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.

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2015 – 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.”

Last month, USDA 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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Let’s Hear it for Fluoridation!

The Centers for Disease Control(CDC) shares the following update about the success of  water fluoridation.

fluoridation

Community Water Fluoridation 70th Anniversary

 Fluoridation began in 1945.  Each generation has enjoyed better oral health than the previous one. Drink fluoridated water if it is available where you live and use fluoride toothpaste.

This year, the United States marks the 70th anniversary of community water fluoridation, one of public health’s greatest success stories.

Almost all water contains some naturally-occurring fluoride, but usually at levels too low to prevent tooth decay. Water fluoridation is the process of adding a small amount of fluoride to public water supplies to a level known to make teeth stronger and prevent cavities. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first city in the U.S. to fluoridate its water, and by the early 1950’s, results were clear: Compared to school children from nearby areas that did not fluoridate their water, children in Grand Rapids had fewer cavities.

Since then, water fluoridation has been a major factor resulting in lower rates of tooth decay in the United States, with each generation enjoying better oral health than the previous one. As of 2012, more than 210 million people, or 3 in 4 Americans who use public water supplies, drank water with enough fluoride to prevent tooth decay.

Community Water Fluoridation helps maintain good oral health.

Effective and Safe

Fluoridated water is effective, because it keeps a low level of fluoride in the mouth, specifically in the dental plaque and saliva, all day. Even with the use of other fluoride products, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by 25% among children and adults. In communities with water fluoridation, school children have, on average, about 2 fewer decayed teeth compared to children who don’t live in fluoridated communities.

That’s important because oral health affects every aspect of our lives—diet, sleep, mental health, social connections, school, and work. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain, school absences, difficulty concentrating, and poor appearance—all contributing to reduced quality of life and ability to succeed.

Fluoridation has been identified as the most feasible and cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all members of the community, regardless of age, education, or income. These advantages combined with fluoridation’s contribution to dramatic declines in both the prevalence and severity of tooth decay led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to name water fluoridation as one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Scientists in the United States and other countries have studied the safety and benefits of fluoridated water for decades, and found no convincing evidence to link water fluoridation and any potential unwanted health effect other than dental fluorosis.

Dental Fluorosis

Dental fluorosis is a change in the appearance of tooth enamel. It can occur when young children (less than 8 years of age) regularly take in fluoride when their permanent teeth are still developing.

Today there are more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinse, than when fluoridation was first introduced. With greater availability of fluoride, there has been an increase in the dental fluorosis. Most dental fluorosis in the U.S.—more than 90 percent—appears in its milder forms as white spots on the tooth surface that may not be noticed.

To balance the benefits of fluoridation with the chance for dental fluorosis, the US Public Health Service just published an updated recommendation for the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water to prevent tooth decay[403 KB]. The new recommendation sets the level of fluoride in drinking water at 0.7 mg/liter. This new guidance updates and replaces the previous recommended range of 0.7 mg/L to 1.2 mg/L. It is important to note that there is no federal “requirement” to fluoridate. States and local communities decide whether to fluoridate or not. CDC’s Division of Oral Health does provide technical help and training for state fluoridation programs.

Basic Tips for Good Oral Health

Drink fluoridated water if it is available where you live and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride’s protection against tooth decay works at all ages. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, ask your dentist, family doctor, or pediatrician if your child needs oral fluoride supplements, like drops, tablets, or lozenges.

 

Protecting Against Sources of Lead

According to the US Centers for Disease Control,(CDC) a child’s environment is full of lead.

Children are exposed to lead from different sources including paint, gasoline, solder, and some consumer products. They come in contact through different pathways including air, food, water, dust, and soil.

lead paint on brushAlthough there are several exposure sources, the one we all know the most about is lead-based paint. It is the most widespread and dangerous high-dose source of lead exposure for young children and pregnant women and their unborn children.

Other sources the CDC warns about include:

Candy

The potential for children to be exposed to lead from candy imported from Mexico has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue warnings on the availability of lead-contaminated candy and to develop tighter guidelines for manufacturers, importers, and distributors of imported candy. Lead has been found in some consumer candies imported from Mexico. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a candy whether it contains lead. Consuming even small amounts of lead can be harmful. There is no safe blood lead level. Lead poisoning from candies can cause illness.

Folk Medicine

Lead has been found in some traditional (folk) medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures. Traditional medicines can contain herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products. Lead and other heavy metals are put into certain folk medicines on purpose because these metals are thought to be useful in treating some ailments. People selling a remedy may not know whether it contains lead. You cannot tell by looking at or tasting a medicine whether it contains lead. Lead poisoning from folk remedies can cause illness, even death.

Toy Jewelry

If swallowed or put in the mouth, lead jewelry is hazardous to children. The potential for children to be exposed to lead from this source caused the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue on July 8, 2004, a recall of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry sold widely in vending machines.

Toys

Lead may be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing on toys.

Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys.  It was banned in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978; however, it is still widely used in other countries and therefore can still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban.
Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. It softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.

Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to it from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity, which is part of their normal development. They often place toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust.

Tap Water

tap water faucet is a source of leadMeasures taken during the last two decades have greatly reduced exposures to lead in tap water. These measures include actions taken under the requirements of the 1986 and 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (http://www.epa.gov/safewater/sdwa/index.htmlExternal Web Site Icon) and the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule (http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lcrmr/index.htmlExternal Web Site Icon).

Even so, lead still can be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply.

The only way to know whether your tap water contains lead is to have it tested. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water. Therefore, you must ask your water provider whether your water has lead in it. For homes served by public water systems, data on lead in tap water may be available on the Internet from your local water authority. If your water provider does not post this information, you need to call and find out.

The CDC  recommends that children under six and pregnant women living in older homes that may, at one time been painted with lead-based paint, not be present when renovations and repairs are done to their homes. CDC also expresses concern about young children and pregnant women being exposed to dust from peeling paint, cracks and chips in paint in older homes.

CDC literature on lead exposure is extensive and well-worth the read at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/

Playing It Safe with Eggs

eggs

Eggs are inexpensive, tasty and nutritious, which makes them so popular. However, they need to be handled, prepared and stored properly to prevent food poisoning. According to the US Food and Drug Administration even eggs with clean, uncracked shells may occasionally contain bacteria called Salmonella that can cause an intestinal infection.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that about 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage. But consumers play a key role in preventing illness associated with eggs. In fact, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs — or foods that contain them — safely.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting 12 to 72 hours after infection. Symptoms usually last 4 to 7 days and most people get better without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated quickly with antibiotics. Certain people are at greater risk for severe illness and include pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

FDA requires all cartons of shell eggs that have not been treated to carry the following safe handling statement: 

Safe Handling Eggs

To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella — by in-shell pasteurization, for example — are not required to carry safe handling instructions.

You can help keep eggs safe by making wise buying decisions at the grocery store.

  • Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
  • Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
  • Refrigerate promptly.
  • Store eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality.

Before preparing any food, remember that cleanliness is key!

  • Wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and egg-containing foods.

Thorough cooking is perhaps the most important step in making sure eggs are safe.

  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and the white are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny.
  • Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F (72°C). Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • For recipes that call for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served — Caesar salad dressing and homemade ice cream are two examples — use either shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products. Treated shell eggs are available from a growing number of retailers and are clearly labeled, while pasteurized egg products are widely available.

Bacteria can multiply in temperatures from 40°F (5°C) to 140°F (60°C), so it’s very important to serve foods safely.

  • Serve cooked eggs and egg-containing foods immediately after cooking.
  • For buffet-style serving, hot egg dishes should be kept hot, and cold egg dishes kept cold.
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving.
  • Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods, should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours either reheat or refrigerate.

Storing Eggs

  • Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within 1 week after cooking.
  • Use frozen eggs within 1 year. Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. To freeze whole eggs, beat yolks and whites together. Egg whites can also be frozen by themselves.
  • Refrigerate leftover cooked egg dishes and use within 3 to 4 days. When refrigerating a large amount of a hot egg containing leftover, divide it into several shallow containers so it will cool quickly.

Transporting Eggs

  • Cooked eggs for a picnic should be packed in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold.
  • Don’t put the cooler in the trunk — carry it in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of the car.
  • If taking cooked eggs to work or school, pack them with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box.

Source: USDA

Answering the Eye Glasses Question

Why do I have to wear glasses? A tough question from a child in the first or second grade who doesn’t want to look different from his or her classmates.

Some good answers for why a child has to wear glasses can be found in the following books.

 

Ages 3-5
Baby Duck and the Bad Eyeglasses, by Amy Hest (Candlewick Press)

 

Ages 5-8
Dogs Don’t Wear Glasses by Adrienne Geoghegan (Crocodile Books)


Libby’s New Glasses, by Tricia Tusa (Holiday House)


All the Better to See You With, by Margaret Wild (Whitman and Co)


Winnie Flies Again, by Korky Paul and Valerie Thomas (Oxford University Press)


X-Ray Mable and Her Magic Specs, by Claire Fletcher (Bodley Head)


The Arthur Books, by Marc Brown (Red Fox)


Glasses. Who needs ‘Em?, by Lane Smith (Viking)


Luna and the Big Blurr, by Shirley Day


Chuckie Visits the Eye Doctor by Luke David

 

glasses