Myths about Keeping Food Safe in the Refrigerator

refrigerator

September is National Food Safety Education Month and consumers need to know that myths about keeping food safe in the refrigerator aren’t true.

Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.

Fact:  Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F.  And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.

As many as 43% of home refrigerators have been found to be at temperatures above 40 °F, putting them in the food safety “danger zone” where harmful bacteria can multiply and make you and your family sick!

Slow the growth of bacteria by using a refrigerator thermometer to tell if your refrigerator is at 40 °F or below. And if it isn’t?  Use that dial to adjust the temperature so it will be colder. Then, use your refrigerator thermometer to measure again.

Myth 2:  Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in the refrigerator – it’s too cold in there for germs to survive!

Fact:  Bacteria can survive and some even grow in cool, moist environments like the refrigerator.

In fact, Listeria bacteria can grow at temperatures below 40 °F! A recent study showed the refrigerator produce compartment was one of the “germiest” places in the kitchen, containing Salmonella and Listeria.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your refrigerator:

  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs
  • Clean up food and beverage spills immediately, and
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly with hot water and liquid soap.  Don’t forget to clean the refrigerator walls and undersides of shelves!

Myth 3: I left some food out all day, but if I put it in the refrigerator  now, the bacteria will die.

Fact:   Refrigerator temperatures can slow the growth of bacteria, but will not stop the growth of bacteria in food. 

If food is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, putting it into the refrigerator will only slow bacterial growth, not kill it. Protect your family by following the 2-hour rule—refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cut fresh fruits and vegetables, and all cooked leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature is above 90 ºF.

While refrigeration does slow bacterial growth, most perishables will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator. To keep perishables longer than a few days—like most meat, poultry and seafood—you can freeze them.

Myth 4:  I don’t need to clean my refrigerator produce bin because I only put fruit and vegetables in there.

FACT:   Naturally occurring bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

A recent NSF International study found that the refrigerator produce compartment was the #1 “germiest” area in consumers’ kitchens!  To prevent the buildup of bacteria that can cause food poisoning, it is essential to clean your produce bin and other bins in your refrigerator often with hot water and liquid soap, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean cloth towel or allow to air dry outside of the refrigerator.

For more myths and facts about food safety, go to:
www.fightbac.org/food-safety-education/home-food-safety-mythbusters/

 

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Antibiotic Resistance

The FDA wants you to be aware of the growing problem of Antibiotic Resistance. The following information comes directly from the FDA literature on the subject.

Antibiotic drugs can save lives. But some germs get so strong that they can resist the drugs. The drugs don’t work as well. Germs can even pass on resistance to other germs.

antibiotic  Antibiotic drugs normally work by killing germs called bacteria, or they stop the bacteria from growing. However,  sometimes not all of them are stopped or killed. The strongest ones are left to grow and spread. A person can get sick again. This time the germs are harder to kill.

The more often a person uses an antibiotic, the more likely it is that the germs will resist it. This can make some diseases very hard to control. It can make you and your children sick longer and require more doctor visits. You may need to take drugs that are even stronger.

 There are Two Main Types of Germs

 Bacteria and viruses are the two main types of germs. They cause most illnesses. Antibiotics can kill bacteria, but they do not work against viruses. Viruses cause:• Colds • Coughs• Sore throats • Flu• Bronchitis • Sinus problems• Ear infections

Bacteria live in drinking water, food, and soil. They live in plants, animals, and people. Most of them do not hurt people. Some even help us to digest food. But other bacteria cause serious diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and Lyme disease.

 How Does this Affect Me?

 If you have a virus, taking antibiotics is not a good idea. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses. The medicine will not help you. It might even harm you. Each time you take one, you add to the chances that bacteria in your body will be able to resist them. Later that could make you very sick. Finding the right treatment could be a problem.

 What Common Mistakes Do Patients Make?

• Patients ask for antibiotics they don’t need. For example, they ask for antibiotics to treat a cold.

• They don’t take antibiotics the way the doctor says. For example, they stop taking the drug before all the pills are used. That can leave the strongest germs to grow.

• They save antibiotics and take them on their own later

What is the FDA Doing About the Problem?

The FDA wants doctors to be more careful about giving antibiotics when they are not needed.

• The FDA will require new labeling for doctors.

• One of the new labels must say that these drugs should be used only for infections caused by bacteria.

• Another label will ask doctors to explain to their patients the right way to use the drugs.

 What Should I Do?

 • Don’t demand an antibiotic when your doctor says you don’t need it.

• Don’t take an antibiotic for a virus (cold, cough, or flu).

• Take your medicine exactly the way the doctor says. Don’t skip doses.

• Don’t stop taking your medicine when you feel better. Take all the doses.

• Don’t take leftover medicine.

• Don’t take someone else’s medicine.

• Don’t rely on antibacterial products (soaps, detergents, and lotions). There is no proof that these products really help.

We all need to be wary about becoming antibiotic resistant

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How Clean is your Toothbrush?

Researchers at England’s University of Manchester say your toothbrush can be a breeding place for germs.

They found that one uncovered toothbrush can harbor more than 100 million bacteria, including E. coli bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, and staphylococci (“staph”) bacteria that cause skin infections.

toothbrushSo, how safe is your toothbrush?

Well, according to Gayle McCombs, RDH, MS, associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Research Center at Old Dominion University, “There are hundreds of microorganisms in our mouths each and every day. But problems only start when there is an unhealthy balance of bacteria in the mouth.”

Oral hygiene experts agree that no matter how many bacteria live in your mouth, or have gotten in there from your toothbrush, your body’s natural defenses make it most unlikely that you will get sick from brushing your teeth.

Here are some recommended common sense storage toothbrush storage tips from the experts:

  • Don’t Brush Where You Flush – Every toilet flush sends a spray of bacteria into the air. You don’t want the toilet spray anywhere near your open toothbrush. McCombs says. “It’s just common sense to store your toothbrush as far away from the toilet as possible.”
  • Once you’ve moved your toothbrush away from the toilet, here are a few other storage tips to keep your brush as germ-free as possible:
    • Wash off your toothbrush thoroughly with tap water every time you use it.
    • “Bacteria love a moist environment,” Harms says. Make sure your brush has a chance to dry thoroughly before you use it again. Avoid using toothbrush covers, which can create a moist enclosed breeding ground for bacteria.
    • Store your toothbrush upright in a holder, rather than lying it down.
    • No matter how close you are to your sister, brother, spouse, or roommate, don’t ever use their toothbrush. Don’t even store your toothbrush side-by-side in the same cup with other people’s brushes. Whenever toothbrushes touch, they can swap germs.

Source: WebMD

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Back-to-School Food Safety Tips

tipsThe following back-to-school  food safety tips are shared by Marianne Gravely, Food Safety Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These tips can make all the difference in keeping foods safe from the time they leave your home until your child eats them in school. Following these tips will prevent foodborne illnesses.

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle or back in the car for all the parents. The new school year means its back to packing lunches and after-school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is Bacteria.

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels, which can cause foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean – Separate – Cook – and Chill.

Packing Tips

  • If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
  • Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 °F or above.
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snack for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

  • If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

 


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Food Safety

foodFood safety is an all-year-round concern.

But, the warm months get us thinking more about what we buy, how we wash, package and store food when our food has a greater chance of spoiling more quickly.

Some food safety issues may be beyond our control, such as how long milk and other perishables sat out in the heat before reaching the refrigeration units in the supermarket.

We can do something about the following food safety practices:

  • Don’t believe the myth that leftovers or other foods in the refrigerator for several days are still safe to eat if they don’t smell bad. The fact is that there are different kinds of bacteria in food that can make us sick that don’t change the taste or smell or look of a food.
  • Choose to freeze leftovers after the first serving as a meal. Err on the side of caution and throw away foods that have been in the refrigerator more than 3 days.
  • Don’t believe the popularly held belief that freezing foods kills bacteria.
  • Bacteria can survive freezing temperatures. Freezing is not a method for making foods safe to eat. When food is thawed, bacteria can still be present and may begin to multiply.
  • Cooking food to the proper internal temperature is the best way to kill harmful bacteria. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of cooked foods

Source: Partnership for Food Safety Education

For more food safety tips, myths and facts go to: http://www.fightbac.org

 

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