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Here’s how to keep food safe when it’s extra hot outside

Picture this: Relaxed al fresco lunches, backyard barbecues with friends, and simple snacks with the family car camping. What you see as summer fun,  bacteria and viruses also see as a raging good time. Around 48 million people will get sick from a foodborne illness this year, according to the CDC. Hot weather is the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish, so it’s especially important during the summer months to make sure you’re keeping your food safe. So what can you do to prevent those gnarly nights camped out in the bathroom? Here are 7 ways to make sure your food stays safe when it’s hot out: 1. Keep things cool on the road If you’re headed on our a car adventure, keep your cooler near the air-conditioning, rather in the trunk or in the direct path on sunlight. 2. Keep hands clean Always wash your hands before and after…

Thunderstorm? Here’s why you should skip washing those dishes

Every grade school kid knows to seek shelter during a thunderstorm, but did you know that washing dishes or taking a shower can be dangerous during a storm? It turns out that lightning can still shock you through the pipes in your house. According to John Jensenius, a lightening safety specialist for the National Weather Service, during a storm, you need to stay away from anything that conducts electricity. That includes both wires and plumbing. “Certainly showers would be dangerous. It would be dangerous to be washing your hands or washing dishes,” Jensenius said. “Just avoid those any time you hear thunder.” Anything that plugs into a wall is also dangerous. That means avoid using dishwashers and washing machines, too. If you have plastic pipes in your home, you’re still at risk. Impurities in tap water can also conduct electricity. “Water can conduct electricity as well,” Jensenius said. “We see that on the outside…

You should never cook frozen chicken in a crock pot, USDA says

Crock-pots are all about convenience. You throw in some ingredients, go about your business, and whip out a delicious, hot meal a few hours later. No one takes the time to prep ingredients a whole day before for a crock-pot. That’s why it was so disconcerting to learn that taking chicken directly from the freezer and plopping it in the popular countertop appliance is a big no-no. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) website, slow cookers, as a whole, are safe. But in a section called “Slow Cookers and Food Safety,” the department elaborates and says that you should, “Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it in a slow cooker.” Unfortunately, microwaving it last minute isn’t even an option! Man, these guys are tough. The reasons are based on bacteria. The USDA explains that because your slow cooker is, well, slow to reach any cooking temperature…

Foods you should avoid during the government shutdown

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that the government is in a partial shutdown sparked by differences of opinion between the president of the United States and members of Congress over funding for Trump’s border wall. More than 800,000 federal employs have gone unpaid during this, the longest government shutdown in history. One of the affected departments is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.   You know — the ones who check to make sure our food is safe to eat. Without proper funding, FDA employees aren’t able to adequately carry out crucial tasks including publishing recalls and outbreaks. The absence of this vital information would be bad enough, but after 2018’s record number of FDA recalls, ranging from romaine to Goldfish crackers, its a bit unnerving what we might be missing in the wake of the agency’s absence. Before the government shutdown, it wasn’t unusual for the FDA to…

This is why you need to wash your avocados

Avocado lovers, your favorite food has a bit of a dirty secret. A new report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that washing avocados before eating them is crucial. A good portion of the avocado skins sampled recently tested positive for bacteria like listeria or salmonella during. Yikes! Of course you don’t eat the skin, but you’re still at risk if you don’t wash your fruit first. That’s because the knife you are using to cut through the avocado’s exterior (and you certainly have to use a knife to break through) can carry these potentially fatal bacteria into the flesh of the fruit — which you do eat. Of the 1,615 avocados sampled in the study, 17 percent carried the harmful bacteria, so this isn’t a one-in-a-million chance — this is very common. The study included avocados grown both domestically and internationally. The good news is that only .24…

Is it safe to tear off the mold and eat the rest of the bread?

Bread. It’s one of those foods that you always like to have at your house, yet it gets moldy so quickly. When you see a loaf start to go bad you just rip off the green stuff and use the rest. All is good, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, that one little circle of moldy bread does ruin the whole loaf. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that you toss bread at the first sign of mold. It seems excessive, but it’s true. Studies have shown that mold has long, threadlike roots that can penetrate deep into the entirety of nearly any food it grows on. And mold is nothing to take lightly. The microscopic fungi can cause a wide range of health problems including allergic reactions, breathing problems, stomach problems, and some molds — those that produce the substances known as aflatoxins — can even cause liver cancer.…

This is why dogs can’t eat chocolate

While you’re on the fast track to a candy coma this Halloween, remember that just a small bite could have deadly consequences for your furry friend. All those rumors about chocolate being bad for dogs are true. Chocolate is never safe for dogs — not even on Halloween. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and can even be fatal. While most of us don’t purposely share things like brownies and chocolate bars with our pets, unfortunately, dogs have a way of sniffing around and finding those foods anyway. This means, you have to be careful, and instruct kids not to share candy with pets, as well. The best thing to do, is of course, keep candy well out of the reach of dogs — think air tight containers high on top of the refrigerator. Even then, remember that chocolate candy could show up where you least expect it (of all…

Is plastic better than wood?: The cutting board debate

Whether you cook three times a day or three times a year, you probably own a cutting board. It’s a kitchen staple with one simple job, but without it, you wouldn’t have anywhere to cut, chop, dice, or slice your meats, apples, and onions. While you may know you need a cutting board, do you know when you should choose a wooden board over a plastic one, or vice versa? After all, anything your food touches can be a source of contamination and foodborne illness, so kitchen tools and care are no small decision. As it turns out, there are some major differences between boards you should know before you head to the store. Wood versus plastic For most of history, chopping blocks then cutting boards were all made of wood. But the invention of modern plastics in 1907 meant that plastic utensils slowly began making its way into people’s…

Pizza put 2,300 people in the hospital last year

Pizza is more dangerous than you think! The cheesy dinner option is always a great choice of food for any occasion, but according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), saucy pies landed 2,300 people in the hospital last year with pizza-related-injuries. From lacerations from cutting pizza to burns and molten cheese, it seems everyone’s favorite food has a dark side. Others wound up getting treated for injuries resulting from falling in a pizza joint or even falling out of bed while reaching for a pizza — don’t act like pizza in bed isn’t a thing. The pizza stats were part of a the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) injury report release associated with consumer products and emergency room visits. Pizza isn’t the only food product landing people in the hospital. In 2017, there were so many people cutting themselves attempting to slice avocado, “avocado hand” is…

Back-to-school food safety for parents, kids

Chances are you’ll worry more about finding foods for your child’s lunchbox that they’ll actually eat, than you will about whether those foods will be safe to eat by the time they get there. More than 48 million Americans will become stricken with food poisoning this year. That’s nearly 1 in every six people resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and more than 3000 deaths. Children are the most vulnerable to foodborne illnesses, so it’s worth taking extra precautions when packing their lunches. “One thing parents might want to do before school starts is pack a simple lunch with a cold source, and leave it on the counter,” said Marianne H. Gravely, Senior Technical Information Specialist of the Food Safety Education Staff at the USDA. “Wait the amount of time the child has to wait until lunch, and see if it’s still cold.” This activity gets the kids involved in their lunch planning but it also starts to teach them to become aware of the…