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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Should You Take Dietary Supplements?

supplementsThe NIH offers a look at supplements including vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. 

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—it is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “Fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need  supplements in the first place, the dosages and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.  NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov. This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts.
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Source: NIH News in Health

NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B64
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov
Tel: 301-402-7337

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E-cigarettes…What Do We Know About Their Safety ?

e-cigarettes are not safe

In an effort to quit,many people who smoke, are turning to e-cigarettes to help ease the process of giving up cigarettes entirely. Adolescents are experimenting with e-cigarettes. Yet little is known about the long term effects of using e-cigarettes.

What follows is a press release that speaks to the concerns of The  American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) with regard to e-cigarettes.

 Press release... The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in a joint letter responding to a proposal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to extend its regulatory authority over tobacco products, today urged the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), cigars, and all other tobacco products and to strengthen the proposed regulations for newly deemed products.

“There is no safe form of tobacco use,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, and among its dire health consequences are 18 different types of cancer. It is imperative that the FDA takes action to regulate all tobacco products. The future health of the American people, in particular our nation’s children, depends on it.”

The AACR and ASCO applauded the FDA’s proposal to regulate e-cigarettes. “We believe it is vitally important for the FDA to begin regulating these products,especially because we don’t know much about the health effects of e-cigarette use. We are also quite concerned that e-cigarettes may increase the likelihood that nonsmokers or former smokers will use combustible tobacco products or that they will discourage smokers from quitting,” said Peter P. Yu, MD, FASCO, president of ASCO.

“There are insufficient data on the long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes, their value as tobacco cessation aids, or their effects on the use of conventional cigarettes. Any benefits of e-cigarettes are most likely to be realized in a regulated environment in which appropriate safeguards can be implemented,” said Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, chair of the AACR Tobacco and Cancer Subcommittee and chief of medical oncology at Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The AACR and ASCO support many of the FDA’s proposals for regulating e-cigarettes and other products, but urge the agency to do more. Specifically, preventing children from using tobacco products is crucial and can be achieved by efforts such as banning youth-oriented advertising and marketing, self -service product displays, and tobacco company sponsorship of youth-oriented events, in addition to restricting sales to minors and implementing age-verification procedures for internet sales.

Expressing grave concern about the proliferation of flavored e-cigarettes, the AACR and ASCO encouraged the agency to ban e-cigarette flavors or flavor names that are brand names of candy, cookies, soda, and other such products, and to prohibit e-cigarettes containing candy and other youth-friendly flavors, unless there is evidence demonstrating that they do not encourage young people to use these products.

The AACR and ASCO strongly discouraged the FDA from exempting “premium” cigars from regulation, an option the agency is considering. “All cigars pose serious health risks,” said Graham Warren, MD, PhD, chair of ASCO’s Tobacco Cessation and Control Subcommittee. “As the FDA itself noted in the proposed rule, even cigar smokers who do not inhale have a seven to 10 times higher overall risk of mouth and throat cancer compared with individuals who have never smoked.Exempting these dangerous products from FDA regulation is clearly not in the best interest of public health.”

Noting that both large and small cigars are of increasing interest to youth and adult users, the AACR and ASCO underscored that the continued availability of premium cigars in an unregulated market, compounded with the ability of the tobacco industry to strategically market its products to youths and young adults, could reverse the progress made in reducing youth tobacco use.

Finally, the AACR and ASCO urged the FDA to drop the “consumer surplus” discount used to assess the net impact of the proposed deeming rule. This discount allows the FDA to only consider 30 percent of the benefits achieved via tobacco cessation due to the costs associated with this proposed regulation, including the “lost pleasure” of smoking. The AACR and ASCO stressed that addiction is an unwelcome burden for many tobacco users and that many consumers are not making rational and fully informed choices when initiating and continuing their use of tobacco products.

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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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FDA Defines “Gluten-free” for Food Labeling

gluten-free-foodsMost supermarkets now carry a line of products labelled “gluten-free.” Many of us are choosing to buy and eat these new cookies, breads and other products we believe to be made without  flour. For most of us, it is a choice to avoid white flour, which we may consider not healthy for us.

For the three million Americans who have Celiac disease, a gluten free diet is there only choice  in managing their autoimmune digestive condition.

The FDA recently issued a new rule that provides standard definition to protect the health of Americans with Celiac disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling.

The press release issued by the FDA reads,“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating Celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health. This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

The FDA recognizes that many foods currently labeled as “gluten-free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with Celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

“The term “gluten” refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains.  In people with Celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of Celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.”

The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which directed FDA to set guidelines for the use of the term “gluten-free” to help people with Celiac disease maintain a gluten-free diet.

The regulation was published in the Federal Register.

For more information:

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