‘Lucky 13’ Tips for a Safe Halloween

Safe Halloween‘Lucky 13’ Tips for a Safe Halloween is a pass along for the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whether you’re goblin or ghoul, vampire or witch, poor costume choices—including decorative contact lenses and flammable costumes—and face paint allergies can haunt you long after Halloween if they cause injury.

Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by following these “lucky 13” guidelines:

  1. Wear costumes made of fire-retardant materials; look for “flame resistant” on the label. If you make your costume, use flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon to be safe.
  2. Wear bright, reflective costumes or add strips of reflective tape and be safe because you’ll be more visible; make sure the costumes aren’t so long that you’re in danger of tripping.
  3. Wear makeup and hats, to be safe, rather than masks that can obscure your vision.
  4. To be on the safe side, test the makeup you plan to use by putting a small amount on your arm a couple of days in advance. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a sign of a possible allergy.
  5. Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA approved and safe for use. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use it.
  6. It is not a safe to wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional and gotten a proper lens fitting and instructions for using the lenses.

Safe Treats

Eating sweet treats is also a big part of the fun on Halloween. If you’re trick-or-treating, health and safety experts say you should remember these tips:

  1. Don’t let your kids eat candy until it has been inspected at home.
  2. Trick-or-treaters should eat a snack before heading out, so they won’t be tempted to nibble on treats that haven’t been inspected.
  3. Tell children not to accept—or eat—anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
  4. Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.
  5. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

For party goers and party throwers, FDA recommends the following safe tips for two seasonal favorites:

  1. Look for the warning label to avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products that may have been made on site. When in doubt, ask! Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Normally, the juice found in your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or on the shelf in boxes, bottles, or cans is pasteurized.
  2. Before bobbing for apples—a favorite Halloween game—reduce the amount of bacteria that might be on apples by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

Eye Safety

FDA joins eye care professionals—including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists and the American Optometric Association—in discouraging consumers from using decorative contact lenses.

These experts warn that buying any kind of contact lenses without an examination and a prescription from an eye care professional can cause serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss. Despite the fact that it’s illegal to sell decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription, FDA says the lenses are sold on the Internet and in retail shops and salons—particularly around Halloween.

The decorative lenses make the wearer’s eyes appear to glow in the dark, create the illusion of vertical “cat eyes,” or change the wearer’s eye color.

“Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories,” says FDA eye expert Bernard Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed.. “What troubles us is when they are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care, this can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness.”

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

 

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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.”

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Food Safety at Summer Fairs and Festivals

foodThe Centers for Disease Control want us to practice food safety at fairs and festivals throughout the summer.

One of the CDC publications  asks us to remember that the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like thermostat-controlled cooking, refrigeration, and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at these events. Here are some things they suggest you do or find out to prevent foodborne illness:

Before you buy food from a vendor check out the following:

  • Does the vendor have a clean/tidy workstation?
  • Does the vendor have a sink for employees to wash their hands?
  • Do the employees wear gloves or use tongs when handling food?
  • Does the vendor have refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods?
  • Has the vendor been inspected? Requirements vary by state, but in general, temporary and mobile vendors, like those at fairs and carnivals, should have a license to sell food and beverages in a particular state or county. You can check with the local health department to see if the vendors are licensed and if a food inspection has been completed.

Are there healthy food alternatives to consider at fairs and festivals?

When purchasing food from a vendor, look for foods that are healthy for you. If they are not available, consider bringing your own food to save money and calories. Don’t forget to keep safe food storage practices in mind.

If bringing food from home, what are the proper food handling and storage practices?

If you bring food to a fair or festival from home, be sure to keep food handling and storage times in mind. Don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour. Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag

Remember to Wash Hands Often:

  • Find out where hand washing stations are located.
  • Always wash your hands right after petting animals, touching the animal enclosure, and exiting animal areas even if you did not touch an animal.
  • Always wash hands after using the restroom, after playing a game or going on a ride, before eating and drinking, before preparing food or drinks, after changing diapers, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes.
  • Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands.

Report Illness:

Anytime you suspect you may have contracted a foodborne illness, report it to your local health department, even if it is after you have recovered. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as it is to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

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Fireworks are not Always Fun on the 4th

Fireworks have long been a part of celebrating major events and holidays, such as the 4th of July, but in the hands of the untrained they can and do cause serious injuries, including severe burns and other injuries in children.

Each year, fireworks send 3,000 +children under the age of 15 to emergency rooms in the U.S.

fireworksThe National Fire Protection Association(NFPA) reports that sparklers, which burn at about 1,200°F and are typically viewed by parents as relatively harmless fireworks for children, cause serious burn injuries, accounting for one-third of the injuries to children under five.

According to The National Fire Protection Association, the best way to protect your family is to not use any fireworks at home…period. Attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.

Follow these simple fireworks tips:

  • The best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit public fireworks displays hosted by professionals who know how to safely handle fireworks.
  • Closely supervise children around fireworks at all times.
  • Do not give children sparklers or allow them to pick up fireworks or other novelty items.
  • If your friends or family members refuse to stop using fireworks, please follow these tips:
    • If you plan to use fireworks, make sure they are legal in your area.
    • Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
    • Always have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher nearby. Know how to operate the fire extinguisher properly.
    • Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
    • Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a devise does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out with water and dispose of it.
    • Closely supervise children around fireworks at all times.
    • Do not give children sparklers or allow them to pick up fireworks or other novelty items.

Sources: Safe Kids USA, The National Fire Protection Association(NFPA)

 Be Safe! Have Fun! Celebrate our Nation’s Birthday!

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The Unwanted BBQ Guest

June 08, 2015

By Crystal McDade-Ngutter, Ph.D., Food Safety Education Staff, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

It’s summer time! Break out the swim suit, sunglasses, sandals and grill. Not only is summer peak season for backyard barbeques, it is also prime time for foodborne illnesses. Bacteria grow fast at warmer temperatures and can make you sick—leaving you with not so good memories of your family barbeque this summer.

Listeria monocytogenes is a dangerous bacterium that you should be on the lookout for all year round—especially in the summer months. Listeria can cause a foodborne illness called listeriosis. It can grow at refrigeration temperatures and is one of the deadliest foodborne illnesses.

Pregnant women are more likely to be affected by Listeria than healthy people. In fact, they are about 10 times more likely than the general population to get listeriosis. Listeria can be passed to your unborn baby, even when you show no sign of sickness. It can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth, and death in newborns.

During pregnancy, it is important to be aware of the foods you are eating. Listeria is commonly found in ready-to-eat foods. These foods include:

  • Soft-ripened cheeses (traditional Mexican-style cheeses, Camembert, Brie, Feta, and Ricotta);
  • Raw vegetables;
  • Store-brought salads (ham, chicken, tuna, and seafood);
  • Deli meats; and,
  • Hot dogs (a barbeque favorite).

If these foods can’t be reheated or cooked, pregnant women should avoid eating them.

Hot dogs are a certainty at any barbeque. For this reason, it is important to keep Listeria from lurking in your hotdogs especially for pregnant guests, their unborn babies, and newborns. Here are a few tips to keep your grilled hot dogs in tip-top shape:

  • Never eat hotdogs straight out the package as a pre-BBQ snack—hot dogs must always be heated to 165°F or higher before eaten.
  • Wash hands after handling hot dogs from the package.
  • Avoid getting hot dog juice from the package on other foods, utensils, or preparation surfaces.
  • After grilling hot dogs, keep the temperature at 140°F or higher until served.
  • Make sure leftover hot dogs are refrigerated or put on ice two hours after they are removed from the grill or one hour if the temperature is over 90°F. When you reheat them, heat them to 165?F or higher.
  • Leftover hot dogs that have been refrigerated should be eaten within three to four days.

Properly cooking hot dogs WILL help keep Listeria from making a surprise appearance at your backyard BBQ.

Please visit www.foodsafety.gov for more information about food safety and direct food safety questions to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or www.AskKaren.gov.

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