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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Chicken Safety Tips from the USDA

chickenGiven that chicken can be prepared so many ways, and is very economical, it is not surprising that it is America’s most popular poultry.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following information about buying, storing, preparing and serving chicken:es

* It is not necessary to rinse or soak raw chicken to clean it before cooking. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking. Rinsing chicken in the sink might cross-contaminate or spread bacteria throughout the kitchen.

*Fresh or raw chicken should be selected just before checking out of the grocery store. It should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Put chicken packages in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leaking juices which may cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Go right home after food shopping and immediately put the chicken in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within 1-2 days. If you won’t be using the chicken by day 2, freeze it.

*You don’t have to have to re-wrap chicken for freezing. It can be frozen in either its original wrapping or repackaged if you want. If freezing for longer than 2 months, for best quality, you may want to place in a freezer bag or over-wrap with heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper. Either way, once it’s frozen, chicken, and all other raw meats and poultry, are safe indefinitely in the freezer.

*When purchasing cooked chicken, make sure it’s hot upon purchase. Use it within 2 hours or cut it up into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. You can eat the leftovers within 3-4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F, or freeze it. Again, once frozen, the cooked chicken is safe indefinitely in the freezer. For best quality, use within 3-4 months.

*Color is not a good way to determine if cooked chicken is safe to eat. Only by using a food thermometer can you make sure chicken has reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. When cooking a whole chicken, you should check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, the wing and the thickest part of the breast. And remember, all chicken should be put in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).

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Make it a Happy and Healthy 4th of July!

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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.

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REFERENCES:

CPSC.gov. Fireworks Safety.

USDA

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What are Empty Calories?

MyPlate.gov., a division of the Dept. of Agriculture offers the following information about foods we eat, and really enjoy, that really don’t give us the nutrients we need but do give us what are referred to as “empty calories.”

caloriesMany of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories –- calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared. Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.
Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)

These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called “empty calorie foods.” However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are:

 

Food with some empty calories Food with few or no empty calories
Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars) Unsweetened applesauce
Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats) Extra lean ground beef (96% or more lean)
Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin) Baked chicken breast without skin
Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars) Unsweetened cereals
Whole milk (contains solid fats) Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy.

It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

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USDA Offers Summer Food Safety Tips In Advance of Memorial Day Weekend

foodWarmer temperatures call for extra attention to food safety when cooking and eating outdoors.

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and many Americans will celebrate with cookouts, camping, road trips and other activities that involve food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding families to take extra care not to let foodborne bacteria, which grows more quickly in hot weather, ruin the fun.

“This Memorial Day weekend and all summer long, I encourage families to get outside and enjoy our natural resources, national parks and forests, and the variety of food America’s farmers are able to provide,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “It’s important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures that people enjoy, so extra care needs to be taken to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home. USDA reminds everyone to use a food thermometer, and take advantage of resources like our FoodKeeper app to help with any food handling questions.”

The USDA recently launched its FoodKeeper mobile app, which contains specific guidance on more than 400 food and beverage items, including safe cooking recommendations for meat, poultry and seafood products.

The app provides information on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. This will help keep products fresh longer than if they were stored improperly, which can happen more often during hot summer days. The application is available for free on Android and Apple devices.

Due to a variety of factors, including warmer temperatures, foodborne illness increases in summer. To help Americans stay healthy and safe, USDA offers the following food safety recommendations.

Bringing food to a picnic or cookout:
• Use an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Frozen food can also be used as a cold source.
• Foods that need to be kept cold include raw meat, poultry, and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches; summer salads (tuna, chicken, egg, pasta, or seafood); cut up fruit and vegetables; and perishable dairy products.
• A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter.
• Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that your food stays colder longer.
Cooking on the grill:
• Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat and ready-to-eat items like vegetables or bread.
• Keep perishable food cold until it is ready to cook.
• Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked thoroughly to their safe minimum internal temperatures
• Beef, Pork, Lamb, & Veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 °F with a 3 minute rest time
• Ground meats: 160 °F
• Whole poultry, poultry breasts, & ground poultry: 165 °F
• Always use a fresh, clean plate and tongs for serving cooked food. Never reuse items that touched raw meat or poultry to serve the food once it is cooked.
Serving food outdoors:
• Perishable food should not sit out for more than two hours. In hot weather (above 90 °F), food should NEVER sit out for more than one hour.
• Serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in the cooler. After cooking meat and poultry on the grill, keep it hot until served – at 140 °F or warmer.
• Keep hot food hot by setting it to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.

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