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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Campfire Safety

campfire

Most camping brochures feature a picture of adults and kids sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows and telling stories. But, a campfire requires following safety guidelines if campers are to be safe and the campground protected against fire.

The following campfire safety tips are from Idaho Firewise.

Most campgrounds already have preexisting fire rings to use. Unless the fire ring is in a dangerous spot, you should build your fire there. The campground owners have likely already deemed this as a safe location to build a campfire. The fire ring will help contain sparks and prevent your fire from spreading.

If your campsite does not have a fire ring, you will need to create one. First find a spot that meets these criteria:

  • Downwind at least 15 feet away from your tent and firewood
  • Away from trees, bushes, logs, stumps and overhanging branches
  • Away from dry grass and forest debris
  • Away from any other flammable items

If your campsite does have a fire ring already, check if it meets the above criteria too. The landscape around your campsite could have changed since the fire ring was initially built. There might now be a branch that overhangs the current fire ring. For example, now there might be branches overhanging the old fire ring.

Once you have chosen where to build your campfire, you need to ensure the area is completely clear of any combustible material that could possibly ignite. It is best to clear the ground right down to the soil, and out five (5) feet from the fire pit. Fires can spread underground through root systems or decaying material. Surrounding twigs and dry leaves can easily catch fire from a wayward spark.

After the ground has been cleared, dig a shallow pit about two (2) feet across and encircle this pit with a ring of medium-sized rocks. These rocks should be tightly placed together, without any gaps where sparks could fly through. Remove any small, loose stones from the pit that could potentially explode from the fire’s heat.

Before you begin building the campfire, make sure you have equipment on hand to extinguish a fire. A responsible camper will not light the first match until he or she is sure there is a bucket of water or sand nearby to douse unruly flames in the event of an emergency. You will need a large bucket of water and a shovel. Keep these things close enough to the fire pit that they are quickly accessible in an emergency.

Avoid using lighter fluid, or any other chemicals, to start your fire. These fuels are dangerous to use in the wilderness. They can unexpectedly flare-up and catch your clothing on fire. Always use a lighter or match to ignite the kindling. Do not discard any used matches until they are cool to the touch.

While your campfire is burning, never leave it unattended. Despite safety precautions, the campfire could spread from your fire pit. You need to remain in the area to ensure your campfire doesn’t spread.

Be careful what you burn in a campfire. Try to stick to manageable pieces of firewood that easily fit within your fire pit. It is not a good idea to burn large logs that stick out past the fire pit. Also, avoid burning fresh branches that give off excess sparks.

Before you go to sleep, or when you leave the campsite, you must fully extinguish your campfire. First, douse the flames by pouring water on the fire. However, you are not done yet. Just because you can’t see flames, does not mean the fire cannot re-ignite. Hot embers will continue smoldering for hours. To deal with the embers, stir the coals and add more water. Then cover the coals with dirt or sand. Feel the ashes with your hand to make sure there are no hot coals left.

It is far too easy for a campfire to spread and become a forest fire. When you are camping, it is your responsibility to protect the forest from your campfire. Follow these simple campfire safety rules and use common sense. Sometimes, it simply is not safe to have a campfire at all.

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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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Balance Food and Activity

The following message on maintaining a healthy weight by creating a balance of foods consumed and  food calories burned through activity comes from the National Institutes of Health.

balance

What is Energy Balance?

Energy is another word for “calories.” Your energy balance is the balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking compared to calories burned through physical activity. What you eat and drink is ENERGY IN. What you burn through physical activity is ENERGY OUT.

Your ENERGY IN and OUT doesn’t have to balance every day. It’s having a balance over time that will help you stay at a healthy weight for the long term. Children need to balance their energy, too, but they’re also growing and that should be considered as well. Energy balance in children happens when the amount of ENERGY IN and ENERGY OUT supports natural growth without promoting excess weight gain.

That’s why you should take a look at the Estimated Calorie Requirement chart, to get a sense of how many calories (ENERGY IN) you and your family need on a daily basis.

Estimated Calorie Requirements

This calorie requirement chart presents estimated amounts of calories needed to maintain energy balance (and a healthy body weight) for various gender and age groups at three different levels of physical activity. The estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories and were determined using an equation from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Estimated Calorie Requirements (in kilocalories) for Each Gender and Age Group at Three Levels of Physical Activity.

Gender

Age (years)

Activity Level

Sedentary

Moderately Active

Active

Child

2-3

1,000

1,000 – 1,400

1,000 – 1,400

Female

4 – 8

1,200

1,400 – 1,600

1,400 – 1,800

Female

9-13

1,600

1,600 – 2,000

1,800 – 2,000

Female

14-18

1,800

2,000

2,400

Female

19-30

2,000

2,000 – 2,200

2,400

Female

31-50

1,800

2,000

2,200

Female

51+

1,600

1,800

2,000 – 2,200

Male

4-8

1,400

1,400 – 1,600

1,600 – 2,000

Male

9-13

1,800

1,800 – 2,200

2,000 – 2,600

Male

14-18

2,200

2,400 – 2,800

2,800 – 3,200

Male

19-30

2,400

2,600 – 2,800

3,000

Male

31-50

2,200

2,400 – 2,600

2,800 – 3,000

Male

51+

2,000

2,200 – 2,400

2,400 – 2,800

Source: HHS/USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2005

  • These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the IOM Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for reference-sized individuals. “Reference size,” as determined by IOM, is based on median height and weight for ages up to age 18 years of age and median height and weight for that height to give a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.
  • Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  • Moderately active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  • Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.
  • The calorie ranges shown are to accommodate needs of different ages within the group. For children and adolescents, more calories are needed at older ages. For adults, fewer calories are needed at older ages.

Energy Balance in Real Life

Think of it as balancing your “lifestyle budget.” For example, if you know you and your family will be going to a party and may eat more high-calorie foods than normal, then you may wish to eat fewer calories for a few days before so that it balances out. Or, you can increase your physical activity level for the few days before or after the party, so that you can burn off the extra energy.

The same applies to your kids. If they’ll be going to a birthday party and eating cake and ice cream—or other foods high in fat and added sugar—help them balance their calories the day before and/or after by providing ways for them to be more physically active.

Here’s another way of looking at energy balance in real life.

Eating just 150 calories more a day than you burn can lead to an extra 5 pounds over 6 months. That’s a gain of 10 pounds a year. If you don’t want this weight gain to happen, or you want to lose the extra weight, you can either reduce your ENERGY IN or increase your ENERGY OUT. Doing both is the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

  • Here are some ways to cut 150 calories (ENERGY IN):
    • Drink water instead of a 12-ounce regular soda
    • Order a small serving of French fries instead of a medium , or order a salad with dressing on the side instead
    • Eat an egg-white omelet (with three eggs), instead of whole eggs
    •  Use tuna canned in water (6-ounce can), instead of oil
  • Here are some ways to burn 150 calories (ENERGY OUT), in just 30 minutes (for a 150 pound person):
    • Shoot hoops
    • Walk two miles
    • Do yard work (gardening, raking leaves, etc.)
    • Go for a bike ride
    • Dance with your family or friends

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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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