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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Good Food on a Tight Budget

The following post contains press release information from the Environmental Working Group, EWG, a nonprofit organization.

EWG collaborated with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters to create  Good Food on a Tight Budget, http://tinyurl.com/8rjd5mb – to help you shop smarter and fill your grocery cart with the foods that deliver the biggest bang for your buck.

foodThis shopping guide looks at 100 foods that are healthy, inexpensive, clean and green. The guide features simple tips for eating well, tasty recipes for meals and kids’ snacks, as well as proven money-saving tools for tracking food prices and planning meals.

Click here to check out EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget – including 15 recipes that average less than $1 per serving and tips like, http://tinyurl.com/8rjd5mb:

:: A pear a day keeps the pesticides away – more fiber, potassium and folate than an apple and fewer pesticide residues.

:: Eat your garnish – parsley packs a punch as potent as kale for a quarter the price.

:: Not a carrot lover? Sweet potatoes pack twice the fiber, potassium, and vitamin A as carrots.

:: Super okra? Okra beat out more than 100 other veggies to rise to the top of our lists.

Did you know: one serving of filling oatmeal is about half the cost of a bowl of sugared cereal? For animal sources of protein – roasted turkey tops the list. But to eat on the cheap, you can’t beat pinto beans or lentils for one-fifth the cost.

These tips are perfect for back-to-school, too – and to help you plan out food choices for those important meals, the guide’s lead author, EWG nutritionist Dawn Undurraga, pulled together visual suggestions for a week of easy lunches. Click here to read her back-to-school blog, http://tinyurl.com/bs5sflt.

We believe that eating healthy and affordably should be easy. I hope you enjoy this  guide.

 

 

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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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Reducing Sodium in Restaurant Foods

 The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares the following press release reminding us to consider how much sodium we may be consuming when we eat out.

Americans eat out at fast food or dine-in restaurants four or five times a week. Just one of those meals might contain more than an entire day’s recommended amount of sodium.  CDC has strategies for health departments and restaurants to work together to offer healthier choices for consumers who want to lower their sodium intake. The report, “From Menu to Mouth: Opportunities for Sodium Reduction in Restaurants,” is published in the CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.

sodiumOn average, foods from fast food restaurants contain 1,848 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories and foods from dine-in restaurants contain 2,090 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories.

The U. S. Dietary Guidelines recommend the general population limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke.

“The bottom line is that it’s both possible and life-saving to reduce sodium, and this can be done by reducing, replacing and reformulating,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “When restaurants rethink how they prepare food and the ingredients they choose to use, healthier options become routine for customers.”

The report outlines several ways health departments and restaurants have worked together to offer lower-sodium choices:

  • Health department dietitians help restaurants analyze the sodium content of their foods and recommend lower-sodium ingredients.
  • Restaurants clearly post nutrition information, including sodium content, at the order counter and on menus or offer lower-sodium items at lower cost.
  • Health departments and restaurants explain to food service staff why lower sodium foods are healthier and how to prepare them.

The report also features examples of sodium reduction successes.  In Philadelphia, the health department worked with 206 restaurants to create the “Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take-out Initiative.”  After evaluating menus for sodium content, participating restaurants began choosing lower sodium ingredients and creating lower sodium recipes. After nine months, analyses of two popular dishes offered by 20 of the restaurants showed sodium was reduced by 20 percent.

“The story in Philadelphia shows what can be done,” Dr. Frieden said. “It’s not about giving up the food you love, but providing lower sodium options that taste great.”

To learn more about sodium and how it affects health, visit www.cdc.gov/salt.  Reducing sodium is one way that Million Hearts, a national public-private initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, is working with communities to keep people healthier and less likely to need health care www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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Do Preschoolers Really Need Structured Exercise Every Day?

If you are the parent or grandparent of a preschooler you’ve got to be thinking no way does my preschooler need structured exercise!

But…the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks us to consider the rise in overweight children between the ages of two and five years of age. In the late 1970s, about 5% of children between 2 and 5 years old were overweight. Just recently that figure reached nearly 14%,

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education(NASPE) suggests that preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) spend at least 60 minutes a day in total on structured physical exercise that help a preschooler develop motor skills. Children need daily practice to develop motor skills. Preschoolers need an additional 60 minutes on unstructured physical activities. They should not be engaging in more than 60 minutes at a time in sedentary activities unless they are asleep.

The guidelines for toddlers, 12 to 36 months old, are similar with the exception of structured physical activity adding up to 30 minutes a day rather than 60 minutes.

Parents and grandparents make the best teachers of physical exercise and activities. Try playing the following games to make sure your preschooler or toddle meets his or her daily requirements for physical activities:

  • Any kind of tag game
  • Catch with balls that are the proper size and weight for size and age
  • Water activities such as swimming, water exercises and games
  • Riding a tricycle or a scooter
  • Crawling activities
  • Doing jumping jacks
  • Music games and dancing to music
  • Playground jungle gym

NASPE offers a  word of caution… it is best to make these daily activities fun or, as our preschoolers get older structured physical activities may become a turnoff.

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