Field Notes

Tips for Food Safety in the New Year

The start of a new year offers the opportunity to reflect and consider what you can do to make your life happier and healthier. Resolve to be food safe this year and reduce your risk of food poisoning with tips from Home Food Safety, a public awareness campaign from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy) and ConAgra Foods.

“While many focus resolutions on health goals like weight loss or training for a marathon, it’s also important to consider food safety,” says Joy Dubost, an RD and Academy spokesperson. “By following a few simple steps to safely handle food at home, you can keep food safe and dramatically reduce your risk of food poisoning.”

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85% of all foodborne illness can be prevented if people just handled food properly.

“The reality is that one in six Americans is sickened by food poisoning each year, and while it may mean flu-like symptoms for some, foodborne illness can cause severe and even life-threatening illnesses in others, including young children and infants, pregnant women, older adults, and people with chronic diseases like diabetes,” Dubost says. “Food safety is an important investment in your family’s health.”

Dubost offers the following advice from www.HomeFoodSafety.org:

• Wash your hands. Hand washing has the potential to save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, according to the CDC. Wash hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.

• Buy and use a food thermometer. The only way to determine if harmful bacteria have been eliminated is to cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature. Always use a food thermometer to ensure food is fully cooked. Don’t rely on sight, smell, or taste.

• Keep it clean. Use hot, soapy water to wash countertops and surfaces, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles, and utensils. After cleaning, keep it clean by avoiding cross-contamination. Start by washing hands thoroughly after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. And use a separate cutting board for raw meat and poultry from the cutting board you use for ready-to-eat foods such as bread and produce. Wrap raw meat and poultry in sealed containers or plastic bags and place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent the raw meat juices from dripping onto other foods and surfaces.

• Safely store leftovers. Perishable food shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of serving or throw them out. (In hot weather, when 90° F or above, toss within one hour of serving.) Use an appliance thermometer to check that the refrigerator is cooling to 40° F or below and the freezer to 0° F or below.

For more simple steps to safely handle food at home and reduce your risk of food poisoning, visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org.

— Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Low-Income Kids Eat More Fruits, Vegetables When in School

The fruits and vegetables provided at school deliver an important dietary boost to low-income adolescents, according to Meghan Longacre, PhD, and Madeline Dalton, PhD, of Dartmouth Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center and The Hood Center for Children and Families. In a study released in Preventive Medicine, Longacre and Dalton found that fruit and vegetable intake was higher among low-income adolescents on days when they consumed meals at school compared with days when they weren’t in school. The opposite was true for high-income adolescents, who consumed fewer fruits and vegetables when school was in session, compared with summer months. While in school, all students consumed fruits and vegetables with similar frequency regardless of income level.

According to Longacre, “Innovation in school food offerings for kids has emphasized increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and it’s working for low-income kids, but the evidence shows that a different strategy may be needed to have the same positive effect on high-income kids.”

The Dartmouth research team, led by Dalton and Longacre, surveyed 1,885 New Hampshire and Vermont middle school students and their parents by phone. Using a unique longitudinal study design, they created a type of “natural experiment” by randomly allocating participants to be surveyed at different times of the year. This created comparable groups of adolescents who were, or weren’t, being exposed to school food by virtue of when they were surveyed. This facilitated comparison of fruit and vegetable consumption during the school months and over the summer. The survey asked the adolescents to recall fruit and vegetable consumption in the previous seven days. And no, fries don’t count.

Previous studies demonstrated that kids from low-income households eat fruits and vegetables less often than their high-income peers, but whether school food mitigates the situation was an open question. By comparing consumption in and out of school by income group, Longacre and Dalton provide key data to inform national policy about resource allocation for meals in schools.

According to Dalton, “This study confirms that the national and regional school food programs provide an important source of fruits and vegetables for low-income adolescents, which we know is a key indicator of dietary quality.”

Longacre adds, “Schools clearly have a role in providing healthful foods to children. Our data suggest that the most vulnerable students are benefitting the most from school food.”

— Source: Norris Cotton Cancer Center Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center