All Posts In Food Safety

In Your Kitchen: Counter-Top Safety

by in Food Safety, January 25, 2012
sponges
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.

The Issues
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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Are Bar Snacks and Cocktail Condiments Safe to Eat?

by in Food Safety, Healthy Tips, December 30, 2011


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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Is the 5-Second Rule Valid?

by in Food Safety, December 1, 2011
candy on floor
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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The Rules of Thanksgiving Food Safety

by in Food Safety, Thanksgiving, November 21, 2011
thanksgiving dinner
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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Deciphering Deli Meats

by in Food Safety, Grocery Shopping, November 17, 2011
deli salami
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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Get The Facts: Melon Safety

by in Food News, Food Safety, November 9, 2011
canteloupe
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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How Safe Is Your Supermarket?

by in Food Safety, Grocery Shopping, September 21, 2011

grocery store
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.

DIY Inspection
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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Packing a Safe Lunch

by in Back to School, Food Safety, August 31, 2011
kids looking into lunchbox
Feed them well, keep them safe.

A new study published in the August issue of Pediatrics may change the way you pack your child’s lunch this school year. Find out the shocking results and what you can do to keep your child safe from food-borne illness.

The Study
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin tested temperatures of pre-school lunches in 9 Texas day care centers. Lunches of 235 kids with at least one perishable food items were checked 90 minutes before lunch. The researchers also noted whether lunches contained ice packs. The results were astounding:

  • 39% of the lunches had no ice packs.
  • 45.1% of the lunches had at least 1 ice pack.
  • 88.2% of the lunches were found to be at a hazardous temperature.
  • 1.6% of perishable items checked were found to be safe.
  • Even lunches with multiple ice packs were found to be at unsafe temperatures.

This means that most kids (at least from the sample studied here) were eating food that was unsafe. This is especially scary since we’re talking about young children who are more susceptible to becoming sick from food bugs due to a weaker immune system. So what’s a parent to do to keep their kiddies safe?

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Food Safety News: No More Screening For E.Coli?

by in Food Safety, July 13, 2011

bacteria, e coli
Global food-borne illness outbreaks have been on the rise in recent years. So why is the U.S. considering putting an end to screening foods to make sure they’re free of some of the deadliest bacteria?

In The News
The LA Times reports the House of Representatives passed a bill last month to do away with funding for a 10-year old program that screens commonly contaminated produce for the presence of harmful bacteria. Now it’s on to the Senate.

This program has lead to nearly 20 food recalls over the last 2 years. Budget restraints and complaints of “unnecessary recalls” are being blamed for the possible reallocation of funds.

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Summer Picnic Menu

by in Food Safety, Healthy Recipes, May 25, 2011
Picnic Menu
Host a safe and healthy summer picnic with our best recipes and tips.

Divide and conquer at your next potluck picnic with these delicious and nutritious dishes. Don’t forget that warmer weather also increases the risk of food spoilage, so be sure to keep your food safe by following our simple tips.

Get our healthy picnic picks »