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.
#

________________________________________

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.

 

Old Enough to Stay Home Alone?

aloneThere are few states that have laws stating how old a child must be before he or she can be left at home alone.

Yet, the National SAFEKIDS Campaign states that no child under 12 should be left home alone, no matter how mature they appear to be. They advise:

While 12 years is the earliest age to even consider that a child can stay home alone, each child is different and may not be ready at 12. Once the decision is made to begin allowing a child to stay at home alone the following suggestions can help insure a safe, comfortable experience for parent and child:

  • Practice by letting your child stay at home for brief periods of time
  • Always leave a phone number where you can be contacted
  • Call your child regularly while they are alone
  • Be sure your child understands your expectations about he or she is to use alone time. Review what is and is not permitted, such as:
    • TV viewing
    • Answer the phone
    • Cooking or making a snack
    • Using the computer
    • Entertaining friends
    • Going out or visit friends
  • Make sure your home is safe for your child:
    • Keep medications in a locked cabinet
    • If you have guns, keep them a locked cabinet
    • Correct anything your child could get hurt on
  • Practice correct behavior in emergencies such as:
    • What to do in an emergency
    • What to do if someone were trying to get into the house or apartment
    • What to do in case of a fire
  • Before you make the decision to try letting your child be home alone, ask your child if he or she feels confident and ready to stay home alone. If he or she is hesitant, hire a sitter and revisit being home alone in six or more months.

Sources: National Child Care Information Center, National SAFEKIDS Campaign, Jennifer Wolf, About.com

Bullying Prevention Begins with Young Children

bullyingBullying is a national epidemic. Bullying can have long term serious outcomes.

stopbulling.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services shares the following information on beginning bullying prevention in early childhood.

Early Childhood

Early childhood often marks the first opportunity for young children to interact with each other. Between the ages of 3 and 5, kids are learning how to get along with each other, cooperate, share, and understand their feelings.

Young children may be aggressive and act out when they are angry or don’t get what they want, but this is not bullying. Still, there are ways to help children.

Helping Young Children Get Along with Others

Parents, school staff, and other adults can help young children develop skills for getting along with others in age-appropriate ways.

  • Model positive ways for young children to make friends. For example, practice pleasant ways that children can ask to join others in play and take turns in games. Coach older children to help reinforce these behaviors as well. Praise children for appropriate behavior. Help young children understand what behaviors are friendly.
  • Help young children learn the consequences of certain actions in terms they can understand. For example, say “if you don’t share, other children may not want to play with you.” Encourage young children to tell an adult if they are treated in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset or unhappy, or if they witness other children being harmed.
  • Set clear rules for behavior and monitor children’s interactions carefully. Step in quickly to stop aggressive behavior or redirect it before it occurs.
  • Use age-appropriate consequences for aggressive behavior. Young children should be encouraged to say “I’m sorry” whenever they hurt a peer, even accidentally. The apology should also be paired with an action. For example, young children could help rebuild a knocked over block structure or replace a torn paper or crayons with new ones.

We all can contribute to stopping behaviors that lead to bullying, especially if we begin early in a child’s development.

 

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/