- Your grocery bag may be green, but is it clean?
Many folks love their eco-friendly re-usable grocery bags. But when’s the last time you washed them? A new survey found that only 15% of Americans regularly clean their totes, putting them at a higher risk for food poisoning.
A recent survey conducted by the Home Food Safety Program found 85% of Americans aren’t washing their re-usable grocery bags. Raw foods like meat, poultry and fish carry harmful bacteria which can linger in your totes waiting to board ready-to-eat foods like produce. The risk is even higher with the spring weather setting in as bacteria love to flourish at warm temperatures. Luckily, it’s easy to keep you and your family safe from food bugs.
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- Is there pink slime in this beef?
A microbiologist who worked for the USDA let the cat out of the bag about something the food industry has been doing for years. What’s your take on the food issue everyone’s talking about: pink slime?
What is Pink Slime?
Tiny traces of meat left on beef carcasses are heated, picked, then bathed in ammonia to kill off any bacteria. These meat scraps dubbed “lean finely textured beef” (aka pink slime) are then mixed with ground beef prior to packaging to bulk up portions. Until recently, pink slimed beef was gobbled down by anyone who consumed ground beef from a fast food joint, grocery store or school cafeteria.
The meat industry defends that pink slime is in fact meat. The government says these ammonia-sprayed foods are safe to eat, but that doesn’t make the chemical-treated meat any more appetizing to many consumers.
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- Should you spring for bottled, or is tap just fine?
It’s the battle over water! Should you be dropping cash on bottled versions or is tap the way to go? We’re diving into this controversy and sprinkling you with all the facts.
There are different varieties of bottled water, depending on their source. Here is a rundown:
- Mineral water comes from an underground source and contains a certain amount of minerals and trace element like copper, zinc, and arsenic.
- Spring water is collected from a spring that flows naturally through the surface.
- Municipal water comes from a public source that is usually treated before it’s bottled. You may see it labeled as “purified water.”
Having bottled water available when you’re on the go is convenient and less messy (many reusable bottles leak), but recent studies conducted will make any bottle-loving person a skeptic.
According to a 2008 investigation conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a variety of contaminants were found in every tested brand of bottled water. Although tap water is typically tested annually, bottled water doesn’t have to meet the same testing standards and they don’t have to disclose results of any contaminant testing conducted. After conducting this research, the EWG concluded that the “purity of bottled water cannot be trusted…[and] consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified.”
Also, bottled water has a larger carbon footprint than tap water and doesn’t contain any of the added nutrients found in tap water (like fluoride)—though you can find bottled water that has been fortified with fluoride. the problem is, over-consumption of fluoridated water can lead to fluorosis which causes a brownish discoloration on the teeth. It also costs thousands of times more than tap water.
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- How clean are your kitchen counters?
The last place you want to get sick is your own kitchen. With poor food safety practices, your counter-top can be crawling with bacteria and viruses. Luckily, there are simple ways to prevent these bad boys from making trouble.
It’s a basic fact that our current food supply is tainted with bacteria. Even though every egg or piece of chicken may not contain salmonella, we still need to handle food as if they do. We do many tasks on our counters from chopping veggies to cleaning raw chicken to preparing our kids’ bagged lunches. This gives the food bugs opportunities to hang out on our counter-tops. Cross-contamination and poor personal hygiene are two easy ways pathogens can get onto our counter-tops. A third way is allowing high risk foods (like raw chicken and cooked eggs) to sit on our counter-tops for a long period of time.
Here are some common examples of food safety faux pas:
- Defrosting meat on your counter-top.
- Not washing your hands after going to the restroom and preparing food.
- Using the same cutting board and knife to prep raw foods like chicken and meat, then using the same area, board and knife to cut veggies for a salad.
- Cleaning the counter-top with a wet sponge only.
- Using the same kitchen towel to dry your hands, clean the counter-top, and then dry the dishes.
- Someone with the flu or cold touching the counter-top where food is eaten or prepared.
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Ever seen the movie Along Came Polly? There’s a scene where Ben Stiller explains why a bowl of nuts at a bar are so disgusting. Patrons drink, go to the restroom, don’t wash their hands and dig right back into that bowl. If you think you don’t want to hit a bar with bad-news-bearing Ben Stiller, I’m pretty much the same . . . maybe worse. Here’s why:
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- It was just on the floor for a few seconds, can you eat it?
I’ve heard of the 5-second, 10-second and even 30-second rule. You drop food on the floor and if you pick it up in time, then it’s okay to eat. Is this a safe rule to live by?
For the Love of Bacteria!
One of the most disgusting cases I’ve seen is a pacifier dropped on the New York subway floor. The mom picked it up, stuck it in her own mouth to clean and then right in the baby’s mouth. The pacifier was on the floor for about 5 seconds, but that’s enough time for bacteria to cling to food (or in this case a pacifier).
Bacteria love protein and carb-based foods that are moist and not too acidic. This includes foods like meat, chicken, eggs, dairy, cooked vegetables and cooked pasta. Once bacteria is on a food they love, they can double their number every 20 minutes—this means, one bacterium can become over 1 billion in about 10 hours, which is more than enough to get someone sick.
If you think acidic foods like lemons and tomatoes are safer foods, think again. In 2002, an outbreak of salmonella was reported from participants in the U.S. Transplant Games held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The culprit was thought to be Roma tomatoes.
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- Safe turkey, safe fixins' = safe family.
Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season where friends, family, and loved ones gather to have one fantastic meal after another. It’s not the time to skimp on those food safety habits that can make or break the festivities. Here are some simple reminders.
Purchasing the Goodies
At the market, be sure you check the quality of all the products you buy. Look at the color, firmness, and texture of the produce and meats and don’t forget to check the expiration dates on packaged foods. Once you pay for your groceries, be sure to get them stored in the proper place immediately—refrigerator, freezer or pantry. A few extra stops on the way home is plenty of time for bacteria to have a party on your food.
Make room for your turkey—overcrowding your freezer or fridge can actually raise temperatures dangerously high and spoil your food and ruin your equipment.
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- What should you look for, and how much should you buy?
Not all foods at the deli are created equal. Check out some healthier and safer options to order up next time you’re at the counter.
Be In The Know
Not all deli “meats” are straight from the cow (so to speak). Here’s the breakdown on where all the deli goodies come from.
- Whole cuts: A part of the meat or poultry is cooked and sometimes flavored with spices, sugar or salt. It’s then sliced and sold by the pound. These cuts tend to be pricier.
- Sections and formed meat products: Parts of meats or poultry are “glued” together to create a single, larger piece (like cooked ham). These are typically cheaper than whole cuts.
- Processed meat (or sausages): These include liverwurst, bologna, knockwurst, salami and other such products. The meat can come from pork, poultry, beef, mutton and veal. Byproducts like heart, kidney, liver, lips and pork stomach are often tossed into the mix.
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- Is your melon safe?
The recent Listeria outbreak has made us aware that our food supply isn’t as safe as we may think. This isn’t the first time melon has caused illness or even death. Here’s a look at melon outbreaks and simple tips to keep your loved ones safe.
Past Melon Outbreaks
Sliced melon is no stranger to foodborne illness. It’s considered a potentially hazardous food, meaning a food that has the ability for bacteria to grow and thrive. One of the most memorable stories I can recall happened in 2000. A 2-year old girl fell ill and died after eating at a Milwaukee Sizzler. Although the girl never ate the E. Coli tainted ground beef, it was argued that the sliced melon she ate contained the bacteria. The alleged faux pas made during preparation was cross-contamination.
The recent outbreak of cantaloupe has shed light on the importance of keeping melon safe. As of today, 133 people have become ill and 28 have died throughout 26 states from Listeria-tainted cantaloupe. Although Jensen Farms in Colorado recalled the cantaloupes on September 14, symptoms of Listeria can take up to 2 months to appear. So the numbers can still go up through November.
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We all buy food somewhere – from the grocery store, farmers’ market, membership clubs or specialty markets. These places must all follow food safety practices to keep food safe. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Keep your eyes peeled for some of these frequent “ick” factors wherever you shop.
All establishments that sell food must adhere to food safety guidelines. They get inspected just like restaurants. During your next trip to the market, take a few minutes to visually inspect the premises yourself. Here are few things to take notice of:
- Do the floors look clean?
- Are spills being cleaned up immediately?
- Is the canned food dusty?
- Do the deli and other service counters appear clean?
- Is the stock well organized?
- Is food displayed within its expiration date?
- Does the produce look fresh?
- Are there signs of pests like mouse droppings or roaches?
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