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Holiday Cooking and Fire Safety

kitchenFireAccording to  the U.S. Fire Administration, a cooking fire continues to be the most common type of fire in U.S. households. It comes as no surprise that there is an increased incidence of cooking fires on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve Day, and Christmas Day. The good news is  these fires are preventable.

The following fire safety tips are from the U.S. Fire Administration:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • Stay alert! To prevent cooking fires, you have to be alert. You won’t be if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stove top.
  • Keep the stove top, burners, and oven clean.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
  • Plug microwave ovens and other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • When cooking, stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on the stove.

If You Have a Cooking Fire

  • When in doubt, just get out. When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
  • If you do try to fight the fire, be sure others are already getting out and you have a clear path to the exit.
  • Always keep an oven mitt and a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan (make sure you are wearing the oven mitt). Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan is completely cool.
  • In case of an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
  • If you have a fire in your microwave oven, turn it off immediately and keep the door closed. Never open the door until the fire is completely out. Unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the outlet.
  • After a fire, both ovens and microwaves should be checked and/or serviced before being used again.

Nuisance Smoke Alarms

  • If a smoke alarm sounds during normal cooking, you may need to move it farther away from the kitchen (according to manufacturer’s instructions) and/or install a smoke alarm with a pause button.
  • If your alarm already has a pause button, push the pause button, open the door or window, and fan the area around the alarm with a towel to get the air moving. Do not disable the smoke alarm or take the batteries out!
  • Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.

Turkey Fryer Safety Tips

  • Use turkey fryers outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other combustible materials.
  • Never use turkey fryers in a garage or on a wooden deck.
  • Make sure fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you do not watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer even if it is not in use. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water do not mix; water causes oil to spill over causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • The National Turkey Federation recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator approximately 24 hours for every five pounds in weight.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. If the fire is manageable, use your all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call the fire department for help.

Source: Underwriters Laboratories

Burns and Scalds

  • Most burns associated with cooking equipment, cookware, and tableware are not caused by fire or flame. In 2009, ranges or ovens were involved in an estimated 17,300 thermal burn injuries seen in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. (Source: NFPA)
  • Microwaves are a leading cause of scald burns. Be extra careful when opening a heated food container. Heat food in containers that are marked ‘microwave safe.’ Since foods heat unevenly in the microwave, make sure you stir and test the food before eating.

Protecting Children from Scalds and Burns

Children under five face a higher risk of non-fire burns associated with cooking than of being burned in a cooking fire. (Source: NFPA) You can help prevent these injuries by following a few basic tips:

  • Keep children at least 3 feet away from where food and drink are being prepared or carried.

  • Keep hot foods and liquids away from the table or counter edges.

  • Use the stove’s back burners if you have young children in the home.

  • Never hold a child while cooking, drinking, or carrying hot foods or liquids.

  • Also, teach children that hot things burn!

Have a Happy and a Safe Thanksgiving from “Can Do” Street!

‘Lucky 13′ Tips for a Safe Halloween

Safe Halloween‘Lucky 13′ Tips for a Safe Halloween is a pass along for the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whether you’re goblin or ghoul, vampire or witch, poor costume choices—including decorative contact lenses and flammable costumes—and face paint allergies can haunt you long after Halloween if they cause injury.

Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by following these “lucky 13” guidelines:

  1. Wear costumes made of fire-retardant materials; look for “flame resistant” on the label. If you make your costume, use flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon to be safe.
  2. Wear bright, reflective costumes or add strips of reflective tape and be safe because you’ll be more visible; make sure the costumes aren’t so long that you’re in danger of tripping.
  3. Wear makeup and hats, to be safe, rather than masks that can obscure your vision.
  4. To be on the safe side, test the makeup you plan to use by putting a small amount on your arm a couple of days in advance. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a sign of a possible allergy.
  5. Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA approved and safe for use. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use it.
  6. It is not a safe to wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional and gotten a proper lens fitting and instructions for using the lenses.

Safe Treats

Eating sweet treats is also a big part of the fun on Halloween. If you’re trick-or-treating, health and safety experts say you should remember these tips:

  1. Don’t let your kids eat candy until it has been inspected at home.
  2. Trick-or-treaters should eat a snack before heading out, so they won’t be tempted to nibble on treats that haven’t been inspected.
  3. Tell children not to accept—or eat—anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
  4. Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.
  5. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

For party goers and party throwers, FDA recommends the following safe tips for two seasonal favorites:

  1. Look for the warning label to avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products that may have been made on site. When in doubt, ask! Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Normally, the juice found in your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or on the shelf in boxes, bottles, or cans is pasteurized.
  2. Before bobbing for apples—a favorite Halloween game—reduce the amount of bacteria that might be on apples by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

Eye Safety

FDA joins eye care professionals—including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists and the American Optometric Association—in discouraging consumers from using decorative contact lenses.

These experts warn that buying any kind of contact lenses without an examination and a prescription from an eye care professional can cause serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss. Despite the fact that it’s illegal to sell decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription, FDA says the lenses are sold on the Internet and in retail shops and salons—particularly around Halloween.

The decorative lenses make the wearer’s eyes appear to glow in the dark, create the illusion of vertical “cat eyes,” or change the wearer’s eye color.

“Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories,” says FDA eye expert Bernard Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed.. “What troubles us is when they are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care, this can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

 

Food Safety at a 4th of July Fair

The Centers for Disease Control want us to practice food safety at fairs and festivals this 4th of July and throughout the summer.

foodOne of the CDC publications  asks us to remember that the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at these events. Here are some things they suggest you do or find out to prevent foodborne illness:

Before you buy food from a vendor check out the following:

  • Does the vendor have a clean/tidy workstation?
  • Does the vendor have a sink for employees to wash their hands?
  • Do the employees wear gloves or use tongs when handling food?
  • Does the vendor have refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods?
  • Has the vendor been inspected? Requirements vary by state, but in general, temporary and mobile vendors, like those at fairs and carnivals, should have a license to sell food and beverages in a particular state or county. You can check with the local health department to see if the vendors are licensed and if a food inspection has been completed.

Are there healthy food alternatives to consider at fairs and festivals?

When purchasing food from a vendor, look for foods that are healthy for you. If they are not available, consider bringing your own food to save money and calories. Don’t forget to keep safe food storage practices in mind.

If bringing food from home, what are the proper food handling and storage practices?

If you bring food to a fair or festival from home, be sure to keep food handling and storage times in mind. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour. Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag

Remember to Wash Hands Often:

  • Find out where hand washing stations are located.
  • Always wash your hands right after petting animals, touching the animal enclosure, and exiting animal areas even if you did not touch an animal.
  • Always wash hands after using the restroom, after playing a game or going on a ride, before eating and drinking, before preparing food or drinks, after changing diapers, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes.
  • Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands.

Report Illness:

Anytime you suspect you may have contracted a foodborne illness, report it to your local health department, even if it is after you have recovered. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as it is to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

Mother’s Day and Food Safety

Here comes Mother’s Day; a day for hosting a gathering for our mothers. For many of us, it is a time to serve convenience food, so we have more time to enjoy our company.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education wants you to know that to prevent food-related illness due to under-cooking frozen or other convenience foods follow these four simple tips:

1. Read and follow package cooking instructions.

2. Know when to use a microwave or conventional oven.

3. Know your microwave wattage before microwaving food.

4. Always use a food thermometer to ensure a safe internal temperature.

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service wants you to know the following about keeping party foods safe:

  • Make sure all food is cooked thoroughly before serving.
  • Store prepared foods in shallow pans so they cool quickly and evenly. Reheat and serve small amounts on platters while the remaining food stays hot in the oven.
  • Don’t let food stay at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Use chafing dishes, warming trays or slow cookers to keep foods hot.
  • Surround dishes of cold foods with ice.

Both government agencies are quick to remind us that taking precautions when preparing and serving food can spare us the misery of a food-induced illness.

The Challenge…21 Days to Change Your Salty Ways

Take the American Heart Association Challenge and change your salty ways!

Salty-SnacksThe heart and stroke experts launched a three-week Sodium Swap Challenge that started on Jan. 7. The group is calling upon Americans to identify and track the Salty Six — the foods in their diet loaded with extra salt that increase their risk for heart disease and stroke. The goal is for Americans to limit sodium intake to no more than 1,500 milligrams each day. Currently, the typical American consumes more than twice that.

Never mind giving up the salt shaker, it will take more than that to lower your sodium intake. Americans can dramatically reduce their daily salt intake by cutting bread, cold cuts and cured meats from their diet, according to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Limiting condiments and reading nutritional labels are other ways to kick a high-sodium habit, the experts noted in an association news release. They also said people can change their palate and enjoy foods with less salt in just 21 days.

“To get started with the association’s challenge, we ask that consumers get familiar with the food labels and nutrition facts for the foods they eat and track their sodium consumption over the first two days to get an idea of how much they are eating, which I’m sure will be surprising to many people,” said Rachel Johnson, spokeswoman for the associations and professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont. “Then, over the course of the next three weeks, consumers will use the Salty Six as their guide to help lower their sodium intake.”

During the first week of the challenge, Americans are asked to limit consumption of bread, rolls, cold cuts and cured meats. A slice of bread can contain more than 200 mg of sodium and one serving of turkey cold cuts as much as 1,050 mg. It’s also recommended that you check food labels and track sodium consumption daily.

For the second week, Americans are asked to opt for lower-salt versions of pizza and poultry. The idea is to choose foods with less cheese or meat and more vegetables. Poultry should also be skinless and not processed or fried.

Focus on soup and sandwiches during the third week, the associations said. Soups often contain up to 940 mg of sodium per serving. Layering meats, cheese and condiments to a sandwich can add more than 1,500 mg of sodium.

After three weeks, the experts said challenge participants should notice a difference in how they feel after eating and how their food tastes.

More information

The American Heart Association provides more information on the Sodium Swap Challenge.