When it Comes to Decorations…Be Fire Conscious

The US Fire Safety Administration shares the following information to keep you safe this holiday season.

Decorating homes and businesses is a long-standing tradition around the holiday season. Unfortunately, these same decorations may increase your chances of fire. Based on data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), an estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.

Following a few simple fire safety tips can keep electric lights, candles, and the ever popular Christmas tree from creating a tragedy.

Learn how to prevent a fire and what to do in case a fire starts in your home. Make sure all exits are accessible and not blocked by decorations or trees.

Christmas Trees

fire safetyWhat’s a traditional Christmas morning scene without a beautifully decorated tree? If your household includes a natural tree in its festivities, take to heart the sales person’s suggestion – “Keep the tree watered.”

Christmas trees account for hundreds of fires annually. Typically, shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles, lighters or matches start tree fires. Well-watered trees are not a problem. A dry and neglected tree can be.

Selecting a Tree for the Holidays

Needles on fresh trees should be green and hard to pull back from the branches, and the needles should not break if the tree has been freshly cut. The trunk should be sticky to the touch. Old trees can be identified by bouncing the tree trunk on the ground. If many needles fall off, the tree has been cut too long and, has probably dried out, and is a fire hazard.

Caring for Your Tree

Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent. The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.

Disposing of Your Tree

Never put tree branches or needles in a fireplace or wood-burning stove. When the tree becomes dry, discard it promptly. The best way to dispose of your tree is by taking it to a recycling center or having it hauled away by a community pick-up service.

Maintain Your Holiday Lights

Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets, and excessive kinking or wear before putting them up. Use only lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.

Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets

Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet. Make sure to periodically check the wires – they should not be warm to the touch. Do not leave holiday lights on unattended!

Use Only Nonflammable Decorations

All decorations should be nonflammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents. If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame retardant.

Don’t Block Exits

Ensure that trees and other holiday decorations do not block an exit way. In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. A blocked entry/exit way puts you and your family at risk.

Never Put Wrapping Paper in the Fireplace

Wrapping paper in the fireplace can result in a very large fire, throwing off dangerous sparks and embers that may result in a chimney fire.

Avoid Using Lit Candles

Consider using battery-operated flameless candles, which can look, smell and feel like real candles.

If You Do Use Lit Candles

Make sure candles are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down. Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Never leave a room or go to bed with candles burning.

Never Put Lit Candles on a Tree

Do not go near a Christmas tree with an open flame – candles, lighters or matches.

Have a fire-free holiday season!

 

 

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Good Food on a Tight Budget

The following post contains press release information from the Environmental Working Group, EWG, a nonprofit organization.

EWG collaborated with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters to create  Good Food on a Tight Budget, http://tinyurl.com/8rjd5mb – to help you shop smarter and fill your grocery cart with the foods that deliver the biggest bang for your buck.

foodThis shopping guide looks at 100 foods that are healthy, inexpensive, clean and green. The guide features simple tips for eating well, tasty recipes for meals and kids’ snacks, as well as proven money-saving tools for tracking food prices and planning meals.

Click here to check out EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget – including 15 recipes that average less than $1 per serving and tips like, http://tinyurl.com/8rjd5mb:

:: A pear a day keeps the pesticides away – more fiber, potassium and folate than an apple and fewer pesticide residues.

:: Eat your garnish – parsley packs a punch as potent as kale for a quarter the price.

:: Not a carrot lover? Sweet potatoes pack twice the fiber, potassium, and vitamin A as carrots.

:: Super okra? Okra beat out more than 100 other veggies to rise to the top of our lists.

Did you know: one serving of filling oatmeal is about half the cost of a bowl of sugared cereal? For animal sources of protein – roasted turkey tops the list. But to eat on the cheap, you can’t beat pinto beans or lentils for one-fifth the cost.

These tips are perfect for back-to-school, too – and to help you plan out food choices for those important meals, the guide’s lead author, EWG nutritionist Dawn Undurraga, pulled together visual suggestions for a week of easy lunches. Click here to read her back-to-school blog, http://tinyurl.com/bs5sflt.

We believe that eating healthy and affordably should be easy. I hope you enjoy this  guide.

 

 

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FDA Defines “Gluten-free” for Food Labeling

gluten-free-foodsMost supermarkets now carry a line of products labelled “gluten-free.” Many of us are choosing to buy and eat these new cookies, breads and other products we believe to be made without  flour. For most of us, it is a choice to avoid white flour, which we may consider not healthy for us.

For the three million Americans who have Celiac disease, a gluten free diet is there only choice  in managing their autoimmune digestive condition.

The FDA recently issued a new rule that provides standard definition to protect the health of Americans with Celiac disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling.

The press release issued by the FDA reads,“Adherence to a gluten-free diet is the key to treating Celiac disease, which can be very disruptive to everyday life,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s new ‘gluten-free’ definition will help people with this condition make food choices with confidence and allow them to better manage their health. This new federal definition standardizes the meaning of “gluten-free” claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.”

The FDA recognizes that many foods currently labeled as “gluten-free” may be able to meet the new federal definition already. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

“We encourage the food industry to come into compliance with the new definition as soon as possible and help us make it as easy as possible for people with Celiac disease to identify foods that meet the federal definition of ‘gluten-free,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

“The term “gluten” refers to proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross-bred hybrids of these grains.  In people with Celiac disease, foods that contain gluten trigger production of antibodies that attack and damage the lining of the small intestine. Such damage limits the ability of Celiac disease patients to absorb nutrients and puts them at risk of other very serious health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, osteoporosis, growth retardation, infertility, miscarriages, short stature, and intestinal cancers.”

The FDA was directed to issue the new regulation by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which directed FDA to set guidelines for the use of the term “gluten-free” to help people with Celiac disease maintain a gluten-free diet.

The regulation was published in the Federal Register.

For more information:

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Halloween Food Safety Tips

food

The Partnership for Food Safety Education (http://fightbac.org) offers the following tips for preventing foodbourne bacteria this Halloween:

  • Keep all perishable food chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, cut fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frosting. Cold temperatures help keep most bacteria from multiplying.
  • To keep store-bought party trays cold, fill lids with ice and place trays on top.  Similarly, keep salads and other perishable items in bowls cold by nesting them in larger bowls of ice.
  • Arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let platters of food sit out for too long.  Don’t leave perishable goodies out for more than two hours at room temperature (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

  • When whipping up Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs.
  • Beware of  unpasteurized juice or cider that can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Serve only pasteurized products at your Halloween party.
  • Remind kids (and adults too!) to wash their hands before and after eating to help prevent foodborne illness.
  • Bobbing for Apples – Try a new spin on bobbing for apples. Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper.  Write activities for kids to do on each apple, such as “say ABCs” or “do 5 jumping jacks”. Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string or create a fishing pole with a dowel rod, magnet and yarn.  Let the children take turn “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple.
  •  Give children a fresh apple for participating in your food safe version of bobbing for apples.

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Keeping Foodborne Illness Out of the Lunchbox

lunchboxTo help prevent what the USDA calls a serious public health threat…foodborne illness in the lunchbox; follow these six top tips for keeping foods safe.

  1. If you’re packing meats, eggs, yogurt or other perishable food, use at least two freezer packs. Harmful bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Juice boxes can provide another option: freeze some juice boxes overnight to use with at least one freezer pack. The frozen juice boxes will thaw by lunchtime.
  3. If there’s a refrigerator at school or work, find a space for your lunch. Remove the lid or open the bag so the cold air can circulate better.
  4. Use an insulated, soft-sided lunchbox or bag instead of a paper bag. Perishable food can spoil more quickly in a paper bag.
  5. For a hot lunch like soup, use an insulated container. Make sure the container remains tightly closed until lunchtime.
  6. And finally, throw out all leftover food, used packaging and paper bags.

Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, reminds us that not all illness comes from the food. It can come from a lunchbox that is not properly cleaned, or from the area where the lunch was prepared. They ask that we please remember that:

  • A dirty lunchbox may contain bacteria that can make a youngster  sick.
  • A lunchbox picks up a lot of grime in a day.
  • Kids don’t always wash their hands before handling their lunchboxes and food.
  • It’s a good idea to put a small bottle of antibacterial gel with a tight-fitting lid in your child’s lunchbox. Your child can use the gel when there isn’t a chance to wash with soap and water before eating lunch.
  • Kids should avoid setting down their food on the table. Include a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, or even a small fabric place mat in your child’s lunchbox that can be washed at home to help keep food off surfaces that may have been used by a number of youth and adults.

When packing a lunchbox:

  • Start with clean hands, a clean work surface and a clean lunchbox.
  • Disinfect kitchen surfaces, such as kitchen equipment and refrigerator handles, regularly.
  • Also clean cutting boards, knives, dish-drying towels and sponges or dish cloths daily.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before packing them

 

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