Back to School Food Safety Tips for Parents and Caregivers
August 19, 2015, 2015
Back to school, back to the books, back shuttling students to and from extracurricular activities. The new school year likely means back to packing lunches and afterschool snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One "back" you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is foodborne bacteria.
Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In this temperature range, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels in just two hours, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those for whom you pack, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
- If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly, so perishable food transported without an ice source will not stay safe long.
- Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquid should be thawed and ready to drink.
- Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
- If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot at 140 °F or above.
- If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
- If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.
- If possible, a child's lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
Eating and Disposal Tips
- Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
- After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.
Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at http://www.foodsafety.gov/, by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by liking Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.
Kroger Recalls Four Seasonings Due to Possible Health Risk
July 25, 2015
The Kroger Co. said today it is recalling Kroger Ground Cinnamon, Kroger Garlic Powder, Kroger Coarse Ground Black Pepper and Kroger Bac'n Buds sold in its retail stores due to possible contamination from Salmonella.
A sample of Kroger Garlic Powder from a store in North Augusta, South Carolina was tested by the FDA and found to be contaminated with Salmonella. To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with these products. Out of an abundance of caution, the company has recalled all four seasonings produced on the same equipment in the same facility.
Stores under the following names in the 31 states where Kroger operates are included in this recall: Kroger, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, City Market, Smith's, Dillons, Baker's, Gerbes, Jay C, Ruler Foods, Pay Less, Owen's, and Scott's.
Kroger has removed the potentially affected items from store shelves and initiated its customer recall notification system that alerts customers who may have purchased recalled Class 1 products through register receipt tape messages and phone calls.
Kroger is recalling the following items having the following product, UPC codes and size:
Kroger Ground Cinnamon 1111070034 Sell by: May 19 18PS4 18.3 ozKroger Garlic Powder 1111070039 Sell by: May 18 17PS4 24.7 ozKroger Coarse Ground Black Pepper 1111070041 Sell by: May 18 18PS4Sell by: May 19 18PS4 17.1 ozKroger Bac'n Buds 1111070025 Sell by: May 20 18PS4 12.0 oz
Customers who have purchased the above products should not consume them and should return them to a store for a full refund or replacement.
Customers who have questions may contact Kroger at 1-800-KROGERS.
Health Related Precautions Due to Heavy Rain and Flooding
June 15, 2015
The City of Pasadena Health Department has issued the linked health related precautions for citizens to ensure their safety during and after heavy rains and flooding.
Texas Reports Year’s First West Nile Case
May 21, 2015
The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting the state’s first case of West Nile illness this year and reminding people how to protect themselves from the mosquito-borne virus that causes it.
A patient in Harris County has been diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of illness. DSHS won’t release additional personal details in order to protect the patient’s identity. To reduce the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, people should
- Use an approved insect repellent every time they go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol.
- Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
- Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.
“Up to 80 percent of people who contract the virus don’t get symptoms and won’t even know they have it,” said Dr. Tom Sidwa, state public health veterinarian and manager of DSHS’s zoonosis control branch. “But those who do get sick can experience very serious effects ranging from fever to substantial neurological symptoms and even death.”
Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.
There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.
Health officials are also monitoring cases of another mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya. Seven Texas residents have been diagnosed with chikungunya this year. So far, all Texas cases have been acquired by people travelling abroad in areas where the virus is more common, particularly Central and South America. The same precautions apply, and DSHS encourages travelers to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including six deaths. DSHS will regularly update case counts at www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/updates.shtm.
Keep Our Air Clean
May 5, 2015
Ozone is a gas that is formed in the atmosphere when three atoms of oxygen combine. Ozone is found high in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight.
Ground-level ozone, sometimes referred to as smog, mainly forms the highest concentrations on sunny days with slow wind speeds, which allow pollutants to accumulate. Summer days in Texas can be conducive for ozone formation as high-pressure systems dominate our local weather patterns, giving us clear skies and stagnant winds. Ozone season has begun in Texas, but there are many things you can do to limit ozone formation.
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks: Key Facts
April 23, 2015
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (migratory paths for birds). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in some backyard and commercial poultry flocks.
There are three important things that you need to know about this situation:
- Our food supply is safe. Food is safe because the United States has the strongest AI surveillance system in the world. We actively look for the disease, educate the public and producers on the most appropriate practices to ensure their health and safety, as well as provide compensation to affected producers to encourage disease reporting.
- The risk to humans is low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected, and the CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low.
- USDA will continue to do everything it can to support states and producers. We are coordinating closely with State officials and other Federal departments on rigorous surveillance, reporting, and control efforts. At the same time, USDA will continue to work with Congress to ensure that we are able to provide a much-needed safety net to the poultry producers who are experiencing economic hardships as a result of losses due to the disease.
Along with industry, USDA and its Federal and State partners are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks. You can learn more about the situation and USDA’s response by listening to a recording of the press conference: http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-cdc-media-call.mp3.
You too can help by continuing to practice good biosecurity if you own birds. All birds owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual birds deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.
Learn more about biosecurity for backyard flocks at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov. More information about USDA avian influenza efforts is available at http://www.usda.gov/avian_influenza.html.
DSHS Urges Hantavirus Precautions Following Golden Crescent Case
December 22, 2014
The Texas Department of State Health Services is reminding people to protect themselves from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a rare but sometimes fatal illness, after a resident of the Golden Crescent region along the central Texas coast was diagnosed with HPS.
Hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice that shed the virus in their urine, droppings and saliva. The virus can be transmitted to people by stirring up nesting materials or contaminated dust, allowing the virus to be breathed in by humans. Cases have been linked to cleaning out buildings where rodents live and working in dusty environments like ranches and oilfields.
DSHS recommends the following precautions:
- Seal openings that may allow rats and mice to enter homes and workplaces.
- Remove brush, woodpiles, trash and other items that may attract rats and mice.
- Tightly close garbage cans, pet food containers and other food sources.
- Wear protective gloves when handling dead mice and rats or cleaning up nesting areas, urine or droppings.
- Before cleaning up nests or droppings indoors, open windows and doors to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes.
- Do not stir up nests by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen areas with dead rodents, nests, urine and droppings before cleanup with a 1:10 bleach solution or other disinfectant.
- If dust will be stirred up, DSHS recommends using goggles and a HEPA or N-95 mask.
Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever and muscle aches that may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. If hantavirus is suspected, people should contact their health care provider immediately and mention any potential exposure to rodents, their nests or their waste.
There have been five HPS cases reported in Texas in 2014. A total of 43 HPS cases have been confirmed in Texas since 1993, the first year the disease was detected. Of those, 14 were fatal.
El DSHS insta a tomar precauciones contra el hantavirus tras registrarse un caso en la región de Golden Crescent
22 de diciembre de 2014
El Departamento Estatal de Servicios de Salud de Texas les recuerda a las personas que se protejan contra el síndrome pulmonar del hantavirus (HPS), una enfermedad poco común pero en ocasiones mortal, luego de que a un residente de la región de Golden Crescent en la costa central de Texas se le diagnosticara HPS.
Ciertas especies de ratas y ratones son portadoras del hantavirus y expulsan el virus en la orina, el excremento y la saliva. El virus se puede transmitir al ser humano cuando material de los nidos o polvo contaminado son levantados en el aire, lo cual permite que el ser humano inhale el virus. Los casos se han vinculado a actividades de limpieza en edificios donde viven roedores y de trabajos en ambientes con polvo como las granjas y los campos petrolíferos.
El DSHS recomienda las siguientes precauciones:
- Selle las aberturas que pudieran permitir que las ratas y los ratones entren a las casas y los lugares de trabajo.
- Remueva la maleza, los montones de leña, la basura y las demás cosas que puedan atraer a las ratas y a los ratones.
- Cierre firmemente los botes de basura, los recipientes con alimentos para mascotas y las demás fuentes alimenticias.
- Use guantes protectores para manipular ratas y ratones muertos o para limpiar las áreas donde haya nidos, orina o excremento.
- Antes de limpiar los lugares donde haya nidos o excremento en interiores, abra las ventanas y las puertas para ventilar el área por al menos 30 minutos.
- No barra ni pase la aspiradora donde haya nidos. Humedezca las áreas donde haya roedores muertos, nidos, orina y excremento, antes de proceder a la limpieza, con una solución compuesta de 1 parte de blanqueador u otro desinfectante por 10 partes de agua.
- Si se va a levantar polvo, el DSHS recomienda el uso de lentes protectores y mascarillas HEPA o N-95.
Entre los primeros síntomas de la infección por hantavirus están la fatiga, la fiebre y los dolores musculares, que pueden ir acompañados de dolores de cabeza, mareo, escalofrío, náusea, vómito, diarrea y dolor abdominal. Entre los síntomas tardíos están la tos y la falta de respiración. Si se sospecha la presencia del hantavirus, las personas deben comunicarse con su proveedor de servicios de salud de inmediato e informar al médico de la posible exposición a los roedores, a sus excrementos o al material de sus nidos.
Se ha informado de cinco casos de HPS en Texas en 2014. Se han confirmado un total de 43 casos de HPS en Texas desde 1993, el primer año en que se detectó la presencia de la enfermedad. De ellos, 14 fueron casos mortales.
USDA Offers Tips to Help Keep Your Holiday Illness-Free
December 9, 2014
As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous.
Read the full story here or you may contact the City of Pasadena Health Department at 713.475.5529 with any questions you may have.
Texans Cleared From Ebola Monitoring
October 20, 2014
A group of 43 people in Texas who had contact with the state's first Ebola patient have been cleared from twice-daily monitoring after reaching the 21-day mark, the longest incubation period for the disease.
They have no Ebola symptoms and are not at risk of developing Ebola. They are able to continue normal daily activities without being monitored for symptoms. The group is a mix of health care workers, household contacts and community members whose last possible contact with the state's first patent was Sept. 28.
State health officials have been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local health department in Dallas to closely monitor people who have had contact with the three Ebola patients. About 120 more people continue to be monitored for symptoms.
"Epidemiologists have worked around the clock to call and visit people who may have had any exposure, to make sure they were asymptotic and doing well," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. "I'm happy we can tell people they are free and clear of monitoring. It provides a measure of relief and reassurance."
An additional group of people also are being monitored for symptoms because they were passengers on at least one of two Frontier flights that carried one of the health care workers who was diagnosed with Ebola shortly after travels. A small group of those passengers were identified as having sat within three feet of the health care worker and are considered to be at higher risk of exposure. That group has been directed to stay home.
Texas has had three confirmed Ebola cases. No additional cases of the disease have been diagnosed in Texas. The first patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, was exposed to the disease in West Africa before traveling to Texas and being diagnosed. The second and third patients are both health care workers who cared for Duncan in the hospital.
CDC Advisory issues guidance regarding Ebola virus
August 4, 2014
Nigerian health authorities have confirmed a diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in a patient who died on Friday in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, after traveling from Liberia on July 20, 2014. The report marks the first Ebola case in Nigeria linked to the current outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Health authorities also reported this weekend that two U.S. citizens working in a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, have confirmed Ebola virus infection. These recent cases, together with the continued increase in the number of Ebola cases in West Africa, underscore the potential for travel-associated spread of the disease and the risks of EVD to healthcare workers.
While the possibility of infected persons entering the U.S. remains low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that healthcare providers in the U.S. should consider EVD in the differential diagnosis of febrile illness, with compatible symptoms, in any person with recent (within 21 days) travel history in the affected countries and consider isolation of those patients meeting these criteria, pending diagnostic testing.
Further information is available here.
Texas Investigating Measles Exposures at Kansas Event
July 17, 2014
Texas Department of State Health Services has issued a measles health alert after being notified by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that more than 30 Texas residents may have been exposed to the highly contagious disease at a Wichita, Kansas, softball event during the July 4th weekend.
At least three recreational softball teams from Texas traveled to Wichita to participate in the informal tournament held at the South Lakes Sports Complex. DSHS is investigating to get additional details about the event and who may have been exposed. DSHS has not yet identified any Texas measles cases associated with the event.
DSHS urges anyone in Texas who attended the event to call the department (512-776-7676) to report the potential exposure.
Anyone with measles symptoms should call their health care provider. Health care providers should be on alert for potential exposures and patients with measles symptoms.
The incubation period of measles is about two weeks from exposure to onset of rash, but may be as short as one week or as long as three weeks. People are contagious from four days before onset of rash to four days after the appearance of rash. The rash usually begins on the face and spreads to the trunk. Other symptoms include fever (higher than 101 degrees), cough, runny nose and sore eyes.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune or vaccinated will also become infected with the measles virus.State health officials urge immunization to protect against and prevent the spread of measles. People should check their immunization status with their healthcare provider.
Last year there were 27 reported measles cases in Texas and none in 2012.
Doctors should consider measles in their diagnosis if they have a patient with a rash and fever. If measles is suspected, they should report the patient to their local health department as soon as possible. People who have measles or are suspected of having measles should seek medical attention and otherwise stay home until four days after the rash appeared. People with measles symptoms should contact the medical provider’s office before arrival to limit spread to other patients.
The health alert is available here.
Texas investiga exposiciones al sarampión durante evento de softbol en Kansas.