Keeping Foodborne Illness Out of the Lunchbox

lunchboxTo help prevent what the USDA calls a serious public health threat…foodborne illness in the lunchbox; follow these six top tips for keeping foods safe.

  1. If you’re packing meats, eggs, yogurt or other perishable food, use at least two freezer packs. Harmful bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Juice boxes can provide another option: freeze some juice boxes overnight to use with at least one freezer pack. The frozen juice boxes will thaw by lunchtime.
  3. If there’s a refrigerator at school or work, find a space for your lunch. Remove the lid or open the bag so the cold air can circulate better.
  4. Use an insulated, soft-sided lunchbox or bag instead of a paper bag. Perishable food can spoil more quickly in a paper bag.
  5. For a hot lunch like soup, use an insulated container. Make sure the container remains tightly closed until lunchtime.
  6. And finally, throw out all leftover food, used packaging and paper bags.

Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, reminds us that not all illness comes from the food. It can come from a lunchbox that is not properly cleaned, or from the area where the lunch was prepared. They ask that we please remember that:

  • A dirty lunchbox may contain bacteria that can make a youngster  sick.
  • A lunchbox picks up a lot of grime in a day.
  • Kids don’t always wash their hands before handling their lunchboxes and food.
  • It’s a good idea to put a small bottle of antibacterial gel with a tight-fitting lid in your child’s lunchbox. Your child can use the gel when there isn’t a chance to wash with soap and water before eating lunch.
  • Kids should avoid setting down their food on the table. Include a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, or even a small fabric place mat in your child’s lunchbox that can be washed at home to help keep food off surfaces that may have been used by a number of youth and adults.

When packing a lunchbox:

  • Start with clean hands, a clean work surface and a clean lunchbox.
  • Disinfect kitchen surfaces, such as kitchen equipment and refrigerator handles, regularly.
  • Also clean cutting boards, knives, dish-drying towels and sponges or dish cloths daily.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before packing them

 

Who is Drinking all the Diet Beverages?

dietGiven all the concerns about drinking sugary beverages, let’s take a look at who is consuming diet drinks across the U. S.

The following information, posted by the Centers for Disease Control , comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2010 describes the consumption of diet beverages among the U.S. population during 2009-2010 by sex, age, race and ethnicity, and income, and details trends in diet drink consumption from 1999-2000 through 2009-2010.

About 20% of the U.S. population aged 2 years and over consumed diet drinks on a given day during 2009-2010. The percentage consuming diet drinks was similar for females and males at all ages except among adolescents aged 12-19. The percentage consuming diet drinks increased with age for both males and females. On a given day, about 3% consumed some but no more than 8 fluid ounces (fl oz) of diet drinks, and 11% consumed 16 fluid ounces or more.

Although 15.3% of non-Hispanic white children and adolescents consumed diet drinks, only 6.8% of non-Hispanic black and 7.5% of Hispanic children and adolescents consumed any diet drink on a given day during 2009-2010. Similarly, 27.9% of non-Hispanic white adults consumed any diet drink on a given day compared with 10.1% of non-Hispanic black and 14.1% of Hispanic adults.

The percentage of higher-income persons who consumed diet drinks on a given day was greater than that of lower-income persons. A total of 18.3% of children and adolescents living in households with income at or above 350% of the poverty line consumed diet drinks, compared with 11.5% of those living between 130% and 350% of the poverty line, and 8.0% of those living below 130% of the poverty line. A similar pattern was observed for adults: Although 32.6% of adults living at or above 350% of the poverty line consumed diet drinks, only 20.1% of those living between 130% and 350% of the poverty line, and 12.2% of those living below 130% of the poverty line, consumed diet drinks.

Summary:

Overall, the percentage consuming diet drinks was higher among females compared with males. Diet drink consumption differed by age, race and ethnicity, and income. For example, the percentage of non-Hispanic white children and adults who consumed diet drinks was higher than those for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children and adults, and the percentage of higher-income persons who consumed diet drinks was higher than that for lower-income persons.

The percentage of females and males who consumed diet drinks increased between 1999 and 2010 and was mirrored by a decrease in consumption of added sugar calories in regular soda over a similar time period. These results suggest that sugar drinks may have been replaced with diet drinks during that time.

Although substituting sugar drinks with diet drinks may promote weight loss in the short term it is unclear if long-term consumption leads to weight loss, weight maintenance, or even weight gain.

 diet

Pets Can Get Sick From Being Fed Raw Foods

The FDA warns about feeding our pets raw foods. In a recent article, this is what they had to say about what can occur when we do.

raw

Raw pet food consists primarily of meat, bones, and organs that haven’t been cooked, and therefore are more likely than cooked food to contain organisms that can make your dog or cat sick, says William J. Burkholder, DVM, PhD, Veterinary Medical Officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Division of Animal Feeds. Moreover, raw food can make you sick as well if you don’t handle it properly. FDA does not believe feeding raw pet foods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.

The agency therefore recommends cooking of raw meat and poultry to kill harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes before you give the food to your pets. And as always, when working with food, you should follow FDA’s instructions on how to handle it safely.

Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in such foods as raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs and egg products. Salmonella can also contaminate raw or unpasteurized milk and other dairy products, as well as raw fruits and vegetables.

Burkholder says people who choose a raw diet for their pets often point out that feral dogs and cats catch prey and eat it raw. “That’s true,” he adds, “but we don’t know how many of these animals get sick or die as a result of doing that. Since sick feral animals are rarely taken to a veterinarian when they’re ill, there’s no way to collect that information.”

Symptoms of salmonellosis in animals include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (which may be bloody)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased activity level

Listeria bacteria are commonly found in uncooked meats, vegetables and unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria like cold temperatures and can grow and spread in the refrigerator. So if you refrigerate Listeria-contaminated food, the germs not only multiply at the cool temperature, they could contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there, increasing the likelihood that you and your family members would be exposed to Listeria and get sick.

Symptoms of listeriosis in animals include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Neurological disease can happen in a small percentage of situations

Consumers also run the risk of getting sick if they handle contaminated pet foods and accidentally transfer the bacteria to their mouths.

“If you’re going to handle raw foods, you need to pay particular attention to good hygienic practices,” Burkholder says. “Wash your hands and anything else that comes into contact with the product with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.” Feeding raw food to a pet also increases the risk of contaminating food contact surfaces and other places.

“Even if the dog or cat doesn’t get sick, they can become carriers of Salmonella and transfer the bacteria to their surroundings, and then people can get the disease from contact with the infected environment,” Burkholder says.

Once Salmonella gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria when it has a bowel movement, and the contamination will continue to spread.

Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) symptoms in humans include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea (which may be bloody)
  • Stomach pain
  • More rarely: entry of Salmonella into bloodstream from intestines, followed by spread to joints, arteries, heart, soft tissues, and other areas of body

Symptoms associated with salmonellosis most often begin 12 hours to 3 days after ingestion of the bacteria and can last 4 to 7 days without treatment. All consumers are at risk for contracting salmonellosis from contaminated foods, but pregnant women, children under five, the elderly and those with weak immune systems are at risk of developing severe symptoms.

Compared to salmonellosis and other foodborne illnesses, infection with Listeria monocytogenes (listeriosis) is rare, but has serious and potentially fatal risks.

Listeria can infect multiple locations in the body:

  • The brain
  • Membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Bloodstream

Symptoms associated with listeriosis begin 11 to 70 days after coming in contact with the bacteria, with a mean (or average) of 31 days, and they can last up to a few weeks. Listeriosis occurs almost exclusively in pregnant women and their fetuses, newborns, the elderly and those with weak immune systems. Listeriosis can cause life-threatening infection in a fetus and newborns, as well as in persons with weakened immune systems, although the infection can often be treated with antibiotics.

“Feeding raw foods to pets increases the risk that both the pet and the people around the pet will encounter bacteria that cause foodborne illness, particularly if the products are not carefully handled and fed,” Burkholder says. “This is certainly one factor that should be considered when selecting diets for your pet.”

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

June 30, 2014

 

Make it a Happy and Healthy 4th of July!

4th

Here comes the 4th with its promise of fun. But we all need to take precautions to insure that it is a fun day.

Outdoor activities and fireworks are the biggest pastimes for 4th of July celebrations. Here are some tips on making it a safe, happy 4th.

  •  Never swim alone on the 4th or any other day, and make sure that any time kids are in the water someone is watching them closely.
  • Cover food and beverages outdoors to discourage uninvited guests such as bees and wasps. Wearing shoes, long sleeves, and long pants outdoors and avoiding perfumes and scented lotions, and sugary drinks can also help prevent bee stings.
  • Apply sunscreen both before and during your party on the 4th. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15.

  • Check prescription medications you are taking to assure you will not have a reaction from being out in the sun or heat for an extended period of time
  • If you’ll be hiking or camping over the 4th,wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks or boots to protect yourself from diseases caused by ticks.
  • Keep children away from campfires and grills. Gas leaks, blocked tubes, and overfilled propane tanks can be a cause of grill fires and explosions.
  • Don’t leave the picnic foods out all day. Allowing food to sit in outdoor temperatures can invite illness. The U.S. FDA suggests never leaving food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90 F and not more than two hours at other times.
  • If you live where fireworks are legal and they will be part of your 4th of July celebration be sure to store them where the kids can’t get into them. Keep the kids away from the fireworks at all times, and keep spectators at a safe distance. Professional fireworks displays are always a safer choice than putting on your own show.

A special note on using sparklers on the 4th;

  • Children under five are too young to safely hold a sparkler and don’t really understand why they might be dangerous. Avoid giving them one to hold.

  • Babies or children can wriggle in your arms and reach out unexpectedly. Avoid holding a baby or child when you have a sparkler in your hand.

  • Children over five will still need you to supervise them when they use sparklers. It’s safest if they wear gloves when they’re holding them. They might seem like ‘fireworks lite’ but sparklers can reach a temperature of 2000ºC. Have a bucket of water handy to put them in so that no-one can pick up a hot one off the ground. Teach them not to wave sparklers near anyone else or run with them.

4th

REFERENCES:

CPSC.gov. Fireworks Safety.

USDA

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