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Archive for the ‘FOOD SAFETY’ Category

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New research on eating habits implicated a need for revised food labels to reflect updated scientific findings. Labels provide useful information to help consumers choose foods wisely. While companies with annual food sales in excess of $10 million have until 2020 to initiate new labels and companies with less than $10 million in annual sales have until 2021, at least ten percent of manufacturers already use them.

An earlier blog listed eight changes to expect on updated food labels. In a condensed version these included:

  • Manufacturers will use larger fonts in bold to print “calories” and “servings.”
  • Serving sizes will more readily reflect what people actually eat.
  • New labels will identify “added sugars.”
  • Packages with from one and a half to two servings will change to one serving to reflect what most people actually consume.
  • DV (daily values) of some nutrients will indicate recommendations based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Medicine.
  • Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron will include actual gram amounts plus %DV while vitamins A and C will no longer be required on labels, but food manufacturers may choose to list them.
  • Total calories from fat will be deleted, but the types of fat―“Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat”―will remain.

What do consumers want on a food label? Recent changes seek to help interpret and use labels to make better choices. What else would be helpful? A random online survey of more than 1,000 people ages 18-80 revealed that a whopping 95 percent most always looked for healthy food selections. Information on food labels influenced decisions, and that could lead to better dietary choices. While consumers want to eat healthy, only slightly more than a fourth (28 percent) thought the task easy. Eleven percent thought it difficult to identify nutritious foods.

Most in the survey (69 percent) agreed the nutrition Facts Panel on labels was their primary source of information followed by the ingredient list (67 percent). Participants paid attention to iconography such as the American Heart Association certified seal, “Heart-check Mark,” and believed additional information would be even more helpful. Nearly half of respondents checked front-of-package icons with millennials the most aware of symbols. They advocated universal icons or images to identify and encourage food selections of higher diet quality.

Joseph Clayton, the CEO of International Food Information Council Foundation and one of the sponsors of the survey, suggested that “Even subtle changes to food labels could have a positive impact on public health.”

Confusion over food dates may be among future changes. Currently, “best before” and “sell by” dates are unregulated but about 1/3 of consumers believed they were. Consumers perceived “best used by” as a quality standard while they interpreted “expires on” and “use by” as a safety standard. In 2017, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) proposed consistent wording with two standard phrases, “Best if Used By” for product quality and “Use By” for more perishable items and those that may be unsafe after the date stated. By December 2018, 87 percent of food products used these terms to bring clarity of product quality and safety to consumers.

While updated labels help us make nutritious and safer choices, future changes in food labels may ease the process even more.

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Halloween Pumpkin

Orange pumpkins are a part of Halloween, but have you considered a teal one? That’s right. The Teal Pumpkin Project intends to make Halloween safe for children with allergies. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) suggests alternatives to foods for trick or treaters who may be sensitive to certain foods. Instead of offering only edibles, provide inexpensive non-food items that will please little ones.
Teal PumpkinMore than 170 foods may cause food allergies, but the eight most common are: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Food allergies involve the immune system, and even foods that have previously caused mild reactions may suddenly result in a life-threatening situation. Food intolerance differs from food allergies. While symptoms of digestive problems, an upset stomach, or not feeling well may occur, they aren’t life threatening.

As many as 15 million Americans have food allergies. Among those who suffer are 5.9 million children under the age of 18. About one-third of children with food allergies have sensitivity to more than one food. Serious consequences may result whether the offending food is eaten, comes in contact with safe nonallergen foods, or is transferred to utensils used in food preparation. According to recent statistics, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room every three minutes.

Healthy snacks are a great choice for most children. However, let’s do our part to keep all little goblins safe this Halloween. Place a teal pumpkin in a visible window or doorway to indicate your home is a reliable place to find nonfood treats. You will be glad you did, and so will all those who must carefully screen the foods they eat. 

 

 

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Curcumin―the active form of turmeric―has shown promise in the prevention and therapeutic management of Alzheimer’s Disease. While much research remains to be done for conclusive evidence, adding turmeric in food preparation may show some benefits. The appropriate amounts of curcumin supplements remain unclear. Without more definitive research, it is wise to avoid these supplements and rely on its use in foods.

While the use of curcumin supplements remains uncertain, a little turmeric added into your dishes can provide one more step toward healthy eating. I recall as a child my mother sprinkling this distinct flavored spice on coleslaw. Occasionally, I do the same. Curious as to how I could use this spice that has been advocated for several years as affecting memory, I sought new recipes. You can find a few online, but I stayed with the tried-and-true, a Green Tomato Relish. This recipe has been handed down in my family from generation to generation for about 100 years.tomatoes green

 

Green Tomato Relish

1 gallon ground green tomatoes

5 green sweet peppers

1 hot red pepper

6-8 small white onions

1 stalk celery

1 medium head cabbage

½ cup salt (not iodized)TURMERIC .jpg

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 quart vinegar (5 percent acidity)

juice of 4 lemons

Grind vegetables together. Add salt. Put into a cheesecloth bag and drip (several hours or overnight). Mix spices, sugar, lemon juice, and vinegar. Heat to dissolve sugar. Add vegetable mixture gradually, combining with vinegar mixture, and heat thoroughly. Pack into hot, sterile jars and seal. (I water bath for about 20 minutes to make sure no microbes remain). This can remain sealed and stored for several months.

Another choice is to use curry. How does curry compare to turmeric? Curry is a combination of spices; turmeric, chili powder, and cumin. Because it has turmeric in it, it has similar qualities and nutritive values but in smaller quantities. Include this spice as well not only to enhance flavor of favorite dishes, but as a bonus to a healthy diet. Below is another family favorite, Chicken Asparagus Casserole, that began with my generation.

Chicken Asparagus Casserole 

8-10 frozen chicken breasts stripsCURRY

¼  cup olive oil

1 can asparagus pieces (15 ounce)

1 can asparagus spears (15 ounce)

1 can (10 1/2 ounce) low-fat cream of chicken soup

½ cup calorie reduced salad dressing (Miracle Whip)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Defrost 8-10 chicken breast strips. Place in a microwavable dish, cover and cook until tender (or brown lightly on both sides in a skillet with cooking olive oil). Drain asparagus (or peas) and place in bottom of 9″ X 9″ X 2″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (I often use 2 (15 ounce) cans of Lesueur sweet peas instead of asparagus or one can of peas and one can of asparagus spears). Top with chicken strips. Mix together soup, salad dressing, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour over chicken and asparagus. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and bake at 375o F. for 30 minutes. Leftovers freeze well.

How do you use turmeric or curry? Please share some of your favorite healthy dishes. We all want new ways to keep our memories intact.

 

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In the early 20th century, peddlers hawked their wares to those living in scattered households along country roads and often at community gatherings. Charlatans loaded wagons and backs of cars with elixirs of unknown ingredients. Most customers thought it made them feel better.Now more sophisticated companies promote numerous supplements under the guise of fast weight loss. Suddenly we decide we must lose ten pounds, and company X tells us we can do that by taking their no-fail pills and potions.

Many people believe the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guarantees the safety of these supplements. Not so. While all drugs and medications must be proven safe, supplements come under a different category. Dietary and herbal supplements don‘t need FDA approval, but when consumers suspect safety issues, the FDA must investigate and take necessary steps to remove products from the market. Fourteen states recently urged congress to investigate the herbal supplement industry to assure public safety.

The FDA has found numerous so-called “miracle” weight-loss products that make false claims on their labels.

  • Products may have hidden active ingredients found in drugs for specific diseases.
  • Manufacturers may use unsafe ingredients that the FDA removed from the market.
  • Manufacturers may use compounds that haven’t been adequately studied in humans to confirm safety and effectiveness.

The FDA has found supplements containing sibutramine, a  prescription drug marketed as the weight-loss product Meridia. The FDA removed it from the market in October 2010 because it caused heart problems and strokes. A number of products have contained triamterene, a powerful diuretic which can cause serious side effects when not monitored by a health professional.

While some manufacturers sell tainted products online and often heavily promote them on social media, unsafe supplements also show up on store shelves. If you are taking or considering taking any weight-loss supplement, heed  these warning signs to help decide a product’s legitimacy.

  • Promise of “quick fix” to lose weight.
  • Words used in advertising such as “guaranteed” or “scientific breakthrough.”
  • Products marketed in a foreign language or through mass emails.
  • Products marketed as “quick and effective” or “totally safe.”
  • Advertising relying on “testimonials” of unbelievable results.
  • Products with unrealistic or exaggerated claims.
  • Claims that sound too good to be true.

Keep in mind that labels may mislead. While food labels are reliable and governed by the FDA, supplement labels may leave out certain listed ingredients, add unlisted substances that could be harmful, or exaggerate the amounts of certain ingredients listed. Several deaths have resulted from these products. Just remember, don’t take anything unless you know it is completely safe. Try healthier means, like real food and exercise, to help you lose weight.

 

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Just when you think you have heard all the ridiculous and often dangerous ways some people try to lose weight, along comes another hard-to-believe story. A lady in Iowa confessed to her doctor she had consumed a tapeworm that she ordered online to help her lose weight. Even the thought makes me queasy. Her physician called the Iowa Department of Public Health and was advised to prescribe an anti-worm medication.

Using tapeworms for weight-loss isn’t a new fad. Stories abound of tapeworm eggs sold in pill form. To what extent these were used is unknown, and many of the tales may be myths.

Unintentional sources for ingesting tapeworms, which can grow to more than 30 feet, include raw fish and meat. Water in undeveloped countries can also be a source. Infected individuals may or may not experience discomfort. Common symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and other abdominal distress. However, certain types of tapeworms may cause death.

Will ingesting a tapeworm egg help you lose weight? Not necessarily. It may, however, cause anemia and malnutrition. And if you can stomach it, this link provides more information,

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/tapeworm-weight-loss.htm.

Many healthy ways exist to lose weight without causing potential harm to your body. Tapeworms aren’t one of these ways. But, just thinking about it may curb your appetite.

For more wary weight-loss practices see “7 Crazy Weight-Loss Methods You Should Never Try” at http://news.health.com/2013/08/15/7-crazy-weight-loss-methods-you-should-never-try/

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A former student said, “I learned a lot about sanitation from you.”

I gave a puzzled look and said, “But I didn’t teach that course to your class.”

“Oh, yes you did. Every time we walked into that kitchen you said, ‘Wash your hands.’”

True. I didn’t teach the course, but I did teach the practice. Clean hands are important, but even that isn’t enough to protect your family from foodborne illnesses.  Germs accumulate on unsuspecting surfaces. While you may scrub your sink and clean the counters—even sanitize them, germs lurk in less obvious places.

The non-profit science organization, NSF International, recruited twenty families to check fourteen kitchen items for four types of microorganisms related to foodborne illness: E coli, salmonella, yeast and mold, and listeria. All items tested positive for yeast and mold. E. coli and salmonella were found in thirty-six percent of all items, and listeria was present in fourteen percent of the items tested.

Items having the most pathogens, in order of frequency, included:

  • Refrigerator water dispenser. That handy gadget frequently handled and rarely cleaned, ranked number one on the naughty chart of germ haven. Dispensers may develop mold and yeast that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory ailments.
  • Rubber spatulas. Unless molded into one piece, spatulas will harbor germs under the scraper blade. Incidences of E. coli, and yeast and mold have been reported. Take apart and clean in the dishwasher or scrub with hot soapy water.
  • Blender gaskets. Many believe the upper jar container is adequately cleaned when put into the dishwasher without taking apart. Not so. The blade and gasket may harbor salmonella, E. coli, and yeast and mold that cake around and under the blade. For effective sanitation, remove the blade and gasket and scrub with hot soapy water or place individual pieces into the dishwasher.
  • Refrigerator vegetable compartment. Produce can transmit  bugs. Mold and yeast accumulate rapidly from deteriorating fruits and vegetables. Salmonella, listeria (think cantaloupe) may be present on fresh produce. Clean the compartment monthly or more often if needed.
  • Refrigerator ice dispenser. These are especially susceptible to yeast and mold and can be harmful for those with allergies. At least monthly turn off the ice maker, empty the ice from the ice bin, and wash the bin with dish soap and warm water. Occasionally wash the system with vinegar, rinse thorough, and toss the first ice cubes.
  • Refrigerator meat compartment. Fresh meats can be disasters waiting to happen. They are prone to E. coli, salmonella, plus yeast and molds. Keep meats away from other foods to prevent contamination. For both fruit and vegetable compartments and meat compartments, wash with warm water with one to two tablespoons baking soda per gallon of water.

Other likely culprits to spread foodborne illnesses include can openers and food storage containers with rubber seals. Place in the dishwasher or clean thoroughly with hot soapy water after using.

Remember the areas in your kitchen that often get less attention yet may hide pathogens. Keep everyone safe with a little precaution and extra cleaning effort. Don’t make your family sick.

For a great visual see http://www.nsf.org/consumer/newsroom/pdf/where_germs_are_hiding_infographic.pdf

For more information see http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57576902/where-are-germs-hiding-in-your-kitchen-study-finds-surprising-results/

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