Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Nearly 300 people in 18 states have been sickened by a salmonella bacteria that has been traced back to contaminated chicken packaged by Foster Farms, according to an alert released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Salmonella poisoning is especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems and young infants. More from The Boston Globe:
While some USDA employees have been furloughed due to the partial government shutdown, food safety inspectors at beef and poultry plants are still conducting routine inspections and investigating illness outbreaks.
Consumers can identify raw Foster Farm chicken products associated with the outbreak by looking for the following numbers on the package: P6137, P6137A, and P7632.
The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State, the USDA said, but no recall has been issued because the food safety service has been “unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.”
Instead, consumers should remember to handle all raw meat and poultry in a safe manner, cooking chicken thoroughly until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F. They should also avoid cross contamination of raw chicken juices with other foods like fresh produce that won’t be cooked before consuming; for example, they should use separate cutting boards for preparing these foods.
Another tip recommended by food safety scientists: Don’t wash raw poultry before preparing it since that can foster the spread of bacteria.
“If you wash it, you’re more likely to spray bacteria all over the kitchen and yourself,” said Drexel University food safety researcher Dr. Jennifer Quinlan in a new video campaign she launched to get people to stop rinsing raw chicken.
Image: Raw chicken, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, June 27th, 2013
New federal school nutrition standards were released today, requiring that schools offer healthy snack choices to students and avoid unhealthy options like candy and chips. Healthy choices include items such as granola bars, trail mix, and baked chips according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards. CNN has more on the standards, which are the first such measure to be passed in three decades:
The regulations set limits for fat, salt and sugar sold in places such as vending machines and snack bars. School foods must contain at least 50% whole grains or have a fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein as the first ingredient. Foods that contain at least ¼ cup of fruit and/or vegetables will also be allowed.
Beverages will be under the microscope as well. Sports drinks, which contain relatively high amounts of sugar, are prohibited. Low-fat and fat-free milk, 100% fruit and vegetable juice, and no-calorie flavored waters are permitted. Potable water must be made available to kids for free where meals are served.
Schools and food and beverage companies must meet these standards by July 1, 2014, according to the USDA. That means the rules would be in effect for the 2014-2015 school year….
…”Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Parents and schools work hard to give our youngsters the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, and providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars will support their great efforts.”
Children will still be allowed to bring in any snacks from home that they choose, and parents can continue to deliver treats for birthday celebrations or holidays to the classroom. Special fund-raising events such as bake sales are also allowed.
Image: School vending machine, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 15th, 2012
In the space of a single year, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that it will cost $8,000 more to raise a child for 17 years. As CNN Money reports, there are a number of factors that contribute to the $235,000 that middle-income families can expect to spend on children born in 2011, an $8,000 or 3.5 percent increase from the previous year’s USDA report:
So why do babies born in 2011 cost so much more?
In that one year alone, expenses for transportation, child care, education and food surged for middle-income families. Health care, clothing and housing costs also increased, but at a more gradual pace.
In the study, the government defined middle-income families as those with $59,000 to $103,000 in annual income before taxes.
Image: Family eating dinner, via Shutterstock.
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Friday, March 16th, 2012
Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are telling news sources that schools that participate in the national school lunch program will soon have the choice to opt out of ground beef that’s been mixed with ammonia-treated filler and dubbed “pink slime” by food safety and nutrition critics. The Associated Press reports:
Under the change, schools will be able to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the product or less lean bulk ground beef without it. The change won’t kick in immediately because of existing contracts, according to a USDA official with knowledge of the decision.
Though the term “pink slime” has been used pejoratively for at least several years, it wasn’t until last week that social media suddenly exploded with worry and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools. The petition quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of supporters.
The low-cost ingredient is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product, made by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., also is exposed to “a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas” to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.
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The department said it continues to affirm the safety of the ammonia-treated lean finely textured beef as a filler, but that it wanted to be transparent and that school districts wanted choices.
Some politicians, including Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, are urging the Agriculture department to ban the product altogether. “The beef industry sent my office an email the other day describing pink slime as `wholesome and nutritious’ and said the process for manufacturing it is `similar to separating milk from cream.’ I don’t think a highly processed slurry of meat scraps mixed with ammonia is what most families would think of as `wholesome and nutritious,’” Pingree told the AP in a written statement.
Image: Teens having school lunch, via Shutterstock.
Friday, February 17th, 2012
A North Carolina 4-year-old ate cafeteria chicken nuggets for lunch one day last month because the school told her the lunch her mother packed wasn’t nutritious enough.
The child’s lunchbox contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice. The adult who was inspecting lunch boxes in the classroom that day said the meal didn’t meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines, so the student was required to purchase the school lunch, the Carolina Journal reports.
The incident raises questions about what constitutes a healthy lunch for kids.
USDA guidelines state that lunches must consist of one serving each of meat, milk and grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables. North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services requires that lunches served to pre-K kids, even those from home, meet these guidelines. If they don’t, schools must fill in the missing servings.
From the Carolina Journal:
The girl’s mother—who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation—said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.
“I don’t feel that I should pay for a cafeteria lunch when I provide lunch for her from home,” the mother wrote in a complaint to her state representative, Republican G.L. Pridgen of Robeson County.
The girl’s grandmother, who sometimes helps pack her lunch, told Carolina Journal that she is a petite, picky 4-year-old who eats white whole wheat bread and is not big on vegetables.
The preschooler’s mother and grandmother thought the potato chips and lack of vegetable caused the lunch to fall short, but a spokeswoman for the Division of Child Development says the lunch should not have “failed” current guidelines. From Carolina Journal:
“With a turkey sandwich, that covers your protein, your grain, and if it had cheese on it, that’s the dairy,” said Jani Kozlowski, the fiscal and statutory policy manager for the division. “It sounds like the lunch itself would’ve met all of the standard.” The lunch has to include a fruit or vegetable, but not both, she said.
Kozlowski added that this school might need “technical assistance” on lunch rules.
Readers, what would an inspector see if she looked in your kid’s lunch box? What’s your definition of a healthy lunch?
Image: Chicken nuggets via Shutterstock.
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