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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Where Do You Find the Most and Worst Germs in Public?

Before you leave the house, be sure to grab your hand sanitizer, you’re going to need it! Where are the germs lurking in the everyday things you do in public?

germsOur Favorite Eateries

Did you know that restaurant menus have 100 times more germs than a toilet seat? Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist with the University of Arizona, states that menus are handled many times each day, but are only wiped down once a day, if that, and usually with a used rag. His advice…don’t wash your hands before you sit down in a restaurant, wait until you order from the menu and then go scrub up or break out the hand sanitizer. He also suggests that you never rest your silverware on top of a menu.

When eating out, carry your own lemon or lime crystals if you usually squeeze a lemon or lime wedge in your beverage. Researchers recently examined wedges from the rims of glasses served to customers and found that nearly 70% of the lemons had disease-causing microbes, which could definitely cause some nasty stomach problems.

Moving on to the ATM Machine

When you think about it hundreds of fingers hit the ATM buttons each day leaving their share of germs and picking up ones left behind by previous users. The bank’s revolving door also has a collection of customer germs. The money that comes out of the ATM also carries its share of germs. In fact, the flu virus can live on a dollar bill for 17 days! ATM companies hope to roll out touch screens with antimicrobial glass to combat cold and flu. But, until then, your best bet is to use a pen when hitting the ATM buttons. It wouldn’t hurt to sanitize your hands after visiting a bank and handling money.

Playgrounds are Bacteria Breeding Grounds

On any given day many children use the swings, monkey bars and sandboxes in community playgrounds. Yet playgrounds are rarely cleaned. The sandbox is the worst with 36 times more germs than a restaurant tray. Be prepared to sanitize your child’s hands as he or she moves from one piece of playground equipment to another.

Hotel Rooms Have Their Own Share of Unexpected Germs

If you guessed that the TV remote is the dirtiest thing in the room, you would be right. Before you use it, wipe it with a sanitizer cloth. The lamp switches, hair dryer, telephone, and unwrapped drinking glasses also need a good wiping with something that can sanitize them before you use them. Bedspreads can also be harboring germs. You may want to remove them before getting into bed.

Elevator Buttons

Many of us choose to use a tissue when touching a door handle, but how clean are elevator buttons. How often are they cleaned? It might be best to sanitize your hands after using the elevator.

Public Pools

The Centers for Disease Control found that more than half of pools test positive for E. coli, which can cause bloody diarrhea. No surprise there, given how many young children urinate in pools and have bowel accidents as well. Also, not everyone showers before entering a pool; some adults swim with skin eruptions and others adults and children have colds and transmittable illnesses.

Grocery Store Grime

Many stores now have sanitizer dispensers and encourage shoppers to wipe down the cart handle before putting your hands on it. If you put a small child in the seat, wipe down this area also as lots of other kids sat there wearing dirty diapers. Don’t put your fresh produce in the seating area or you will take home a lot more than you bargained for.

Public Transportation

Bus straps, exit handles, poles, just anywhere that others touch or grab are sources of multiple germs. Railings leading up and down train and subway entrances and exits are used by thousands of people each day. Be aware. Keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth until you can sanitize them after using public transportation.

Public Bathrooms

Whether you have to use a bathroom in a department store, community center or other facility, practice defensive hygiene including using a tissue to operate the flush, turn the water on and off, and enter and leave the bathroom stall and main door. Line the toilet seat with toilet paper before using it, if toilet seat covers are not available. If wearing slacks, roll the pant legs up so they don’t touch the floor when you sit down. When using the soap dispenser, don’t put your hand on the opening of the dispenser, The soap scum can be a source of germs from those who used it before you. Whenever possible, use paper towels don’t air dry your hands.

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Preventing Illnesses in Recreational Water

recreationalSwimming is great fun, but recreational waters can be a place to pick up illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in a recent press release asks that we all do our part in keeping our recreational water safe.

The CDC suggests following these healthy swimming steps to protect you, your family, and other swimmers from recreational water illnesses.

Three Steps for All Swimmers – Keep germs from causing recreational water illnesses:

  • Don’t swim when you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  • Don’t swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
  • Don’t assume that pool water is germ free because the water is treated with chlorine
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.

Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids – Keep germs out of recreational water:

  • Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s too late.
  • Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
  • Wash your child thoroughly (especially the rear end) with soap and water before swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.

Michele Hlavsa, CDC, states.”“You can get gastrointestinal infections, viral meningitis, ear infections – also known as swimmer’s ear – but the most common infection is diarrhea from the germs in recreational waters.” Ms. Hlavsa advises, “Don’t swallow the water, or swim with open sores.”

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