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.

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. The USDA reminds everyone to use a food thermometer, and take advantage of resources like our FoodKeeper app to help with any food handling questions.”

The USDA recently 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, food borne illness increases in summer. To help Americans stay healthy and safe, the USDA offers the following food safety recommendations.

When 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.

If you are going to be cooking on a 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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Here are Some 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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Safety Tips for Pool and Spa from NSF International

image of pool and spaThe Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that almost 300 + children under the age of 5 drown in each year and thousands more are injured in pool and spa accidents. 

One of the organizations that knows how to protect our children from pool and spa accidents is NSF International.

NSF International helps protect you by certifying products worldwide and writing internationally-recognized standards for food, water and consumer goods. As an independent, not-for-profit, global public health and safety organization, NSF is committed to improving human health and safety worldwide.

Here are some safety tips for pool and spa owners from NSF International:

  • Small children require constant adult supervision when using a pool and spa. There is no substitute for the watchful eye of caring adults.

  • Never use a pool and spa that has a broken or missing drain cover. If family or friends have a pool that your children visit, or you swim at a public pool and spa, check for properly attached drain covers and instruct children to keep away from the drains.
  • In addition to being correctly installed, drain covers and grates should meet current anti-entrapment standards set forth in the Pool and Spa Safety Act to help prevent body parts and hair from becoming trapped. Covers that meet these standards will display ANSI/APSP 16 or ANSI/ASME A112.19.8 on the cover’s exterior.
  • Make sure you know if anyone using your pool and spa is a non-swimmer, especially the children.
  • Establish and enforce rules for pool and spa use. Don’t allow kids to run or play games near the pool. Keep toys, particularly tricycles or wheeled toys, away from pools, as children playing with these could accidentally fall into the water.
  • Install a certified barrier or pool alarm to help prevent unauthorized persons from entering the area surrounding your pool or spa. Wristband alarms are also available to alert parents if a child should accidentally fall into the water.
  • Keep your pool and spa properly sanitized and maintained. Use pool treatment chemicals safely and always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Store chemicals in a cool, dry area out of the reach of children.
  • Make sure that an emergency shut-off switch for the pump is installed nearby and that it is easily accessible. Everyone should know where these switches are located and how to use them.
  • Check local building codes to ensure the fence surrounding your pool and spa meets minimum type and height requirements. Gates leading to the pool and spa area should have a self-closing and self-latching mechanism to prevent unauthorized entry.
  • Drain standing water from the surface of pool and spa covers, as small children can drown in even the smallest amount of water. Always remove covers completely before using a pool and spa.

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Children and Teens Underestimate Fast Food Calories

counting the calories in fast foods

 The Journal of Obesity reported on recent studies demonstrating 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.

 Children and teens need to understand the relationship between the calories they consume every day and weight gain.

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Managing and Treating Seasonal Allergies in Children

Tis the season for allergies. The following post contains information from the USA.gov site on managing and treating seasonal allergies in children.

allergiesMillions of people suffer from allergies every spring, including many children. In fact, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about 40 percent of children in the United States suffer from allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever.

Hay fever is triggered by breathing in allergens, like pollen, commonly found in springtime air. Sneezing and nasal congestion are some of the most common symptoms, but your symptoms can vary depending on the types of plants that grow where you live.

The following tips will help you minimize seasonal allergies in children, and learn more about allergy treatments.

How to Prevent Allergies in Children

If your child suffers from seasonal allergies, there are steps you can take to reduce their symptoms and decrease the use of medications:

  • During the spring, keep your children indoors in the evenings because pollen levels are highest during that time of day.
  • Keep your home and car windows closed during windy, sunny days.
  • Have your children take a shower after spending time outside to remove any pollen residue on their body or in their hair.
  • Have your children change their clothes after spending time outside because they will carry pollen indoors on their clothes.
  • Dry your clothes indoors instead of on an outdoor clothesline during this time of year.

Allergy Medicine for Children

Medicine can help alleviate allergy symptoms in children, but with any medication you give your child, be sure you’re using the right medication for your child’s age and weight. Follow the instructions carefully to be sure your child gets the correct dosage.

Over-the-counter, generic allergy medication is effective for many people and can cost less than prescription allergy medications. If you have any questions about what medications are right for your child, ask your family doctor.

Some common allergy medications include:

  • Nasal decongestants to relieve a stuffy nose.
  • Antihistamines to relieve sneezing, and an itchy, runny nose.
  • Nasal corticosteroids are also often used, but are available only by prescription.

Other Treatments

For children who have allergy symptoms that are difficult to control, doctors will often give your child an allergy test to learn the exact cause of the allergy. Your doctor will recommend a special treatment based on the results of the allergy test.

Your child need not suffer from seasonal allergies.

 

 

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