December 3, 2016

Restaurants Don’t Explain Risks of Undercooked Meat to Customers

According to a study by North Carolina State University and published in the Journal of Food Protection, front line staff in restaurants do not do a good job explaining risks of undercooked meat to customers. Undercooked meat served at restaurants, especially ground beef, has been the source of food poisoning outbreaks in the past.   Unfortunately, servers in restaurants are a high turnover position with relatively low wages. These workers want to give their customers a positive experience, so they typically don't want to mention potential problems with food. Inaccurate information provided by servers often contracts science-based information people need to make informed food safety decisions. All of the 50 states in this country have adopted some version of the FDA's … [Read more...]

CDC Develops FoodNet Fast For Consumers to Track Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an interactive online program so consumers can track foodborne illness outbreaks over a 20 year period. The tool is called FoodNet Fast. The database includes confirmed cases of infection reported to FoodNet, which is the CDC's Foodborne Disease Active Surveillance Network. It includes outbreaks from 1996 through 2015. People can search by year, pathogen, age group, sex, and race. To develop the database, officials used surveillance from FoodNet in 10 sites for infections of nine pathogens that are commonly transmitted through food, and also for hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of E. coli infections that can cause kidney failure. The database also tracks how the rates of illness for Campylobacter, … [Read more...]

Valley Milk Products Seized by U.S. Marshals

The FDA announced yesterday that U.S. Marshals seized more than 4,000,000 pounds of dried milk products made by Valley Milk Products LLC of Strasburg, Virginia. The company is owned by the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association in Reston, Virginia. The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint, on behalf of the FDA, in the U.S. District Court for the Virginia Western District, alleging that the seized products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The products that were seized include dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder. They were packaged in 40 and 50 pound bags for further manufacturing and were worth nearly $4 million. The FDA inspected the facility from July to September 2016 and found poor sanitary practices. The … [Read more...]

Damaged Salad Leaves Massively Stimulate Salmonella Growth

A study published this month in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, conducted at the University of Leicester, shows that juices from damaged salad leaves "massively" stimulate Salmonella growth. In fact, that lab study shows that those juices increase Salmonella growth 2,400 fold over a control group. The leached juices also increased the bacteria's ability to form a strong, wash-resistant attachment to salad leaves and they enhance the pathogen's virulence, increasing its ability to cause illness. This is all bad news for bagged salad lovers. Between 2000 and 2007 in the United States, there were 38 Salmonella outbreaks associated with leafy greens that sickened 1,409 people. Leafy greens and Salmonella as a produce-pathogen pair is the second most common risk for outbreaks. … [Read more...]

How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey

The USDA is offering consumers tips on the best ways to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Many home cooks have never cooked such a large bird, and beginning cooks may need help to cook a turkey so it is safe as well as tender and juicy. You can see a chart for approximate turkey roasting times at the Foodsafety.gov web site. It gives you times for roasting a turkey breast, a stuffed turkey, and an unstuffed turkey, as well as turkey parts. The easiest way to cook a turkey is just to put it in a roasting pan, set the oven to 325°F, and let it cook. A 16 pound unstuffed turkey should take about 4 hours to get to 165°F using this method. To stuff a turkey, never ever stuff it ahead of time. Put the stuffing in the two cavities of the bird just before it goes into the oven. The cooking … [Read more...]

Forgot to Thaw the Turkey? Here are Three Solutions

The USDA has some tips about how to thaw your turkey quickly for Thanksgiving dinner. It should be thawed in the refrigerator; but this can take days. In fact, a 16 pound turkey takes four days to thaw. If your turkey is still frozen, it's too late to use this method. The two methods for thawing a turkey quickly are the cold water method an the microwave method. If you use these methods, you have to cook the turkey immediately after it thaws. For the cold water method, leave the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge it in a sink or container full of cold water. Change the water eery 30 minutes by emptying out the sink or container and replacing it with fresh cold water. This takes some commitment: to thaw a 16 pound turkey will take 8 hours to thaw, allowing 30 minutes of … [Read more...]

Planning to Wash Your Thanksgiving Turkey? Read This First

The USDA is offering tips on washing turkeys this holiday season. You shouldn't rinse the turkey before you cook it; but what if you plan to brine the bird? There has been a controversy about washing poultry before cooking for some time. Food safety experts do not recommend washing raw meat and poultry in your kitchen sink, simply because bacteria are loosely attached to the skin and flesh. When water hits the meat, bacteria can aerosolize and float around the kitchen. Water can splash the pathogenic bacteria up to 3 feet away from the sink. That area includes your face and hands, countertops, other towels, and the rest of the sink. Researchers at Drexel University have shown that it's best to transfer meat and poultry straight from the package to the pan. The heat used in … [Read more...]

Debunking Thanksgiving Myths

The USDA is trying to debunk Thanksgiving myths to help consumers keep their families safe over the holiday season. Many people believe these methods for preparing and storing food and they can make someone sick. The first myth is that it's okay to leave food outside when the weather is freezing. This may seem safe, especially if the temperature is below freezing and snow is on the ground, but it is not, for two reasons. The first reason is animal contamination. Animals can get into food stored outside, and can easily contaminate it. Wild animals often carry pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli. And family pets can also harbor bacteria, even if they do not seem sick. The second reason it is unsafe to store food outside is temperature variation. A plastic food storage container … [Read more...]

Food Safety Survey Shows Some Consumer Knowledge Increasing

According to the 2016 Food Safety Survey Report, conducted in collaboration with the FDA and USDA, consumer knowledge has increased about food safety consumer practices. The government has been conducting this survey since 1988. Key findings in the survey has found that the percentage of Americans who own a food thermometer has remained constant but usage has slightly increased. In 2016, 67% of respondents reporting owning a food thermometer. In 2016, 38% report that they always use a meat thermometer for roasts, compared to 19% for chicken parts, and 10% for hamburgers. But using a food thermometer is most crucial for ground beef, and very crucial for chicken, while it's less critical for larger cuts of beef that are cooked on the exterior. Hand washing rates have remained … [Read more...]

Study Finds TV Cooking Shows Overlook Safe Food Practices

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior has found that many television cooking shows overlook safe food handling practices. These shows are an important resource for home cooks, but the poor food safety practices demonstrated on these programs may lead to poor practices and foodborne illness among consumers who watch them. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst assessed food safety on television shows to discover whether they present positive or negative models. There are 48,000,000 cases of foodborne illness every year in the United States. Of those cases, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die. Illnesses can occur from recalled contaminated food and from improper food safety practices in retail kitchens, but many … [Read more...]

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