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:
All Posts In Food Safety
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
What’s really lurking in the food you eat? These days, lots of things. A newly-released study from the University of Florida found that the 14 most common food microorganisms kill more than 1,300 people each year and cost more than $14 million in health care dollars. Let’s stop these bad boys from making us sick (and costing us a fortune) — read up on the top 5 and what you can do to stop them.