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Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

by Dr. Thomas K. Lo, Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center

Holidays can be a time for family, food, and fun. While getting together for the holidays can be enjoyable, the food may be contaminated and friends and family may become ill. The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, but organisms that you cannot see, smell, or taste (bacteria, viruses, and tiny parasites) are everywhere in the environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States can be traced to foodborne pathogens every year.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates two to three percent of foodborne illnesses lead to serious, secondary long-term illnesses. Unfortunately, the nonprofit Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has reported that zero risk of microbiological hazards is not possible and no method will eliminate all pathogens or toxins from the food chain (“Food Safety and Fresh Produce: An Update,” 2009).

Despite progress improving the quality and safety of foods, any raw agricultural product can be contaminated. Bacteria may survive, despite aggressive controls at the processing level, or the food may become contaminated somewhere along the way during transport, preparation, cooking, serving, and storage.

For these reasons, food safety and public health officials agree that along with aggressive efforts to identify, access, and control microbiological hazards associated with each segment of the food production system, teaching everyone about safe food handling is a priority. Consumers have an important role to play in reducing their risk of foodborne illness.

Here are some tips to follow to help you avoid foodborne illnesses.

Keep it clean. Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds before preparing, eating, or handling food. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom and touching pets. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item.   Wash or scrub fruits and vegetables under running water—even if you do not plan to eat the peel—so dirt and germs on the surface do not get inside when you cut into the food.

Cook it well. Cooking food to the proper temperature gets rid of harmful germs. Use a food thermometer to check for the proper temperature of the meat you are cooking. Make sure chicken wings (and any other poultry) reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F and that ground beef items reach 160°F. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Follow frozen food package cooking directions when cooking in microwave.

Keep it safe. If preparing food in advance, divide cooked food into shallow containers and store in a refrigerator or freezer until the party begins. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep food hot on the buffet table. Cold foods should be kept at 40°F or colder. Use small service trays or nest serving dishes in bowls of ice. It is okay to refreeze meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing. If you are getting takeout or having food delivered, make sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods like veggies when preparing, serving, or storing foods. Make sure to use separate cutting boards, plates, and knives for produce and for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.          Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.                 Place cooked food on a clean plate. Do not use a plate that had raw or uncooked food on it—especially raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Offer guests serving utensils and small plates to discourage them from eating directly from the bowls with dips and salsa.

Store and reheat leftovers the right way. Divide leftovers into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate or freeze. Refrigerate leftover foods at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation or one hour when the temperature is above 90°F. It is okay to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers for three to four days at most. Freeze leftovers if you will not be eating them soon. Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40°F or below and the freezer at 0°F or below. Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within two days; beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within three to five days.

Wrap perishable food such as meat and poultry securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food. To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap.

Canned foods are safe indefinitely as long as they have not been exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90°F. Discard cans that are dented, rusted, or swollen. High-acid canned food (tomatoes, fruits) will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months; low acid canned food (meats, vegetables) for 2 to 5 years.

Thawing. The refrigerator allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing meat and poultry juices do not drip onto other food. For faster thawing, place food in a leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing. Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.

Food poisoning. Some signs of food poisoning include upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

Signs of food poisoning can start hours, days, or even weeks after eating bad food. Usually the effects only last for one or two days, but they can last up to two weeks.

The treatment for most cases of food poisoning is to drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated. For a more serious illness, you may need treatment at a hospital. Get medical help right away, if you have a fever higher than 101.5°F. Also, seek medical attention if you have blood in your vomit or in your stool; and you are throwing up many times a day for more than two days, if you can’t drink or keep down any liquids for 24 hours, have a very dry mouth, are peeing much less than usual, are feeling very weak, dizzy, or lightheaded and if you have diarrhea that lasts more than three days.

Anyone can get sick from eating bad food. However, food poisoning is a serious health risk for some people. Higher risk categories include pregnant women, babies, young children, older adults, and people with certain health conditions (including AIDS, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and cancer).

You cannot see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. In every step of food preparation, follow these four steps of the Food Safe Families campaign to keep food safe: (1) Clean: Wash your hands and the surfaces food is prepared on often; (2) Separate: Keep meat and vegetables separate, so you do not cross-contaminate; (3) Cook: Cook food to the right temperature according to the meat thermometer; (4) Chill: Refrigerate food promptly.

Dr. Lo wishes you a happy and healthy holiday. If you are interested in a free consultation, contact the Advanced Chiropractic & Nutritional Healing Center at 240-651-1650. Dr. Lo uses Nutritional Response Testing® to analyze the body to determine the underlying causes of ill or non-optimum health. The office is located at 7310 Grove Road #107, Frederick, MD. Check out the website at www.doctorlo.com.

by Anita DiGregory

Well, it is that time of year again. No sooner do we take down that tree and put away all the holiday decorations, that we stumble uncontrollably, head-first, into the peak of yet another cold and flu season. If your home is anything like mine, once one child gets sick, it’s only a matter of time until it makes its rounds around the house…just like dominos (only a lot more frustrating and a lot less fun!).

As of their last reporting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted Puerto Rico and forty-nine states were already experiencing widespread flu activity.  According to the CDC, “Seasonal flu viruses can be detected year-round; however, seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.”

The CDC, of course, highly recommends getting the flu vaccine.  Because receiving the vaccine does not necessarily mean you won’t get the flu, nor is the vaccine doable for everyone, here are some other helpful tips for you and your family this cold and flu season. Several of these guidelines you may have heard from your grandma, and may have been dismissed as old wives’ tales (where did that saying even come from?). However, many of these tips are now backed by scientific studies, proving once again that moms (and grandmas) know best!

 

  1. Stay healthy. You’ve heard the best offense is a good defense; well, the best defense in the fight against colds and germs is keeping your immune system strong. This would include getting enough sleep; exercising; eating healthy, balanced meals; taking a multi-vitamin; avoiding stress; and staying hydrated.

 

  1. Wash up. This one is backed by the CDC. On their website, they even tell you how to do it properly, recommending you to wet, lather your hands (front and back, between fingers, and under nails), scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse, and dry. According to the CDC, “Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.” If handwashing is not an option, the CDC recommends the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. They do warn, however, that sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

 

  1. Drink up. Staying hydrated is key to staying healthy, and drinking water can boost your immune system. Additionally, consuming lots of fluids when sick helps loosen mucus and break up congestion. My pediatrician used to swear by hot tea, adding that nutrients in the tea help stave off common stomach bugs. I have several friends who highly recommend drinking grape juice for the same reason.

 

  1. Feed a Cold. Maintaining good, balanced nutrition can boost your immune system. However, several studies also suggest that eating during a cold can speed recovery time during an illness. According to a study published in Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology, eating increases important chemicals in the body, which boosts immune response.

 

  1. Eat your Soup. Believed for years to just be a comfort food, good ole’ fashioned chicken soup now seems to have scientific backing, with regards to its health benefits. Often rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, protein, and amino acids, soup seems to be helpful in boosting the immune system. Dr. Stephen Rennard published his scientific study with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, regarding the positive effects of soup. Using his grandmother’s chicken soup recipe, Rennard found positive physical changes in the immune system with the soup. Additional chicken soup ingredients such as garlic, onions, and ginger have also been studied and found to have positive effects on the immune system. Another study conducted in 2000 and published in CHEST (the official medical journal of the American College of Chest Physicians) found chicken soup to have anti-inflammatory effects.

 

  1. Give Grandma’s Home Remedies a Second Look. Several age-old remedies actually have been proven to be quite helpful in staying healthy or getting back to health quicker during a cold or the flu. A 2007 Penn State University study showed that one to two teaspoons of honey not only helped alleviate night-time coughing, but also was more effective than a leading cough suppressant. Other tips such as safely inhaling steam and gargling with salt water have also proven helpful in the quicker recovery from illnesses.

 

  1. Consult your physician. Some studies suggest that certain herbs, vitamins, or supplements may be helpful to the immune system. Many swear by the healing effects of Echinacea, probiotics, vitamin C, and other supplements. Before administering, make sure to talk to your doctor. Some supplements can be harmful to children or even to adults, in certain amounts.

Just remember, spring is right around the corner. Wishing you a safe and healthy February.

And don’t forget what ole’ Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”