aware of the temperature of your food – If the food is supposed to be hot, it should be steaming. If cold, you should be able to feel the coolness. Lukewarm anything is not safe.

 

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Chicken Safety Tips from the USDA

chickenGiven that chicken can be prepared so many ways, and is very economical, it is not surprising that it is America’s most popular poultry.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following information about buying, storing, preparing and serving chicken:es

* It is not necessary to rinse or soak raw chicken to clean it before cooking. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking. Rinsing chicken in the sink might cross-contaminate or spread bacteria throughout the kitchen.

*Fresh or raw chicken should be selected just before checking out of the grocery store. It should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Put chicken packages in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leaking juices which may cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Go right home after food shopping and immediately put the chicken in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within 1-2 days. If you won’t be using the chicken by day 2, freeze it.

*You don’t have to have to re-wrap chicken for freezing. It can be frozen in either its original wrapping or repackaged if you want. If freezing for longer than 2 months, for best quality, you may want to place in a freezer bag or over-wrap with heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper. Either way, once it’s frozen, chicken, and all other raw meats and poultry, are safe indefinitely in the freezer.

*When purchasing cooked chicken, make sure it’s hot upon purchase. Use it within 2 hours or cut it up into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. You can eat the leftovers within 3-4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F, or freeze it. Again, once frozen, the cooked chicken is safe indefinitely in the freezer. For best quality, use within 3-4 months.

*Color is not a good way to determine if cooked chicken is safe to eat. Only by using a food thermometer can you make sure chicken has reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. When cooking a whole chicken, you should check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, the wing and the thickest part of the breast. And remember, all chicken should be put in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).

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Keep Your Children Reading Over the Summer

readingWhat can you do to keep your children reading during summer vacation?

There are so many things to do during the summer other than reading. Yet, every child needs to keep up their reading skills. Family members can motivate children to read by using strategies that integrate reading into summer activities and events. Here are a few:

  • Before going to the beach, a park, visiting a historical site, a sporting event, or other activity make reading about the upcoming activity part of the planning, and then talk about the book and the activity over a snack, afterwards.
  • Check you library’s summer reading programs. Make attending these programs a summer activity, as well as stocking up on books to borrow.
  • Let your children see you reading regularly. Grab a magazine when you are in a waiting room. Bring a book to the beach.  Have a book on your night stand.
  • Talk to them about what you have learned and continue to learn from books.
  • Build reading time into your child’s  day, not as something to do when day is done and kids are too tired to do anything but zone out in front of the TV.
  • Much reading during the school year is required reading; make summer a time for fun reading on subjects of interest to your children

  • Give your children the opportunity to read a variety of materials, not just storybooks,  such as magazines, newsletters, and papers geared to their age and interests.
  • Road trips area great time for children to get in some reading
  • Encourage your children to join or start a  friends book club that can meet every two weeks to discuss a book they all read.

Reading during the summer will give your children a jump start when returning to school, not only with reading but with vocabulary and grammar!

 

 

 

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Make it a Happy and Healthy 4th of July!

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Here comes the 4th with its promise of fun. But we all need to take precautions to insure that it is a fun day.

Outdoor activities and fireworks are the biggest pastimes for 4th of July celebrations. Here are some tips on making it a safe, happy 4th.

  •  Never swim alone on the 4th or any other day, and make sure that any time kids are in the water someone is watching them closely.
  • Cover food and beverages outdoors to discourage uninvited guests such as bees and wasps. Wearing shoes, long sleeves, and long pants outdoors and avoiding perfumes and scented lotions, and sugary drinks can also help prevent bee stings.
  • Apply sunscreen both before and during your party on the 4th. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15.

  • Check prescription medications you are taking to assure you will not have a reaction from being out in the sun or heat for an extended period of time
  • If you’ll be hiking or camping over the 4th,wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots to protect yourself from diseases caused by ticks.
  • Keep children away from campfires and grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and overfilled propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and explosions.
  • Don’t leave the picnic foods out all day. Allowing food to sit in outdoor temperatures can invite illness. The U.S. FDA suggests never leaving food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 F and not more than two hours at other times.
  • If you live where fireworks are legal and they will be part of your 4th of July celebration be sure to store them where the kids can’t get into them. Keep the kids away from the fireworks at all times, and keep spectators at a safe distance. Professional fireworks displays are always a safer choice than putting on your own show.

A special note on using sparklers on the 4th;

  • Children under five are too young to safely hold a sparkler and don’t really understand why they might be dangerous. Avoid giving them one to hold.

  • Babies or children can wriggle in your arms and reach out unexpectedly. Avoid holding a baby or child when you have a sparkler in your hand.

  • Children over five will still need you to supervise them when they use sparklers. It’s safest if they wear gloves when they’re holding them. They might seem like ‘fireworks lite’ but sparklers can reach a temperature of 2000ºC. Have a bucket of water handy to put them in so that no-one can pick up a hot one off the ground. Teach them not to wave sparklers near anyone else or run with them.

4th

REFERENCES:

CPSC.gov. Fireworks Safety.

USDA

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How Safe are Laser Toys?

laserMost of us think lasers are cool. What we may not know is that when operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is particularly concerned about this potential danger to children and those around them.

According to a health promotion officer at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, “A beam shone directly into a person’s eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one.”

However, laser injuries usually don’t hurt, and vision can deteriorate slowly over time. Eye injuries caused by laser light may go unnoticed, for days and even weeks, and could be permanent.

Some examples of laser toys are:

  • lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming;”
  • spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
  • hand-held lasers used during play as “lightsabers;” and
  • lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

FDA Regulates Lasers

A laser creates a powerful, targeted beam of electromagnetic radiation that is used in many products, from music players and printers to eye-surgery tools. FDA regulates radiation-emitting electronic products, including lasers, and sets radiation-safety standards that manufacturers must meet. This includes all laser products that are marketed as toys.

Toys with lasers are of particular interest to the FDA because it’s often children who are injured by these products. Because advertisers promote them as playthings, parents and kids alike may believe they’re safe to use.

For toys to be considered minimal risk, the FDA recommends that the levels of radiation and light not exceed the limits of Class 1, which is the lowest level in regulated products. Lasers used for industrial and other purposes often require higher radiation levels. But in toys, those levels are unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

In recent years, lasers have increased markedly in power and have gone way down in price. And while adults may buy a laser pointer for use in work, kids often buy them for amusement.

Low-cost, compact laser pointers used to be quite low in power but, in the last 10 years, many laser pointers have increased in power 10-fold and more. The fact that lasers can be dangerous may not be evident, particularly to the children who use them as toys, or to the adults who supervise them.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Never aim or shine a laser directly at anyone, including animals. The light energy from a laser aimed into the eye can be hazardous, perhaps even more than staring directly into the sun.
  • Do not aim a laser at any reflective surface.
  • Remember that the startling effect of a bright beam of light can cause serious accidents when aimed at a driver in a car or otherwise negatively affect someone who is engaged in other activity (such as playing sports).
  • Look for a statement that it complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J on the label.

If you buy a laser toy or pointer and you don’t see this information in the labeling, it’s best not to make any assumptions about its safety.

Source: FDA Consumer Updates

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