September 30, 2014

The Holiday Season is Norovirus Season


Norovirus, what many people call "stomach flu" is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S.  and its peak season coincides with the holiday season, November-January. Each year, about 20 million Americans get the stomach bug that causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Norovirus is extremely contagious and spreads quickly in crowded places like crowded, closed places such as preschools, daycare centers, nursing homes, schools, hotels, and cruise ships. You can get it by touching a contaminated surface,  eating or drinking food that is contaminated, or having direct contact with someone who has it. It takes fewer than 20 particles of the virus to make someone sick and the virus can live on hard surfaces … [Read more...]

Auditor General Critical of Canada’s Food Recall Procedures


Canada's Auditor General is critical of that country's food recall procedures. In the 2013 Fall Report, several areas that need improvement were listed. While the first three steps in the recall process, which includes identifying the issue, conducting an investigation, and making decisions worked well, follow-up activities were criticized. Chapter 4 of the report details the investigation of Canada's Food Recall System. The CFIA didn't have documentation it must collect to make sure that firms properly dispose of recall products or take action to identify and correct the underlying cause of the recall issue. In addition, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's emergency procedures were not finalized or regularly tested. When the emergency response pan is activated, changes in governance … [Read more...]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday turkey on white

For everything you need to know about cooking a turkey, the Turkey Federation has the answers. Visit their site for information about temperature checks, stuffing, preparation, oven roasting, deep frying, and grilling the bird for your holiday celebration. They also offer information on safely storing leftovers and have lots of recipes too. The USDA has great advice for your holiday meal too. What should you do if your guests are delayed and you have to hold food? What should you do with the food if bad weather keeps company away from your holiday table? Or what should you do if a turkey is done hours before you're ready to serve? Get answers at the USDA blog. And remember that Ask Karen is available 24/7 at And the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available today from … [Read more...]

Judge Orders Closure of Alfred Louie for Listeria and Unsanitary Conditions


A district court judge has ordered the closure of Alfred Louie Inc. of Bakersfield, CA until the company cleans its facility, eliminating unsanitary conditions and the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. The problems were discovered during inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Gordon Louie and Victor Louie, the owners of the company, which makes ready-to-eat mung bean and soybean sprouts and wheat flour noodles, have agreed under terms of a court order not to process or distribute food until the problems are corrected. Since 2000, FDA inspectors have documented numerous violations at the facility. In April and May 2013, Listeria was detected in sprouts and in the company’s facility.  In addition to mung bean and soybean sprouts, the  company also makes wheat … [Read more...]

Turkey Stuffing Food Safety

Holiday turkey on white

The USDA offers food safety information for your Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Their fact sheet is full of questions and answers all about how to safely prepare, cook, serve, and handle stuffing. The mixture of bread crumbs or cubes, seasoning, eggs, broth, and fruits or vegetables is called stuffing when baked inside the turkey, dressing when cooked in a crockpot or baking dish. It's also called filling. Stuffing is an excellent medium for pathogenic bacterial growth. Never prepare stuffing ahead of time; you can mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately, but don't combine them until you're ready to cook. The stuffing should be moist because heat kills bacteria more easily in a moist environment. Never stuff the bird until just before it goes into the oven. And cook … [Read more...]

Is Pink Turkey Safe?


When you cook your Thanksgiving turkey, you want to be sure it is properly cooked and safe to eat. Sometimes, when you slice into a turkey, the meat will appear pink. Since we are cautioned to cook poultry until no more pink is visible, juices run clear, and the meat is at least 165 degrees F, what's going on? The USDA has prepared a fact sheet called "Is Pink Turkey Meat Safe?" Many people calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline with this problem. Here's the answer: the color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of safety. That's why a food thermometer is always recommended. Turkey can still be pink even if it is properly cooked. Remember that smoked turkey is always pink. Poultry is lighter in color than beef because it has much less myoglobin, the iron-rich protein … [Read more...]

Holiday Food Safety Success Kit


The Partnership for Food Safety Education has put together a Holiday Food Safety Success Kit to help you make your Thanksgiving and holiday meals safe and delicious. Cooking the turkey is the biggest chore on Thanksgiving day and the one most fraught with potential peril. Thawing a frozen turkey can be complicated. A bird that is 15 pounds will take 3 to 4 full days to thaw in the refrigerator - longer if you keep your fridge at 35 degrees F.  Never thaw a turkey on the counter. For more details, please see our post on Thanksgiving - The Big Thaw. But a fresh turkey should be purchased one or two days before Thanksgiving. There are several methods for cooking a turkey safely. Cook it according to charts for stuffed and unstuffed birds. Make sure your oven is accurate. Remember that … [Read more...]

How COOL Are New Meat Labels? Depends Who You Ask


New Country of Origin Labels (COOL) went into effect on Saturday. These labels from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) give consumers more information about where their meat comes from, but not everyone is happy about them. In the past, the COOL label on meat from an animal that was born in one country, raised in another and slaughtered in yet another, would read “mixed origin” or something to that effect. That kind of label doesn't provide consumers with helpful information they can use to make informed choices about their meat purchases. And that's precisely the kind of information mostAmerican consumers want. According to a 2010 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 93 percent of those surveyed wanted to country of origin labels on meat. To make these … [Read more...]

Frozen Produce May Retain Vitamins Better than Fresh Stored


The University of Georgia, along with the Frozen Food Foundation conducted a study comparing the nutrient content of eight frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. They found that the nutritional value of many of the frozen fruits and veggies are equal to the fresh choices, and is greater in some cases. The scientists mimicked consumer purchase and storage practices. They studied blueberries, corn, strawberries, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, and green peas. Since growing conditions, time in the supply chain, and country of origin can affect nutrient content, they made composites of each fresh and frozen food from six grocery store chains over a two year time frame. Then, each item was analyzed from the frozen, fresh on the day of purchase, and after being stored for … [Read more...]

Thanksgiving: The Big Thaw

Holiday turkey on white

Thanksgiving is this Thursday; are you ready? If you purchased a frozen turkey, it should already be thawing in your refrigerator. The USDA offers food safety information for thawing poultry. Never ever thaw meats at room temperature. As soon as any part of meat gets warmer than 40 degrees F, bacteria will start to multiply and grow well before the interior thaws. Remember that the "danger zone" where bacteria grow rapidly is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees F. It's almost a guarantee that there will be pathogenic bacteria on the turkey you buy. For refrigerator thawing, you need at least one day for every five pounds of weight. Make sure that you know where your refrigerator is coldest and warmest for best results. Foods take longer to thaw in a fridge that is set at 35 degrees F … [Read more...]

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