Thanksgiving Fire Prevention Tips

Cooking is the number one cause of home fires.
Cooking is the number one cause of home fires.

For many Americans, the best part about Thanksgiving is sitting down to a delicious home-cooked holiday dinner with friends and family. Unfortunately, cooking is the number one cause of home fires and the greatest number of them occur on Thanksgiving Day.

The American Red Cross offers these tips to follow while preparing your Thanksgiving meal:

  1. Do not wear loose-fitting clothing or sleeves that dangle while cooking.
  2. Never leave your food unattended. If you are frying, grilling or broiling food, never leave it unattended—stay in the kitchen. If you must leave the kitchen—even for a short time—turn off the stove.
  3. Check your food regularly when simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food.
  4. Use a timer. It’s easy to lose track of time. Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on.
  5. Keep kids and pets away from the cooking area. Make them stay at least three feet away from the stove.
  6. Keep anything that can catch fire away from the heat source. This means: potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, and towels or curtains. Keep them away from your stove, oven or any other appliance in the kitchen that generates heat.
  7. Clean on a regular basis. Clean cooking surfaces and range hoods on a regular basis to prevent grease buildup.
  8. Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and learn how to use it.
  9. Always check the kitchen before going to bed or leaving the home to make sure all stoves, ovens, and small appliances are turned off.
  10. Install a smoke alarm near your kitchen, on each level of your home, near sleeping areas, and inside and outside bedrooms if you sleep with doors closed. Use the test button to check it each month. Replace all batteries at least once a year.
  11. Ensure your guests are aware of all available exits if a fire were to occur and inform them of a designated meeting place outside.

For more Thanksgiving safety information, including thawing and cooking times, tips for deep-frying a turkey, and proper leftover storage, read our in-depth Thanksgiving Dinner Safety blog.

From all of us at Elk & Elk, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Hidden Ingredients in Food and Weight Loss Supplements

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers not to purchase or use several weight loss products sold on various websites and in some retail stores. These fraudulent products can cause serious injury or even death.

“These products are masquerading as dietary supplements—they may look like dietary supplements but they are not legal dietary supplements,” says Michael Levy, director of FDA’s Division of New Drugs and Labeling Compliance. “Some of these products contain hidden prescription ingredients at levels much higher than those found in an approved drug product and are dangerous.”

Sibutramine

According to the FDA, some foods and dietary supplements marketed for weight loss contain sibutramine, a controlled substance that was removed from the market in October 2010 for safety reasons. The products pose a threat to consumers because sibutramine is known to substantially increase blood pressure, pulse rate and may present a serious risk for consumers with a history of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, or stroke. These products may also cause deadly interactions with medications you may be taking.

Dangerous products

Sliming Diet By Pretty White
Sliming Diet By Pretty White

Sliming (sic) Diet By Pretty White is marketed as a weight loss supplement. The manufacturer claims the capsules can “decompose extra fat and reduce weight” and that “it also nourishes the skin, beautify and whiten skin and make the skin more elastic.”

Lipo 8 Burn SlimLipo 8 Burn Slim is touted as a “slimming pill from Switzerland.” Its manufacturer claims the pills can help consumers lose up to 8 kg (17 lbs.) a month and that it “acts as an active cholesterol & fat burning agent.”

24 Ince, an instant coffee, claims to aid in weight loss by “reducing glucose, fats and cholesterol level” in the bloodstream.24 ince

 

Trim-Fast Slimming Softgel is marketed as a miracle pill, which promises to suppress one’s appetite, reduce fat accumulation, “release fat reserves” and even prevent wrinkles by “accelerating the metabolism of the skin, delaying the aging thereof.”

 

mix fruit slimming
Mix Fruit Slimming

Mix Fruit Slimming promises to be a “100% Natural Herbal New Slimming Pill Without Any Side Effects. Rapidly, fat eliminating, abdomen smoothing, and thigh slimming.”

 

 

Lingzhi Cleansed Slim Tea is widely available on the internet. Advertisements indicate the tea will help with weight loss by speeding up metabolism, “repress sugar absorption,” “treat constipation,” remove toxins, and even treat bad breath.

Sadly, these are just a handful of products among hundreds of supplements and conventional foods found to contain undeclared ingredients. The FDA has begun compiling a list of tainted supplements, but it is far from complete.

Memorial Day Safety Tips

Like many of you, at Elk & Elk, we’re looking forward to celebrating Memorial Day weekend with family and friends. Whether you’re travelling out of state, down the road, or even enjoying a “stay-cation” at home, here are some important safety tips.

Highway Safety TipsSB-art1

  • Pay attention. Distracted driving puts everyone at risk. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Keep your distance. Follow the 3-second rule to ensure you don’t follow another vehicle too closely.
  • Don’t drink and drive or travel with anyone who has been drinking.
  • Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. Stop and rest if you’re too tired to drive.
  • Buckle up. Wear your safety belt at all times and make sure kids are properly secured in age/weight appropriate seats.
  • Do a pre-road trip checkup. Ensure your car’s tires are properly inflated, the fluids are topped off, and that all belts and hoses are in good condition. Check to make sure all lights and turn signals are in working order – especially if you’re towing a trailer.

Food Safetyphoto_1127_20060220

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling food and after handling raw poultry or meat.
  • Avoid cross-contamination of bacteria. Keep uncooked meats away from other foods.
  • Cook foods thoroughly, especially ground beef, poultry, and pork.
  • Refrigerate all perishable food within two hours.

 Grilling Safetyabout ready

  • Keep it clean. When using a grill, be sure to clean it thoroughly to remove any grease or dust.
  • Check for gas leaks.Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles.
  • Use the grill outside, not in a garage, porch, or other enclosed space. The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings, out from under eaves, and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area and never leave a hot grill unattended.
  • Put it out. After grilling, make sure you turn off the propane. If you plan to use a fire pit, be sure to put out the fire completely before leaving.

Water and Boating Safetyboating_large

  • Never swim alone. Even an experienced swimmer can get into trouble. Supervise children at all times in and near the water.
  • Wear Life Jackets when boating. Make sure you have personal flotation devices (PFDs) for all aboard and make sure children wear a USCG-approved properly fitting life jacket at all times.
  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Consuming alcoholic beverages in excess will affect perception, reaction time and decision-making.

No matter what your plans are this Memorial Day weekend, staying hydrated is important, so remember to drink lots of water. If you’re going to be in the sun, put on sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher before going outdoors.

You Are What You Eat

FDA proposes new guidelines for nutrition labels

Making healthy choices at the grocery store may soon get a bit easier. The FDA announced that it will focus on updating nutrition labels this year. The details have not been made public yet, but nutrition experts are hopeful that the new labels will be more straightforward.

“It’s time to update [labels] to make [them] easier for consumers to use,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The Center’s “wish list” for label changes includes:

  • Calories per serving should be more prominent
  • Eliminated extraneous information
  • Updated serving sizes
  • Eliminating deceptive single-size servings and providing nutrition information for large single serving containers
  • Differentiate between natural and added sugars and establish a Daily Value for added sugars
  • Fiber content should only reflect intact fibers from whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit and other foods 

Pesticides

We like the CSPI nutrition label proposals, but wouldn’t it be nice if we knew what pesticides are used on the foods we eat? The American Academy of Pediatrics, the President’s Cancer Panel, and physicians nationwide have publicly advised consumers, especially children and pregnant women, to reduce our dietary exposure to synthetic pesticides. For example, the synthetic pesticide DDT – banned in the United States since 1972 but still used as a pesticide in other countries – may increase the risk of Alzheimer ’s disease.

In a study recently published JAMA Neurology, Rutgers scientists discuss their findings in which levels of DDE, the chemical compound left when DDT breaks down, were higher in the blood of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease patients compared to those without the disease.

Although the levels of DDT and DDE have decreased significantly in the United States over the last three decades, the toxic pesticide is still found in 75 to 80 percent of the blood samples collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a national health and nutrition survey. This occurs, scientists say, because the chemical can take decades to breakdown in the environment. In addition, people may be exposed to the pesticide by consuming imported fruits, vegetables and grains where DDT is still being used and eating fish from contaminated waterways.

GMOs

As more and more crops containing genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, make their way into the marketplace, there has been a rise in public sentiment to require GMO labeling.

Reuters reports, “The issue is hotly contested, with more than 20 states considering laws to mandate labeling of foods made with gene-altered corn, soybeans, sugar beets and other biotech crops. Currently, labeling of such foods is voluntary.”

If you want to avoid GMOs in your diet, look for foods labeled as “organic.” Federal law prohibits the use of genetic engineering prohibited in foods defined as organic. Nevertheless, these products may contain slight traces of genetically modified organisms in certain cases.

Knowledge is power 

Please take the time to read the labels on foods you buy. Be wary of front labels claiming a product is “natural,” that it can reduce cholesterol, or provides other medical benefits.

“In a perfect world, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission would be aggressively policing the marketplace and taking enforcement action against companies like these,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Until then, lawsuits by consumer groups and private citizens can play an important role by using the courts to get companies to change their labeling and advertising for the better.”

What information would YOU like to see on nutrition labels?
Post your suggestions in the comments section below.

 

Sources:

Fat, calories, sugar: Nutrition labels getting a makeover” by Jen Christensen, CNN, January 24, 2014.

Food Labeling Chaos: The case for reform” by Bruce Silverglade and Ilene Ringel Heller, © 2010 by Center for Science in the Public Interest.

DDT exposure more common in people with Alzheimer’s: study” by Genevra Pettman, Reuters Health, January 27, 2014.

Organic food and farm groups ask Obama to require GMO food labels” by Carey Gillam, Reuters, January 16, 2014.

Thanksgiving Dinner Safety

The last thing you need with a house full of relatives is food poisoning or other holiday disasters. With a little preparation, your Thanksgiving feast can be fun, safe event. Remember that turkeys can carry salmonella and other harmful bacteria. Be sure to wash your hands, utensils and other surfaces that come into contact with raw poultry to prevent contamination.

Thawing your turkey

Some cooks prefer a “fresh” (not frozen) turkey, but for those of us who opt for a frozen bird, it’s important to remember that as soon as a turkey begins to thaw, bacteria can begin to grow. Never let a frozen turkey thaw out at room temperature. Instead, follow the USDA recommendations below:

Refrigerator thawing

This is the longest method, so it won’t work for last-minute shoppers. Be sure to allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. It’s important to place the turkey in a container to prevent dripping juices from contaminating other foods. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking.

Refrigerator thawing times for a whole turkey:
4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

Cold water thawing

First, make sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent water absorption. Next, submerge the wrapped turkey in cold (never hot) tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed to prevent it from getting too warm. A turkey thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately.

Cold Water Thawing Times
4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

Safe Roasting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Turkey should be roasted, breast-side up in an oven set at a minimum temperature of 325° F. The color of cooked poultry is not a sign of its safety. The only way to know for sure if your turkey has been cooked to a safe temperature is by using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature must reach 165° in the breast, or 175° to 180° in the thigh. If the bird is stuffed, be sure the center of the stuffing registers 165°.

Stuffing

The safest way to cook your stuffing is separately in a casserole dish. If you prefer your stuffing in the bird, wait to mix the wet ingredients just before stuffing and stuff loosely – tightly packed stuffing cannot expand and cook properly. When trussing your bird, be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp skewers, as they may carry bacteria from the raw poultry. Finally, don’t forget, additional time is required for stuffed turkeys to reach a safe minimum internal temperature.

Approximate Cooking Times

(325 °F oven temperature)

Unstuffed (time in hours)
4 to 6 lb. breast — 1 1/2 to 2 1/4
6 to 8 lb. breast — 2 1/4 to 3 1/4
8 to 12 lbs. — 2 3/4 to 3
12 to 14 lbs. — 3 to 3 3/4
14 to 18 lbs. — 3 3/4 to 4 1/4
18 to 20 lbs. — 4 1/4 to 4 1/2
20 to 24 lbs. — 4 1/2 to 5

Stuffed (time in hours)
8 to 12 lbs. — 3 to 3 1/2
12 to 14 lbs. — 3 1/2 to 4
14 to 18 lbs. — 4 to 4 1/4
18 to 20 lbs. — 4 1/4 to 4 3/4
20 to 24 lbs. — 4 3/4 to 5 1/4

Deep Fat Frying a Turkey

Each year, there seems to be at least one story on the news about a disastrous attempt at deep frying a turkey. The USDA offers the following guidelines:

A whole turkey can be successfully cooked by the deep fat frying method provided the turkey is not stuffed and has been completely thawed. The turkey should be 12 pounds or less in size.

Oil Safety

Select a cooking vessel large enough to completely submerge the turkey in oil without it spilling over. The oil should cover the turkey by 1 to 2 inches. To determine the amount of oil needed, do a preliminary test using water. Place the turkey in the cooking utensil and add water to cover. Then remove the turkey and measure the amount of water. This is the amount of oil needed. (Afterwards, be sure to pat the turkey dry, as placing water into hot oil will cause it to spatter.)

Select a safe location outdoors for deep fat frying a turkey

Heat the cooking oil to 350 °F. Slowly and carefully, lower the turkey into the hot oil. Monitor the temperature of the oil with a thermometer constantly during cooking. Never leave the hot oil unattended. Allow approximately 3 to 5 minutes per pound cooking time.

Checking for doneness

Remove turkey from the oil and drain oil from the cavity. Check the temperature of turkey with a food thermometer. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

If the turkey is not done, immediately return the turkey to the hot oil for additional cooking. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oil and place it on a sturdy tray lined with paper towels. The skin can be golden to dark brown to almost black. Let it rest about 20 minutes before carving.

Allow the used oil to cool before pouring it into containers for refrigerator storage. The oil can be reused if it is strained, covered, and used within a month.

Leftovers

After your fabulous feast, be sure to store leftovers properly to prevent food poisoning. Leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours to prevent bacterial growth.

Large quantities should be divided into smaller portions and stored in several small or shallow covered containers – food in small amounts will get cold more quickly. The temperature of the refrigerator should be 40° F or slightly below.

Leftover turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Stuffing and gravy should be used within 1 or 2 days. Reheat leftover gravy to a rolling boil or 165 ° F before serving. For longer storage, package leftovers in freezer paper or heavy-duty aluminum foil and freeze them.

 

For a complete guide to food safety and more tips on holiday food preparation, visit www.foodsafety.gov.

 

Pet Food Recall Due to Salmonella

imageProcter and Gamble has issued a recall of several types of pet foods for dogs and cats, citing an increased risk of salmonella poisoning. The FDA reports that salmonella bacteria can affect not only the animals eating the contaminated food, but also people who handle it or come into contact with exposed surfaces.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most persons infected with the Salmonella bacteria will develop symptoms within 12 to 72 hours after infection and recover without treatment within 4 to 7 days.

Salmonella poisoning in people can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody stools, abdominal cramping and fever. If you experience high fever, dehydration, muscle pain, joint pain, eye irritation or urinary tract symptoms after coming in contact with the product, you should call your doctor. The risk of developing a severe illness is higher in the elderly, infants, and those with an impaired immune system.

Monitor your pet

If your pet is infected, it may become lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever or vomiting. Some pets only develop mild side effects that can be harder to detect, such as decreased appetite, fever, or abdominal pain. If your pet has consumed infected food and has any of these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian.

The recall is for specific lots of Eukanuba dry dog food and Iams dry food for cats and dogs. For a detailed list of recalled products and lot numbers, visit the FDA website. Consumers who purchased recalled pet food should stop using the product and throw it away.

 

Source:

U.S. Food and Drug administration recalls dry pet foods due to salmonella contamination” by Jay Seaton, Newsnet5.com, August 15, 2013.

Multi-state Listeria Outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that one person has died and at least four more have been hospitalized due a listeria infection, including a pregnant woman who suffered a miscarriage. The outbreak has been linked to cheese distributed by the Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company based in Waterloo, Wisconsin. The cheeses were distributed nationwide through retail and food-service outlets as well as by mail orders.

States reporting infected persons include Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio.

Contaminated Products:

  • Les Frères (LF225 2/2.5 lbs.) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in white plastic with a green and gold label.
  • Petit Frère (PF88 8/8 oz.) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes
  • Petit Frère with Truffles cheese (PF88T 8/8 oz.) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes.

After being informed by regulatory agencies of an ongoing investigation, Crave Brothers immediately ceased the production and distribution of the products. Subsequently, Whole Foods announced it had pulled the recalled cheeses from their shelves.

Listeria (Listeria monocytogenes)

Listeriosis is a serious infection typically caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Older adults, pregnant women, newborns, adults with weakened immune systems, are most commonly at risk, however anyone can be affected. Patients taking corticosteroids as well as those undergoing chemotherapy are especially susceptible to infection.

Symptoms

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has ‘invasive’ infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract.” Symptoms may vary:

  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience fever and other non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue and aches. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • Persons other than pregnant women: Symptoms, in addition to fever and muscle aches, can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

Consumers who have purchased any of these products are urged not to consume them. They can return the cheese to the place of purchase for a full refund or discard it. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 920-478-4887, Monday-Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

The CDC’s website has more information on the outbreak and ways you can reduce your risk for listeriosis.

 

Source:

Recent Listeria Outbreak Linked to Cheese” by Robert Glatter, MD, Forbes, July 7, 2013.

Warning for Meat Tenderized with Needles

Some grocers sell cuts of meat that have been mechanically tenderized.  Now, that may sound no different than machines wielding spikey meat-tenderizing hammers (like the one we all have shoved somewhere in the back of a kitchen drawer.) But for the food industry, the industrial method of meat tenderizing involves piercing the meat – with blades or needles.

While this process is great at making tough cuts of meat more tender, NPR reports, “[T]here’s a downside, too; a higher risk of surface bacteria making their way into the cut of meat, which can set the stage for food poisoning.” The CDC has tracked five separate foodborne outbreaks linked to mechanically tenderized beef. This is rather alarming news for anyone who enjoys their steak prepared on the rare side.

Food Safety

photo_1127_20060220Intact cuts of beef can normally be cooked safely at a temp of 145 degrees F because the meat is not penetrated by outside bacteria. However, pierced meats such as ground beef or mechanically tenderized cuts should be cooked to 160 degrees F to kill any outside bacteria (such as E. coli) that may have penetrated into the meat.

In response, the USDA has proposed new labeling requirements so that customers would know if their meat has been pierced with blades or needles – and adjust their cooking times accordingly.  The Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has also proposed updated cooking time recommendations for their website.

What do you think?

The government wants to know. (Really.) You can comment on the new rule until August 9, 2013.

 

Sources

Tender Beef, Without The Pathogens: USDA Proposes Labeling Rules” by Allison Aubrey, NPR, June 11, 2013.

FSIS Proposed Rule: Descriptive Designation for Needle or Blade Tenderized Beef Products, June 10, 2013.

 

Ohio personal injury attorneys: Do you think your food is safer?

Is your food safer now than it was in 2001? That’s a question we all should think about every time we eat out or prepare a meal. And the answer depends on who you ask.

According to separate studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), there has been a decline in the number of food poisoning illnesses being reported around the country.

The CDC says the number of foodborne illnesses reported in 2009 and 2010 dropped by 32 percent, compared to the previous 5 years. The CSPI says the number of foodborne poisoning illnesses reported dropped by more than 40 percent from 2001 to 2010.

However, you are much safer eating at home than eating out. The CSPI says you are 1.5 times more likely to get sick eating out compared to eating in. Between 2001 and 2010, there were 1,786 food poisoning outbreaks linked to restaurants and more than 30,000 people were sickened. In contrast, there were 922 outbreaks in private homes and 12,666 people were affected.

The CSPI cautions that while better food safety practices may have contributed to the decline, incomplete reporting of outbreaks by understaffed and financially stretched public health agencies may also have influenced the data. Foodborne illnesses are also underreported because most people do not go to the doctor for the average case of food poisoning.

Another mark of food safety levels is the number of food product recalls, which hit a two-year high in the fourth quarterucm345905 of 2012. Although numbers are not available yet for the first quarter of 2013, there have been a number of high profile food recalls in the new year. Most recently, Rich Products Corp of Buffalo, NY, recalled a number of frozen food products because of possible E. coli bacteria contamination.

At least 24 people have gotten sick from eating the products. Fourteen Maryland schools have warned parents that students may have eaten food covered under the recall.

What can you do to protect yourself? The CDC offers the following tips:

At home:

  • Wash your hands before and after you prepare food, before you eat, and after using the bathroom.
  • Wash foods, including fruits and vegetables, poultry, fish, and meats.
  • Wash utensils and cutting boards with soap and water, and use them for one food at a time between washings.
  • Cook food thoroughly. Make sure the internal temperature of meat and poultry reaches at least 165°F (180°F for whole poultry). Cook eggs until yolks are firm.
  • Refrigerate food within two hours. Thaw foods in the refrigerator or microwave, not at room temperature.

When you eat out:

You can protect yourself first by choosing which restaurant to patronize.

  • Restaurants are inspected by the local health department to make sure they are clean and have adequate kitchen facilities.
  • Find out how restaurants did on their most recent inspections, and use that score to help guide your choice.
  • In many jurisdictions, the latest inspection score is posted in the restaurant.
  • Some restaurants have specifically trained their staff in principles of food safety. This is also good to know in deciding which restaurant to patronize.

You can also protect yourself from foodborne disease when ordering specific foods, just as you would at home.

  • When ordering a hamburger, ask for it to be cooked to a temperature of 160ºF and send it back if it is still pink in the middle.
  • Before you order something that is made with many eggs pooled together, such as scrambled eggs, omelets, or French toast, ask the waiter whether it was made with pasteurized egg, and choose something else if it was not.

Restaurants, farmers and all food handlers have a responsibility to follow all laws and health guidelines. Most cases of foodborne illnesses can be avoided if people follow proper procedures.

Stay informed about food recalls

Foodborne illnesses kill more than 3,000 people each year in the United States. One in six Americans become sick from a foodborne illness annually. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that food recalls are on the rise and awareness of the issue seems to be rising, as well.

Food recalls in the United States increased during the second quarter of 2012, according to Stericycle ExpertRECALL, a company which aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the two main agencies involved in recalls – the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration.

During the second quarter of 2012, FDA enforcement reports documented 169 food recalls initiated by 156 companies and affecting more than 5 million units, the fewest number of units affected by recalls in the past four quarters.

The recall numbers were up 19 percent from the first quarter of 2012 and up 16 percent from the second quarter of 2011.

The report found undeclared allergens or other allergen concerns remained the primary cause of recalls, accounting for nearly 40 percent of food recalls initiated. Foodborne illness concerns accounted for an additional 40 percent of recalls during the quarter, with Salmonella and Listeria being the most common reasons.

Total numbers have not been released yet for the third quarter of 2012, but a search of the FDA’s website shows there were 50 food-related recalls in September alone.

Most recently, a large recall of peanut butter and peanut butter products has made headlines. Before that, mangoes from Mexico sickened more than 100 people. And there have been several instances this year of bagged salads being recalled for possible contamination.

What should you do if you think you have recalled food?

When a food recall alert is issued, it usually includes information to help you identify whether you have the product in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer and advises you what to do with it.

  • Check the recall notice. Manufacturers will provide information on what to do with the product. Typically, the instructions will tell you to either return the product to the store where you bought it for a refund, or to dispose of the product properly (especially if it has been opened).
  • To identify if a recall product is in your home, match identifying marks of the product with the recall notice details, such as product name and brand, container size and codes.
  • Do not panic. Most recalls are not associated with a food illness outbreak, and many are issued because there is a potential for the food to be contaminated. Often recalls are issued as a precautionary measure.
  • Do not eat the food. Even if you believe the recall to be just a precaution, do not eat the food! It is better to be safe than sorry. Do not donate the food to food banks or feed it to your pets.
  • Do not open the food container. Opening the food and checking it can potentially release bacteria or viruses that cause food illnesses into your home. If you do open or handle the product, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  • Preserve the evidence. If a portion of the suspect food is available, keep it, wrap it securely, mark “DANGER” and freeze it. Save all packaging materials (e.g. cans, labels, cartons). Save all purchase receipts.
  • Seek treatment if necessary. If you become ill and believe your illness is due to a food product, contact your healthcare provider.

What can you do to protect your family from food affected by recalls?

The most important thing is to stay informed. It might seem hard to find the time to search out all products that have been recalled, but several websites are available to help make the process easier.

One good place to look is the FDA’s website. They keep a running list of recalled food products. You also can sign up to receive email notifications about recalls from the FDA. You can also find similar information at foodsafety.gov.

At Elk & Elk, we are serious about safety and helping keep you healthy. That’s why we use our social media feeds (http://www.facebook.com/ElkandElk and www.twitter.com/elkandelk) to help inform you anytime there are recalls of any kind.

To find out more about the personal injury attorneys of Elk & Elk, please check out our website.