The industrial chemical Bisephenol A (BPA) has gotten increasingly negative attention in recent years. So much so, that congressional legislation was recently introduced to ban food packaging containing BPA. But it’s not necessary to wait for the government to take steps in order to scale back at home on products that contain BPA.
All Posts In Food Safety
Walnuts and hummus dips were on the recent food recall hit list. Last month, Sherman Produce Company, based in St. Louis, voluntarily began recalling 241 cases of walnuts, after routine sampling of the product purchased by stores in Illinois and Missouri found traces of listeria. Also in May, Massachusetts food manufacturer Lansal Inc. (aka Hot Mama’s Foods) voluntarily pulled 14,860 pounds of their hummus in various retailers, including Target and Trader Joe’s. This was done after a single 10-ounce container tested positive for listeria.
After nearly 300 people became sick from salmonella in 18 states, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert. The culprit is raw chicken produced at three Foster Farms facilities in California. Luckily, proper handling of poultry can help prevent illness. To do so, make sure to follow these five food safety rules.
#1: Defrost Properly
Those days of defrosting on your counter top overnight are long gone. One bacterium can multiply to 1 billion over 10 hours—something you don’t want to fool around with. To properly defrost chicken, place it in the refrigerator on a tray the night before. If you have smaller pieces of chicken, you can defrost in the microwave (look for the “defrost” button), as long as you cook them immediately after.
#2: Store Chicken Properly
When placing raw chicken in the refrigerator, make sure it is wrapped and stored on a lower shelf. Only proper cooking can destroy the bacteria, so foods that will not be further cooked (like cheese, veggies or fruit) should be placed above the raw chicken so the chicken juices won’t drip on them.
#3: Skip the Rinsing
Could it be that Julia Child’s habit of rinsing chicken has stuck with us after all these years? A recent study conducted at Drexel University found that 90% of folks still do it! For the first time, in 2005, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans included food safety, and they advise against rinsing chicken before cooking. The reason is that those chicken juices get all over the place—other dishes, the inside of the sink and the counter tops–creating a bacterial playground.
Skipping out on simple food safety rules may have bigger consequences than you think. Beyond resulting in a belly ache, it can have more serious outcomes for those with weaker immune systems, like young kids, pregnant women and older adults. Here are 5 food safety guidelines that most people forgo because they are busy, forget or just don’t know any better.
Go ahead, open your fridge. How long have most of the items been in there? You’re probably thinking to yourself, when should they be tossed? Since the sniff test or a quick eyeball over isn’t the best way to make that determination, take a look at the guidelines and then get ready to keep or toss ‘em.
Your refrigerator and freezer are temporary storage facilities that can extend the shelf life of food. However, the food stored in your fridge and freezer can definitely spoil within a specific time frame. Here are guidelines for common foods but if you’re ever in doubt, toss the food out.
- Leftover baby food (jarred or canned): 2 to 3 days (refrigerator)
- Opened canned juices: 5 to 7 days (refrigerator)
- Fresh orange juice: 6 days (refrigerator) or 6 months (freezer)
- Opened sodas or carbonated beverages: 2 to 3 days (refrigerator)
- Soy or rice milk: 7 to 10 days (refrigerator); don’t freeze
Food Safety Basics
Eggs are considered a potentially hazardous food that may cause illness if they’re not handled correctly. Raw and undercooked eggs have been associated with salmonella poisoning. Most folks infected with the salmonella bacteria develop symptoms about 12 to 72 hours after infected. Most people can recover but if symptoms are severe, hospitalization may be required especially in those with a compromised immune system (like the very young and old). Proper handling, cooking, and hand washing can prevent most of the issues.
Keeping Eggs Safe
Egg safety begins at your market and continues until the time when you reserve leftovers.
- Purchasing: Inspect egg cartons at the market. Don’t purchase cracked or dirty eggs and be sure to check the sell-by date. Eggs should always be refrigerated, even when on display.
- Storing: Be sure to get those eggs home quickly. They shouldn’t sit at room temperature longer than 2 hours—1 hour if it’s above 90 degrees. Once home, place the eggs in your refrigerator immediately.
- Preparing: When preparing eggs, wash your hands, any utensils, and surfaces that will come into contact with the eggs. If you’re not sure if the eggs are safe to eat, toss them. Once the equipment is used for the eggs, be sure to wash them with soap and warm water immediately. Don’t use them for another prep task (that’s cross-contamination!).
- Cooking: Always make sure that your eggs are safe to eat. For hard-boiled (or any cooked) eggs, you want to cook the eggs until both the white and yolk are firm. Learn how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs.
- Leftovers: Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They shouldn’t be frozen.
The government is finally moving forward with the biggest overhaul of food safety rules since the Great Depression—it’s about time! With major recalls in the past few years of melon and peanut butter, the safety of the U.S. food supply has been under major scrutiny. Food safety advocates are thrilled, but will these government plans really keep our food supply safe?
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama and hailed to be the first major overhaul in the safety of our food system in 70 years. The entire system shifts the focus to prevention rather than reaction when a problem occurs. There are 2 new rules proposed by the FDA that would govern about 80% of the U.S. food supply, excluding meat and poultry.
With cold and flu season upon us, it’s important to get the facts on how to prevent the spread of germs in and out of the kitchen. I had the pleasure to speaking with Jason Tetro – AKA The Germ Guy—where we discussed how to keep your kitchen safe, the calming effects of hand washing and why kids should eat dirt.
Q. How did you come to be known as the “Germ Guy?”
Back in 2008, I was asked by the local television station, CTV Ottawa to do regular question and answer segments on germs and our relationship with them in our daily lives. The host, Leanne Cusack, felt that my title, “University of Ottawa Microbiologist Jason Tetro” was a little too long and shortened it to “The Germ Guy.” The name stuck in the community and soon, I was better known by that moniker. I went on to develop my own blog and then became a contributor for the Huffington Post.
Q. I heard that you always wear a loose piece of clothing in order to help prevent the spread of germs. Can you explain?
One of the best ways to prevent infection is simply to avoid exposure through the nose and mouth. I tend to wear a loose undershirt so that when I am around someone who is obviously sick and not following proper etiquette – such as sneezing or coughing into the elbow – I take the matter into my own hands and cover my nose and mouth with the shirt. It’s come in handy in many places and thankfully, I’ve never been mistaken for a robber!
Fruit Flies 101
Adult fruit flies (Drosiphila melanogaster) range in size from 1 to 2 millimeters, have red eyes and tan or brownish body. They like to lay their eggs on fruit that’s getting ready to be harvested; that’s how they make it into your home, though they can come in through open doors and windows. Once in your home, these small flies will hang out near rotting fruit, especially old bananas hanging out on your counter. These flies reproduce quickly—they can lay up to 500 eggs over the course of their 1-week lifespan.
Other common breeding grounds for these bugs include decaying meat, large spills of sugary soda or alcohol, sink drains, garbage disposals, empty bottles and cans, trash receptacles, wet mops and dirty rags.