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.
#

________________________________________

Children, Teens and Fast Food Calories

Recent studies demonstrate that few children and teens pay attention to the nutritional information, especially calories, listed on the menu when ordering in fast food restaurants. They also significantly underestimate the calories in the foods they order, often by 500 or more calories.

 Eating out, for many teens, is about eating what they want with no regard for the effect it has on their weight.

According to the Journal on Obesity, eating fast foods out on a regular basis is part of in the growing problem of obesity in the U.S. Mandatory labeling of calories in foods in restaurants has been proposed as one way to help people make healthier food choices.

New York City was the first city to implement a posting calories requirement in chain restaurants. Now calorie labeling is mandated nationally by the Affordable Care Act. The law requires restaurants with 20 or more locations nationwide to post the calories in each food item either on menu boards or printed menus.

Most of the children  and teens interviewed in the studies, that took place in Boston and in New York City, were not aware of how many calories they needed each day for a healthy diet and what foods were the best choices for meeting their daily intake of calories.

The answer is not that children and teens give  up the fun of eating out in a fast food restaurant, but rather they need to learn how to eat out and keep food choices in line with their calories for the day.

Occasionally eating out at fast food restaurants as a family can be a way to help young children learn about how to use the calorie labeling to make good meal choices. Ordering based on calories and the nutritional value of each food on the menu will hopefully have carry over value to when they are making those choices on their own,  as teens, and eating out with friends.

Source:Journal of Obesity

 

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

What About Those Other Foods?

foodsa

Many of us are good at reading the nutritional labels on the foods we buy, but what about the other labels that some foods carry. What about labels such as “fat-free,” “reduced calorie,” or “light.”

Here are some definitions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health that might be helpful:

Calorie terms:

  • Low-calorie – 40 calories or less per serving
  • Reduced-calorie – at least 25 percent fewer calories per serving when compared with a similar food
  • Light or lite – one-third fewer calories; if more than half the calories are from fat, fat content must be reduced by 50 percent or more

Sugar terms:

  • Sugar-free – less than 1/2 gram sugar per serving
  • Reduced sugar – at least 25 percent less sugar per serving when compared with a similar food

Fat terms:

  • Fat-free or 100 percent fat free – less than 1/2 gram fat per serving
  • Low-fat – 3 grams or less per serving
  • Reduced-fat – at least 25 percent less fat when compared with a similar food

Remember that fat-free doesn’t mean calorie free. People tend to think they can eat as much as they want of fat-free foods. Even if you cut fat from your diet but consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.

Also, fat-free or low-fat foods may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You need to check the food labels carefully. For example, a fat-free muffin may be just as high in calories as a regular muffin. So, remember, it is important to read your food labels and compare products.

Finding the nutrient content of foods that don’t have food labels:

When you get a pound of salmon in the meat department of your grocery store, it doesn’t come with a Nutrition Facts label. The same goes for the fresh apples or eggplants that you get in the produce department.

How do you find out the nutrient content of these foods that don’t have food labels?

You can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database. This is a bit harder than using the Nutrition Facts label. But by comparing different foods you can get an idea if a food is high or low in saturated fat, sodium, and other nutrients. To compare lots of different foods at one time, check out the USDA’s Nutrient Lists.

Salt and Sugar in Infant and Toddler Foods

toddler

A report published in the journal Pediatrics shares information on a study that evaluated the sodium and sugar content of US commercial infant and toddler foods.

The study reviewed a 2012 nutrient database of 1074 US infant and toddler foods and drinks developed from a commercial database, manufacturer web sites, and major grocery stores. Products were categorized on the basis of their main ingredients and the US Food and Drug Administration’s reference amounts customarily consumed per eating occasion (RACC). Sodium and sugar contents and presence of added sugars were determined.

 The study found that all but 2 of the 657 infant vegetables, dinners, fruits, dry cereals, and ready-to-serve mixed grains and fruits were low sodium (140 mg/RACC). The majority of these foods did not contain added sugars; however, 41 of 79 infant mixed grains and fruits contained 1 added sugar, and 35 also contained >35% calories from sugar. Seventy-two percent of 72 toddler dinners were high in sodium content (>210 mg/RACC). Toddler dinners contained an average of 2295 mg of sodium per 1000 kcal (sodium 212 mg/100 g). Savory infant/toddler snacks (n = 34) contained an average of sodium 1382 mg/1000 kcal (sodium 486 mg/100 g); 1 was high sodium. Thirty-two percent of toddler dinners and the majority of toddler cereal bars/breakfast pastries, fruit, and infant/toddler snacks, desserts, and juices contained 1 added sugar.

Commercial toddler foods and infant or toddler snacks, desserts, and juice drinks are of potential concern due to sodium or sugar content.

Study researchers advise physicians to speak to parents about carefully reviewing nutrition labels when selecting commercial toddler foods, and to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts, and juice drinks. They add that reducing excessive amounts of these ingredients from birth to 24 months can lead to better infant and toddler health now and as they grow.