Back-to-School Food Safety Tips

tipsThe following back-to-school  food safety tips are shared by Marianne Gravely, Food Safety Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These tips can make all the difference in keeping foods safe from the time they leave your home until your child eats them in school. Following these tips will prevent foodborne illnesses.

Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle or back in the car for all the parents. The new school year means its back to packing lunches and after-school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is Bacteria.

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels, which can cause foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean – Separate – Cook – and Chill.

Packing Tips

  • If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
  • Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 °F or above.
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snack for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

  • If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

 


Protect Your Food Supply When Camping

campingThe last weeks of summer are a great time to enjoy outdoor activities such as camping.

The US Dept of Agriculture wants you aware of safe food practices that insure a fun camping trip, free of food borne illnesses.

When it Comes to Safe Drinking Water While Camping …

It is not a good idea to depend on fresh water from a lake or stream for drinking, no matter how clean it appears. Bring bottled or tap water for drinking. Always start out with a full water bottle, and replenish your supply from tested public systems when possible.

 The surest way to make water safe is to boil it. Boiling will kill microorganisms. First, bring water to a rolling boil, and then continue boiling for 1 minute.

What Foods to Bring Camping?

Advances in food technology have produced relatively lightweight staples that don’t need refrigeration or careful packaging. For example:

  • peanut butter in plastic jars;
  • concentrated juice boxes;
  • canned tuna, ham, chicken, and beef;
  • dried noodles and soups;
  • beef jerky and other dried meats;
  • dehydrated foods;
  • dried fruits and nuts; and
  • powdered milk and fruit drinks.

Powdered mixes for biscuits or pancakes are easy to carry and prepare, as is dried pasta. There are plenty of powdered sauce mixes that can be used over pasta, but check the required ingredient list. Carry items like dried pasta, rice, and baking mixes in plastic bags and take only the amount you’ll need.

General Rules for Outdoor Food Safety
Plan ahead: decide what you are going to eat and how you are going to cook it; then plan what equipment you will need.

  • Pack safely: use a cooler if car-camping or boating, or pack foods in the frozen state with a cold source if hiking or backpacking.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods.
  • Never bring meat or poultry products without a cold source to keep them safe.
  • Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dish washing.
  • Plan on carrying bottled water for drinking. Otherwise, boil water or use water purification tablets.
  • Do not leave trash in the wild or throw it off your boat.
  • If using a cooler, leftover food is safe only if the cooler still has ice in it. Otherwise, discard leftover food.
  • Whether in the wild or on the high seas, protect yourself and your family by washing your hands before and after handling food.

 

What’s the Deal with Summer Sniffles?

Summer colds are so annoying! What causes them? The National Institutes of Health sheds light on summer colds, what causes them and what, if anything, can be done about them.

summerMost everyone looks forward to summer—time to get away, get outside and have some fun. So what could be more unfair than catching a cold when it’s warm? How can cold symptoms arise when it’s not cold and flu season? Is there any way to dodge the summer sniffles?

Cold symptoms can be caused by more than 200 different viruses. Each can bring the sneezing, scratchy throat and runny nose that can be the first signs of a cold. The colds we catch in winter are usually triggered by the most common viral infections in humans, a group of germs called rhinoviruses. Rhinoviruses and a few other cold-causing viruses seem to survive best in cooler weather. Their numbers surge in September and begin to dwindle in May.

During summer months, the viral landscape begins to shift. “Generally speaking, summer and winter colds are caused by different viruses,” says Dr. Michael Pichichero, a pediatrician and infectious disease researcher at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute in New York. “When you talk about summer colds, you’re probably talking about a non-polio enterovirus infection.”

Enteroviruses can infect the tissues in your nose and throat, eyes, digestive system and elsewhere. A few enteroviruses can cause polio, but vaccines have mostly eliminated these viruses from Western countries. Far more widespread are more than 60 types of non-polio enteroviruses. They’re the second most common type of virus—after rhinovirus—that infects humans. About half of people with enterovirus infections don’t get sick at all. But nationwide, enteroviruses cause an estimated 10 million to 15 million illnesses each year, usually between June and October.

Enteroviruses can cause a fever that comes on suddenly. Body temperatures may range from 101 to 104 °F. Enteroviruses can also cause mild respiratory symptoms, sore throat, headache, muscle aches and gastrointestinal issues like nausea or vomiting.

“All age groups can be affected, but like most viral infections, enterovirus infections predominate in childhood,” says Pichichero. Adults may be protected from enterovirus infections if they’ve developed antibodies from previous exposures. But adults can still get sick if they encounter a new type of enterovirus.

Less common enteroviruses can cause other symptoms. Some can lead to conjunctivitis, or pinkeye—a swelling of the outer layer of the eye and eyelid. Others can cause an illness with rash. In rare cases, enteroviruses can affect the heart or brain.

To prevent enterovirus infections, says Pichichero, “it’s all about blocking viral transmission.” The viruses travel in respiratory secretions, like saliva or mucus, or in the stool of an infected person. You can become infected by direct contact. Or you might pick up the virus by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, such as a telephone, doorknob or baby’s diaper. “Frequent hand washing and avoiding exposure to people who are sick with fever can help prevent the spread of infection,” says Pichichero.

The summer colds caused by enteroviruses generally clear up without treatment within a few days or even a week. But see a health care provider if you have concerning symptoms, like a high fever or a rash.

TV Viewing and Young Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published several articles about TV time for young children from the amount of time spent watching TV, to what is being watched and where it is being watched.

TV

The AAP published the findings of a study by Dr. Michelle Garrison, Kimberly Liekweg, and Dr. Dimitri Christakis from Seattle Children’s on what effects watching violence on TV has on preschoolers. They studied over 600 children between 3 and 5 years of age and reviewed their media diaries.

Their findings:

  • Preschoolers watched on average over an hour of TV daily (72.9 min) with the minority being at bedtime (14 min after 7pm).
  • Children with a bedroom TV watched 40 more minutes of TV than those without one.
  • Children with a bedroom TV watched more TV after 7pm.
  • Children with a bedroom TV were more likely to have parent-reported daytime tiredness (8% vs 1% without bedroom TV).
  • Children were more likely to have trouble falling asleep, have more nightmares, and more awakenings if in the 1 hour prior to going to bed, if they watched TV, violent or not.
  • Fortunately, nonviolent daytime TV didn’t seem to change or impair preschoolers’ sleep.
  • It didn’t make a difference on sleep if parents watched TV alongside their children.

While we know that a TV, once in the bedroom, is hard to remove, we also know it is harder for a parent to monitor what is being watched. It can also be turned on in the early am, while the rest of the house is still sleeping, which leads to even more daily viewing time.

We also know that children also pick up additional viewing  time in some child care settings

The AAP guidelines  recommend no TV viewing before age 2 and then after age 2, only 2 hours maximum screen time daily.


False Prophets of Health Care

Beware of the snake oil sales person; the health health care false prophetscare scam pro who uses the TV, the Internet, the mail and the telephone to peddle fake cures for what ails you.

This is the message the Food and Drug Administration is trying to get out to all of us in their recently released article on the subject of health care scams.

The FDA’s Health Fraud Scams website (www.fda.gov/healthfraud) pulls together videos and articles on how to avoid fraudulent health care schemes, and offers information about products that have been seized, recalled or are the subject of warnings from the agency.

The site also provides links to government resources on health fraud involving FDA-regulated products, such as drugs, dietary supplements, tobacco products, alternative medicines, medical devices, and cosmetics.

Gary Coody, R.Ph., national health fraud coordinator at FDA, calls the site “one-stop shopping” for people who want to learn how to recognize and avoid health care fraud scams. Anyone can search the site to see if FDA has taken an action against a product or company. However, just because a product is not listed does not mean that it is legally marketed or safe to use.

Consumers spend a fortune on health care products that “are either worthless or may cause harm,” says Coody. “Consumers can buy dangerous products on the Internet and in stores that can cause serious injury or death.” The waste of money is bad enough but using one of these unproven treatments can delay getting a potentially life-saving diagnosis and medication that works, he says.

The schemes can take many forms. “Some products billed as “all natural” in fact have prescription drugs and other chemicals not listed on the label that could be dangerous,” Coody says.  The most common categories of these tainted health care products include weight loss, sexual performance, and bodybuilding.

Other health care products claim to be a cure-all for such serious chronic diseases as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this kind of deception but consumers of all ages are taken in by fraudulent products, says Coody, adding, “Everyone is vulnerable.”

With every new health threat, phony products appear overnight, Coody says. For example, after the Japan nuclear incident in March, 2011, he says the market was flooded with products that falsely claimed to offer protection from harmful radiation.

“The snake oil salesman is still alive,” says Coody.

Health fraud is more pervasive today, says Coody, because “the Internet has opened up the world market to people from their personal computers.” If you’re tempted to purchase any unproven or little known health care treatment, especially if it’s sold on the Internet, check with your doctor or health care professional first, he advises.

Shady products are also peddled by TV infomercials, radio, direct mail, word-of-mouth marketing and ads in newspapers and magazines.

“There are many ways that consumers are getting these messages,” says Coody, and they should view these ads with a healthy dose of skepticism.”