Archive for the ‘Health & Food Safety’ Category

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I believe that taking one’s own lunch to work is a really good idea. This way, you choose the ingredients for your lunch, you are aware of how the food was prepared and how much of oils etc. was used. You know that it is fresh and wholesome.

Another huge advantage is that you will be saving money. The ingredients that are used to make one set of sandwiches can be used for several sandwiches. These include, bread, tomatoes, gherkins, jalapenos, cheese and so forth. You can add to savings by carrying your own water and soft drinks and not be from vending machines.
When I saw this article that follows,  I thought it had very useful information to ensure that the food you carry to work remains fresh and wholesome.

Do check it out.

Safe Food Handling

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe


Whether it’s off to school or work we go, millions of Americans carry “bag” lunches. Food brought from home can be kept safe if it is first handled and cooked safely. Then, perishable food must be kept cold while commuting via bus, bicycle, on foot, in a car, or on the subway. After arriving at school or work, perishable food must be kept cold until lunchtime.

Why keep food cold? Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F. So, perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long. Here are safe handling recommendations to prevent food-borne illness from “bag” lunches.

Begin with Safe Food

Perishable food, such as raw or cooked meat and poultry, must be kept cold or frozen at the store and at home. Eggs should be purchased cold at the store and kept cold at home. In between, transport perishable food as fast as possible when no ice source is available. At the destination, it must be kept cold. Food should not be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).

Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats along with crackers, cheese, and condiments must also be kept refrigerated. This includes luncheon meats and smoked ham which are cured or contain preservatives.

Keep Everything Clean

Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Always use a clean cutting board. When using a cutting board for food that will not be cooked, such as bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.

At lunchtime, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Packing Lunches

Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunch. That way, there won’t be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers.

It’s fine to prepare the food the night before and store the packed lunch in the refrigerator. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. However, for best quality, don’t freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these later.

Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food. An ice source should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. Of course, if there’s a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don’t require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

Keeping Hot Lunches Hot

Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot — 140 °F or above.

Microwave Cooking/Reheating

When using the microwave oven to reheat lunches, cover food to hold in moisture and promote safe, even heating. Reheat leftovers to at least 165 °F. Food should be steaming hot. Cook frozen convenience meals according to package instructions.

Flexibility of Food Patterns for Varied Food Preferences

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are flexible to permit food choices based on individual and cultural food preferences, cost, and availability. Both can also accommodate varied types of cuisines and special needs due to common food allergies.  Two adaptations of the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are:

Vegetarian Choices

Vegetarians of all types can achieve recommended nutrient intakes through careful selection of foods.

These individuals should give special attention to their intakes of protein, iron, and vitamin B12, as well as calcium and vitamin D if avoiding milk products.

In addition, vegetarians could select only nuts, seeds, and legumes from the meat and beans group, or they could include eggs if so desired.

At the 2,000-calorie level, they could choose about 1.5 ounces of nuts and 2/3 cup legumes instead of 5.5 ounces of meat, poultry, and/or fish. One egg, ½ ounce of nuts, or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish in the USDA Food Guide.

Substitutions for Milk and Milk Products

Since milk and milk products provide more than 70 percent of the calcium consumed by Americans, guidance on other choices of dietary calcium is needed for those who do not consume the recommended amount of milk products.

Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin D.

People may avoid milk products because of allergies, cultural practices, taste, or other reasons. Those who avoid all milk products need to choose rich sources of the nutrients provided by milk, including potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium in addition to calcium and vitamin D.


Those who avoid milk because of its lactose content may obtain all the nutrients provided by the milk group by using lactose-reduced or low-lactose milk products, taking small servings of milk several times a day, taking the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products, or eating other calcium-rich foods.

Some vegetarian calcium enriched foods include, soya products  like tofu, & soya milk. Vegetables, like spinach, kale,  several kinds of nuts, artichokes,oats, bulgur and some cereals also contain calcium.


Estimated amounts of calories needed

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

This guideline from the USDA website explains how to estimate the number of calories that we need.

Estimated amounts of calories needed to maintain energy balance for various gender and age groups at three different levels of physical activity. The estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories and were determined using the Institute of Medicine equation.

Activity Level b,c,d

Gender

Age (years)

Sedentaryb

Moderately Activec

Actived

Child

2-3

1,000

1,000-1,400e

1,000-1,400e

Female

4-8
9-13
14-18
19-30
31-50
51+

1,200
1,600
1,800
2,000
1,800
1,600

1,400-1,600
1,600-2,000
2,000
2,000-2,200
2,000
1,800

1,400-1,800
1,800-2,200
2,400
2,400
2,200
2,000-2,200

Male

4-8
9-13
14-18
19-30
31-50
51+

1,400

1,800
2,200
2,400
2,200
2,000

1,400-1,600

1,800-2,200
2,400-2,800
2,600-2,800
2,400-2,600
2,200-2,400

1,600-2,000

2,000-2,600
2,800-3,200
3,000
2,800-3,000
2,400-2,800

a These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for reference-sized individuals. “Reference size,” as determined by IOM, is based on median height and weight for ages up to age 18 years of age and median height and weight for that height to give a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.

b Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.

Pregnant Women and Food Safety

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Festive Times

The holiday season is a very exciting time of year filled with parties, family gatherings and lots of food. From turkey and dressing to every type of dessert imaginable, there is never a time of year when food is more of a focus. While it is important that everyone keep food safety in mind during this season, it is especially important for pregnant women to do so.

Pregnant women should keep the following food safety tips in mind as they celebrate the holidays:

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when

  • Touching raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • Preparing food
  • Before eating or drinking
  • Try not to share forks, cups, or food with young children.
  • Wash your hands often when around children. Their saliva and urine might contain a virus that could be harmful for you and your unborn baby.
  • Cook your meat until it’s well done. The best way to tell that food has been cooked is to use a food thermometer.
  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot. These undercooked meats and processed meats might contain harmful bacteria.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it. Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and queso fresco unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized.
  • Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria and can cause infections such as Listeriosis which can be very harmful for both you  the mother and your unborn baby.
  • Be aware of holiday beverages. Watch out for alcohol-containing holiday punches and eggnogs. Avoid eggnog entirely unless you know it was made with pasteurized eggs and contains no alcohol.
  • To learn more about food safety and/or infections during pregnancy contact CDC-INFO at cdcinfo@cdc.gov or 1-800-CDC-INFO 24/7. Or, you may visit CDC’s Pregnancy Information gateway or FoodSafety.gov

Homemade Ice Cream & Risk of Salmonella Infection

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Risk of Salmonella Infection

The information here is intended to make one aware of the risk of using raw eggs in products that we consume. This includes making ice cream at home with eggs as an ingredient. Other products include salad dressings and mayonnaise.
There are also resources that suggest ways to be safe, eat sensibly and enjoy quality living.
Do read on:

Every year homemade ice cream causes several outbreaks of Salmonella infection with up to several hundred victims at church picnics, family reunions, and other large gatherings. From 1996 to 2000 (the latest year for which surveillance was completed), 17 outbreaks resulting in more than 500 illnesses in the United States were traced to Salmonella bacteria in homemade ice cream, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The ingredient responsible for the outbreaks is raw or undercooked eggs.

A person infected with Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), the strain of Salmonella found most frequently in raw eggs, usually has fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps beginning 12 to 72 hours after eating or drinking a contaminated food or beverage. The infection generally lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without any treatment.

However, for those at high risk–infants, older people, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system–it can be life-threatening.

Egg Substitutes

You can still enjoy homemade ice cream without the risk of Salmonella infection by substituting a pasteurized egg product, egg substitute, or pasteurized shell eggs for the raw eggs in your favorite recipe. Egg products are eggs that have been removed from their shells and pasteurized. They may be liquid, frozen, or dried whole eggs, whites, yolks, or blends of egg and other ingredients. Egg products are not widely available at retail; they are predominantly used in institutional food service.

Egg substitutes, which may be liquid or frozen, contain only the white of the egg, the part that doesn’t have fat and cholesterol, and are readily available at most supermarkets. Pasteurized shell eggs are also available from a growing number of retailers; you’ll find them located next to the regular shell eggs. These eggs look and taste just like regular shell eggs, though the white may be slightly cloudy, and they are nutritionally equivalent to their unpasteurized counterparts.

Safety Options

Other options for safe homemade ice cream are to use a cooked egg base or prepare it without eggs. The American Egg Board has a recipe for homemade ice cream made with eggs that are heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled. This temperature will kill Salmonella, if present. The recipe is available on AEB’s website, www.aeb.org. There you will also find recipes for other foods traditionally made with raw or undercooked eggs, such as mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, and eggnog. There are also many recipes for homemade ice cream available in cookbooks and from a variety of other sources that do not contain egg ingredients.

One such recipe is available from the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension using the following link: http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ciq-homemade-ice-cream.shtml.

Even when using pasteurized products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advise consumers to start with a cooked base for optimal safety, especially if serving people at high risk. Additionally, you should ensure that the dairy ingredients you use in homemade ice cream, such as milk and cream, are pasteurized.

Other products containing egg

Commercially manufactured ice cream, mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing, and eggnog are typically made with pasteurized eggs or egg products or the final product is pasteurized.
FDA continues to work with federal and state agencies, the egg industry, and the scientific community to eliminate egg-associated SE illnesses.

Resources:

FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
(888) SAFEFOOD (723-3366)
www.cfsan.fda.gov

USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline
(888) MPHotline (674-6854)

Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products

Myths About Raw Milk

Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. Some people continue to believe that pasteurization harms milk and that raw milk is a safe healthier alternative.

Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms, such as salmonella, e. coli, and listeria, that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.

Here are some common myths and proven facts about milk and pasteurization:

  • Raw milk DOES NOT kill dangerous pathogens by itself.
  • Pasteurizing milk DOES NOT cause lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. Both raw milk and pasteurized milk can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to milk proteins.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT reduce milk’s nutritional value.
  • Pasteurization DOES NOT mean that it is safe to leave milk out of the refrigerator for extended time,particularly after it has been opened.
  • Pasteurization DOES kill harmful bacteria.
  • Pasteurization DOES save lives.

Tips for Fresh Produce Safety

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Buying Tips

Purchase fruit and vegetables that are  not bruised or damaged.

When selecting fresh-cut produce – such as a half a watermelon or bagged salad greens – choose items that are refrigerated or surrounded by ice.

Bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from meat, poultry and seafood products.

Remember that the drips from the meat products may contain bacteria which will seep into your other purchases.

Storage Tips

Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F  or below.

Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled

Preparation Tips

Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.

Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded.

All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.

Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first.

Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.

Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.

Drying produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel may further reduce bacteria that may be present.