Articles Posted in Food Safety

eatingseniors-300x131To the myriad struggles that residents of nursing homes endure, from poor health to inattentive staff, add this new one:  “crappy conditions” in kitchens and other areas where their food gets prepared and served.

Marjie Lundstrom, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, conducted a five-month, nationwide investigation for the consumer web site Fair Warning, with the results also shared by NBC News. The dirty dig found this about nursing home food prep:

“Flies buzzing the under cooked hamburgers. Cockroaches scurrying for cover behind the oven. A moldy ice machine. Mystery debris, clinging to the crevices of a meat slicer. Hundreds of mouse droppings, trailing across the hood of the stove. These incidents are not logged in any restaurant inspector’s notebook. They are among the thousands of food safety violations discovered in the last three years in America’s nursing homes, where fragile residents can least tolerate such lapses. While allegations of elder abuse and neglect dominate the horror stories in long-term care settings — bedsores, falls, medication errors, sexual assaults — food handling remains a consistent and often overlooked hazard …”

broillondonwikipedia-300x225The elite of public health organizations are up in arms about a new report from a group of international researchers who looked at red meat and its health benefits and harms, and more or less shrugged. The new take goes like this, reported the New York Times:

“If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.”

That view, of course, contradicts what public health and nutrition experts have recommended for years, and so blue-chip health outfits like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health condemned the researchers for supporting what now may be akin to a health heresy.

bestdrink-300x150Milk and water — it’s that simple. That’s the latest and official recommendation for what children 5 and younger mostly should drink.

For parents, if any doubt persists, that advice comes from leading health authorities, including Healthy Eating Research, a nutrition advocacy group funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The group developed the kids’ drink guidelines with the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

The experts cautioned grown-ups about giving children sugary drinks, including, in a sure-to-be-contested suggestion, recommending a hard cap on fruit juices: for 100% juice, less than a cup a day.

dangersign-192x300As the nation slips into summer and the statistical 100 deadliest days for kids, there are some timely reminders about keeping youngsters safer around swimming pools and the chemicals used with them and protecting them from the harms of riding mowers when the devices are run in reverse.

The Red Cross, of course, reminds that “10 people die each day from unintentional drowning, and on average two of them are younger than 14. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages one to four than any other cause except birth defects. And among those 1-14, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries.”

The safety group, which urges parents to supervise kids closely near water and get them swimming lessons and instruction in ways to prevent water-borne mishaps, underscores that little kids drown most often at home — in pools, hot tubs, and spas, but also buckets, bath seats, wells, cisterns, septic tanks, decorative ponds, and toilets. Youngsters 5 and older drown more often in ponds, lakes, and the ocean.

punchy-300x262Those who are senior enough to remember the allures of sweet drinks like Tang, Hawaiian Punch, and Kool-Aid also may need to be sage enough to share a deep, evidence-based distrust and disapproval for the nefarious actions of Big Sugar and Big Tobacco. Those suspicions may need to be renewed in regulators’ crackdowns on vaping, its flavorings, and flavored tobacco cigarettes.

Yes, the federal Food and Drug Administration now has formally detailed its plan to curb the soaring youthful purchases and uses of e-cigarettes for vaping, telling merchants that they soon will be required to keep these goods, including flavored liquids that the devices catalyze, in separate walled off areas of stores and away from those age 18 and younger. This will affect not only big retailers like Walgreens and Wal-Marts but also gas stations and convenience stores.

Online vendors soon will be required to have mechanisms, so proof of age becomes part of cyber buys of e-cigarettes and their associated products.

brady-281x300If you’re such a die-hard fan you slogged through that pro football championship that was perfect for the new Year of the Boar, please don’t be so sheepish in your celebrity adoration as to get gulled by quarterback Tom Brady’s health and diet bunk.

His oddball theories well might go into a flaming dumpster, along with  notions about special drinks and excess hydration, and yet more broadcast goop from that princess of health woo, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Sure, Brady’s Superbowl LIII win may have made him the goat (greatest of all time) in National Football League history with six rings. He got there, and may stay there, not only with rare individual gifts, hard work, and special talents, but also with peculiar practices, as Vox, an online news site reported:

chickenwash-300x107Here’s hoping the season stays merry for all and that holidays are relaxing, restful, and healthful. A few tips to stay on the right side of health and safety:

  • Be sure to follow best practices when it comes to food hygiene and safety. Do wash fruits and vegetables to rid them of surface contaminants, including dirt and pesticides. This isn’t foolproof and doesn’t clear these products of all bacteria that can cause foodborne illness — far from it. But washing does help. As for raw meat and poultry, don’t for cleanliness’ sake rinse it, then pat it dry. This just spreads contaminants all around the kitchen, food scientists have found. And, tempting though it may be, don’t eat that cookie or cake dough, and don’t think that baking recalled products might make them safe.
  • Don’t give necklaces, bracelets, or anklets to ease the tooth discomfort experienced by babies or children with special needs: The federal Food and Drug Administration has warned this jewelry can be risky for the vulnerable, noting instances in which they have experienced “choking, strangulation, injury to the mouth and infection.” The agency also cautioned that amber teething necklaces contain “succinic acid, which allegedly may be released into an infant’s blood stream in unknown quantities. Manufacturers of these products often claim succinic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and relieves teething and joint pain. The FDA has not evaluated these claims for safety or effectiveness and recommends parents not use these products.” The agency issued its warning after a 7-month old choked to death on a wooden teething bracelet while under parental supervision, and an 18-month old was fatally strangled by his amber teething necklace during a nap. The FDA also reminded that it urges caregivers to “avoid using teething creams, benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges for mouth and gum pain. Benzocaine and other local anesthetics can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is reduced. This condition is life-threatening and can result in death.” Pediatricians say that discomfort to teething can be eased with adults offering a gentle gum massage with a clean finger or by giving babies a hard rubber ring to chew.

turkey-248x300As we all race to groaning tables for one of the traditional and happier holidays of the year, here’s hoping the turkeys stay brown, tasty, and on the table. Sadly, food poisoning is a real issue, and not just for worry-warts.

Cooks preparing this major feast may want to keep watch on growing reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about salmonella outbreaks tied to turkey.

As the Washington Post reported:

blueberries-300x225Foolishness about food and its health effects can run not only into the negative — the sky will fall if you even nibble on meat, butter, or eggs! — but also into extremes about its purported benefits. Which is why, as recent news reports indicate, skepticism and care need to be exercised about probiotics, so-called “super foods,” and, yes, once again, the supposed virtues of organic produce.

Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, tackled the myths that surround probiotics in a recent piece for the New York Times’, evidence-based “Upshot” column.

He reported that one fundamental problem in assessing the many benefits attributed to these food nostrums rests in their proliferation and confusion as to what exactly the are: Must probiotics be live cultures of organisms that are supposed to be safe and beneficial to normal activities that occur in the gut? Or can they be dietary supplements and non-living materials that can be delivered in powders and capsules? What exactly is in probiotics and how safe are they? That’s murky — and risky, he says, noting that these materials have caused illnesses and deaths.

supplements-300x200
Same story, new data, and a message that needs repeating: Over-the-counter supplements — sold as safe alternatives to prescription drugs for weight loss, muscle building, and sexual enhancement — may be risky and not beneficial to your health. Indeed, many of them are adulterated with strong prescription drugs.

As the Washington Post reported of a newly published study:

Researchers found unapproved and sometimes dangerous drugs in 746 dietary supplements, almost all of them marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss or muscle growth … [A scientific] review of a Food and Drug Administration database of contaminated supplements for the years 2007 to 2016 most commonly turned up sildenafil — the drug sold as Viagra — and other erectile dysfunction drugs in sex enhancement products; sibutramine and the laxative phenolphthalein, both banned by the FDA, in weight-loss supplements; and steroids or their analogues in muscle-building products. About 80 percent of the supplements were contaminated by one pharmaceutical that should not have been in the product. Twenty percent contained at least two such drugs, and two of the supplements contained six unapproved drugs. One product contained a drug that raises blood pressure and another drug that lowers it. Despite these contaminants, fewer than half the products were recalled.

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