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

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

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated, last week, 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 were the result of infected kitchen employees touching food with their bare hands, according to a new CDC agency 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 havethe  resources to help manage food safety, as well as cleanliness standards that employees must maintain
  • Send it back – If you rmeat is undercooked, 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.

Sources: Prevention; June 3, 2014, report, Vital Signs: Foodborne Norovirus Outbreaks — United States, 2009-2012, Journal of Food Poison

 

Summer and Snakes

snakes

With summer comes the need to be aware of the places that snakes usually inhabit.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham recently treated its first snakebite case of the season, noted Dr. Janyce Sanford, chair of the university’s department of emergency medicine.

“That is a usual pattern. As soon as the weather starts to warm up, snakes begin to get active and we begin seeing a bite or two. Still, we only see a few each spring, and people have a much greater chance of being stung by a bee or wasp or being bitten by a tick than being bitten by a snake,” Sanford said in a university news release.

If you’re in the woods or near rivers and creeks, keep an eye out for snakes and wear boots and long pants, she warned. It’s also a good idea to carry a cellphone.

“Get to an emergency department as quickly as you safely can, and that can often be accomplished by calling 911,” Sanford said. “Snap a picture of the snake with the cell phone if possible, but leave the snake behind. The last thing we need in a crowded emergency room is a snake, dead or alive.”

Emergency doctors do not need to see the snake that caused the bite. A large number of bites are dry — with no venom injected — or are from nonpoisonous snakes, Sanford noted. By monitoring the wound for a few hours, doctors can tell if venom is present, and appropriate antivenin can then be given to the patient.

Most bites by snakes are not fatal. Those at higher risk include the elderly, very young children and people with underlying medical problems”, Sanford said.

More information:

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about snakebites.

SOURCE: University of Alabama at Birmingham, news release, April 24, 2014

Sugar Substitutes

sugar substitutesMany of us use sugar substitutes on a regular basis. Which ones are the safest?  The following is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) release on the status of sugar substitutes.

Release…May 19, 2014

Whether it’s to cut down on the number of calories they consume or any of a variety of other reasons, some people use sugar substitutes – also called high-intensity sweeteners – to sweeten and add flavor to their foods. They can be used alone to sweeten foods and beverages such as iced tea or coffee, or as an ingredient in other products. There are a number of sugar substitutes on the market from which to choose.

“Sugar substitutes are called ‘high-intensity’ because small amounts pack a large punch when it comes to sweetness,” says Captain Andrew Zajac, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), director of the Division of Petition Review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to Zajac, unlike sweeteners such as sugar, honey, or molasses, high-intensity sweeteners add few or no calories to the foods they flavor. Also, high-intensity sweeteners generally do not raise blood sugar levels.

The FDA has approved a new high-intensity sweetener called advantame.

Advantame—which does not yet have a brand name (such as Sweet’N Low, a brand name for saccharin, or Equal, a brand name for aspartame)—has been approved as a new food additive for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, except meat and poultry.

Examples of uses for which advantame has been approved include baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks), chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.

How Do You Know it’s  Safe?

FDA is required by law to review all new food additives for safety before they can go on the market. The process begins when a company submits a food additive petition to FDA seeking approval. One exception is for substances “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, because those substances are generally recognized by qualified experts as safe under the conditions of intended use and are exempt from the food additive approval process.

Zajac explains that the agency’s scientists thoroughly review all the scientific evidence submitted by a company to ensure the product is safe for the intended use.

“In determining the safety of advantame, FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible toxic (harmful) effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems,” Zajac says.

Advantame is chemically related to aspartame, and certain individuals should avoid or restrict the use of aspartame. To that end, FDA evaluated whether the same individuals should avoid or restrict advantame, as well.

People who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, have a difficult time metabolizing phenylalanine, a component of both aspartame and advantame. Newborns are tested for PKU using a common “heel-prick” test before they leave the hospital.

Foods containing aspartame must bear an information statement for people with PKU alerting them about the presence of phenylalanine. But advantame is much sweeter than aspartame, so only a very small amount needs to be used to reach the same level of sweetness. As a result, foods containing advantame do not need to bear that statement.

Five Sugar Substitutes Already on the Market:

The last high-intensity sweetener approved by FDA was Neotame (brand name Newtame) in 2002. The other four on the market, and are:

  • Saccharin, was first discovered and used in 1879, before the current food additive approval process came into effect in 1958. Brand names include Sweet‘N Low

  • Aspartame, first approved for use in 1981. Brand names include Equal

  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), first approved for use in 1988. Brand names include Sweet One

  • Sucralose, first approved for use in 1998. Brand name is Splenda

In addition to the six sugar substitutes ( high-intensity sweeteners) that are FDA-approved as food additives, the agency has received and has not questioned GRAS notices for two types of plant/fruit based high-intensity sweeteners: certain steviol glycosides obtained from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni) and extracts obtained from Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit.

While these sugar substitutes (high-intensity sweeteners) are considered safe for their intended uses, certain individuals may have a particular sensitivity or adverse reaction to any food substance. Consumers should share with their health care provider any concerns they have about a negative food reaction.

In addition, FDA encourages consumers to report any adverse events through MedWatch: FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program.

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

 

Hiking with the Kids

School is almost over, summer is fast approaching, and the season of family get togethers, reunions, vacations and barbeques is close at hand. Quite a few of these events may take place in a park, where there will be the chance to take the kids out for a family hike.

Hiking is a great way to spend some quality time together as a family, and is a terrific form of exercise. Getting out in nature, and maybe leaving behind all the instant communication technologies, can be quite liberating too.

hiking

Now, before you get up and hit those trails, there are some simple and important rules you should keep in mind. Remember, you want this to be a fun experience, for both you and your kids.

You can always hike more, but never less.

So, start out with a short hike in mind. If it is going well, you can simply add to it as you go along. Go too far, for too long, and you may be carrying the little ones back to the car.

Safety first.

Bug bites, sunburn and skinned knees are the most common safety issues you want to make sure you can take care of on the trail.

• Sunscreen and bug-spray all exposed skin before setting out on the trail.

• Long pants are better than shorts in protecting the legs from bug bites.

• For the skinned knee, or hand, some anti-biotic cream and band-aids are a good idea to have on hand.

Stay hydrated!

Make sure you bring along plenty of water. There is no such thing as too much water, and the best place to carry your water is inside you. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Stop every 20-30 minutes and take a few swigs of water. Stay away from sugary drinks, straight water is more than good enough.

Keep up your strength.

Have some good energy snacks with you too. Depending on the length of the hike, you may want to stop, perhaps at a scenic viewpoint, and take a little break with something to eat.

Have a plan if…

The last simple rule needs a whistle Make sure each child has a whistle attached to them. I don’t mean in their pocket, I mean around their neck, or looped into their belt, so they cannot lose the whistle. If, they should ever become separated from the group, they can blow the whistle loud and clear, while staying put. Make sure this is explained to them before, and reviewed during, the hike.

Have fun!

These rules, if followed, will go a long way in making that family walk in the woods a good one. Having it be a good time, a good memory, that is the key to getting the kids – and you – to want to do it again. Hiking is a great exercise that can take your kids to great places as part of a life-long activity.

Some helpful websites for making the family hike fun and safe:

Hiking with Kids – American Hiking Society http://www.americanhiking.org/resources/hiking-with-kids/

• A short list of ideas to keep the hike “kid-friendly.”

Helpful Tips on Hiking – American Hiking Society

http://www.americanhiking.org/gear-resources/tips-for-your-next-hike/

• An excellent resource on everything you may need to know about getting started with hiking. From boots to bug-spray, rain gear to snacks, and safety and first-aide on the trail.

hiking

Kids and Hiking – REI

http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kids-hiking.html

Just Jeff’s Hiking Page

http://www.tothewoods.net/HikingWithKids.html

Tips for Hiking with Kids

http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/children/resources-for-families/how-to/tips-for-hiking-with-kids

 

Article by: Ned M Campbell is the head coach of James Madison High School’s wrestling team in Brooklyn, NY, and is a USA Wrestling nationally certified coach. He is a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Officer, who also teaches history at James Madison teamHigh School.  Prior to teaching, Ned M Campbell worked with children and adults with disabilities during summer programs with IAHD and Southeast Consortium,  and volunteered time supporting a therapeutic horseback riding program for youth and adults with disabilities.

Campbell is a published writer, and a contributing writer to the “Can Do” Street blog for kids and parents. In addition, he is the voice of Coach Campbell in “Can Do” Street programs.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Coach Campbell’s co-article for kids, on this subject, featured on the “Can Do” Kids blog at http://candostreet.com/blog-kids/

 

USDA Fact Sheet:Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act

USDACongress passed the Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010 with bipartisan support to help ensure every American child had access to the nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults. One goal of the law was to help reduce America’s childhood obesity epidemic and reduce health risks for America’s children by helping schools across the country produce balanced meals so children had access to healthy foods during the school day. USDA based the new school meal standards on independent, expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to ensure kids are being fed healthy food while they are at school.

Results of the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act school meals provision to date include:

  • Kids are eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of updated standards. A recent Harvard study has concluded that, under the updated standards, kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch.
  • Over 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards. Students across the country are experiencing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. The new meals are providing children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • School lunch revenue is up. Despite concerns raised about the impact of new standards on participation and costs, a USDA analysis suggests that in the first year of implementing updated meal patterns, schools saw a net nationwide increase in revenue from school lunches of approximately $200 million. This includes the annual reimbursement rate adjustments, as well as increased revenue from paid meals and the additional 6 cents per meal for schools meeting the new meal standards.
  • Healthy food standards have not increased food waste. While reducing plate waste at schools, homes and workplaces continues to be a priority for USDA, a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that new school meal standards did not result in increased food waste.
  • Participation is increasing substantially in many areas of the country. USDA has received reports from many schools indicating a positive response to healthier offerings and increased participation. Examples include Los Angeles, Dallas, and some of Florida’s largest school districts. In fact, Los Angeles Unified-one of the nation’s largest school districts-has seen a 14% increase in participation under the new meal standards. As more kids and schools continue to successfully make the transition to the new standards, USDA expects participation to keep climbing.
  • HHFKA has led to participation increases within many schools. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) under the HHFKA has been successfully implemented in almost 4,000 schools in early adopting States. More than 600 school districts across 11 States have at least one school participating in CEP. The evaluation results demonstrate that participating schools were able to increase participation in their meals programs, and as well as experience revenue gains and decreased administrative costs.
  • Virtually all schools continue to participate. Data from states indicated very few schools (only 0.15% of schools nationwide) reported dropping out of the programs due to struggles over providing kids healthy food. State agencies reported that the schools no longer participating in the NSLP were mainly residential child care institutions and smaller schools with very low percentages of children eligible for free and reduced price meals.
  • USDA has and will continue to listen to stakeholders and provide guidance and flexibilities, as appropriate, to help schools and students adapt to the updated requirements. Early in the implementation process for school meals, when schools asked for flexibility to serve larger servings of grains and proteins within the overall calorie caps, USDA responded. In January of this year, that flexibility was made permanent. USDA is also phasing other requirements in over the next several years. And hearing schools concerns on the lack of availability of whole grain pasta, USDA is allowing schools that have demonstrated difficulty in obtaining adequate whole grain pasta to use traditional pastas for an additional two years while industry works to create better whole grain pasta products.
  • USDA is helping schools encourage kids to choose new healthier options. Most recently, the Department announced $5.5 million in new grants to support Smarter Lunchrooms, a broad toolkit of easy-to-implement, low-cost, evidence-based strategies that increase consumption of healthier foods and decrease plate waste.

  • USDA is supporting numerous training sessions in conjunction with our partners to help schools implement the updated meal standards and prepare for Smart Snacks. USDA has completed seven sessions with various audiences since the rule was published, and additional training is planned for the rest of the year. The Department has made in-person trainings at 16 school professional organization meetings and have tree more scheduled this spring and summer.
  • USDA is supporting implementation of the updated school meals standards and new Smart Snacks standards through a variety of additional methods.