Parenting

Kitchen Towels Loaded With Harmful Bacteria

2:00

Two of the most used items in kitchens would have to be cloth kitchen towels and paper towels.  According to a new study, they are also the most contaminated objects in your kitchen.

I use both kitchen towels and paper towels – a lot.  I’ve often wondered about cross-contamination depending on what foods I’m preparing for dinner.  Cross-contamination refers to the accidental transfer of potentially hazardous germs from one surface to another.

Preparing meats and poultry always give me cause for concern because of the wrappings (filled with liquid) and all the places I touch after handling them. No matter how many times I wash my hands and the surfaces I’ve touched, I still have to dry my hands and that’s when I usually grab a kitchen towel or a paper towel.

That’s why the results from this study aren’t surprising.

Kansas State University researchers asked 123 people to prepare a recipe using either raw ground beef or chicken, along with a ready-to-eat fruit salad. The participants did the food preparation in a kitchen set up on the campus.

A harmless type of bacteria was placed in the raw beef and chicken in order to trace levels of meat-associated contamination spread during meal preparation.

"First, participants were observed frequently handling towels, including paper towels, even when not using them for drying. Towels were determined to be the most contaminated of all the contact surfaces tested," lead researcher and food safety specialist Jeannie Sneed said in a university news release.

Many participants touched towels before washing their hands or used them after inadequate washing of their hands, she said. Even after they washed their hands properly, the participants reused the towels and re-contaminated their hands, according to the study in the journal Food Protection Trends.

Sneed advises that you wash the cloth towels after using them while preparing a meal, or use paper towels and throw them away after each use.

Her team found that more than 90 percent of the fruit salads prepared by the participants were contaminated with the tracer bacteria. This shows that if the tracer had been a harmful germ such as salmonella, there was a high risk of foodborne illness.

Four out of five participants also left raw meat contamination on the sink faucet, refrigerator, oven and trash container, the study found.

What can you do prevent cross-contamination during meal preparation? The Minnesota Department of Health offers these tips on their website:

During food preparation:

·      Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:

·      Wash hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.

·      Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills.

·      Wash kitchen towels often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

·      Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.

Cutting boards:

·      Always use a clean cutting board.

·      If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

·      Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.

Cellphones are another potential source of kitchen cross-contamination, the researchers found. Moreover, many participants used cellphones during meal preparation and didn't clean them properly.

"We often take our cellphones and tablets into the kitchen," Sneed said, "but what about all the other places we take them? Think of how many times you see someone talking on their cellphone in places like the bathroom, where microorganisms such as norovirus and E. coli are commonly found."

If these devices are used in the kitchen, Sneed recommended wiping their surfaces with a disinfectant.

I’ve certainly been guilty of using my cell phone and computer while cooking. With so many recipes just a click away, I’ve been back and forth between the ingredients and the computer countless times. I do clean the keyboard with a disinfectant when I remember – which honestly, isn’t every time.

The study is a good reminder to stay on top of cross-contamination while preparing foods. I’m not sure that there is a way to prepare meats and poultry where every bit of bacteria is removed from preparation surfaces and our hands, but we all can be more aware of cross-contamination and take the extra steps to prevent foodborne illnesses. And don’t forget to wipe down those electronics either!

Sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20150326/kitchen-towels-can-make-you-sick

http://www.health.state.mn.us/foodsafety/clean/xcontamination.html#prep

Parenting

AAP Says Lice Shouldn’t Keep Kids Out of School

1:30

Typically, when a student has head lice or nits (the eggs of head lice), the school requires that he or she go home and not return until the lice are gone. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently proposed new guidelines that say, "No healthy child should be excluded from school or allowed to miss school time because of head lice or nits."

The AAP says that while head lice may be annoying and cause itching, they don’t actually make people sick or spread disease. Many people believe that the insects are easily spread, but experts say that direct head-to-head contact is required.

The AAP notes that most doctors who care for children agree that school policies requiring children to be free from nits before returning to school should be abandoned.

The AAP also reported that screening kids at school for head lice does not reduce the occurrence in classrooms over time. However, pediatricians advise parents to check their children’s heads for lice and school nurses may check children who are showing symptoms such as repeated head scratching.

To treat lice, the AAP recommends parents start with over-the-counter medications that contain 1 percent permethrin or pyrethrins (types of insect-killing chemicals).

Parents should carefully follow the treatment instructions, and when using permethrin or pyrethrin products, should apply the treatment at least twice (about 9 days apart).

Because these medications do not kill 100 percent of the lice eggs, the treatments should be followed by manual removal of the eggs, the guidelines say. This can be a tedious process, but fine-tooth combs called "nit-combs" can make the process easier.

Some head lice have become resistant to OTC treatment, these cases may benefit from prescription medications such as spinosad or topical ivermectin.

Once a person is diagnosed with head lice, everyone in the family should be checked for the condition. Lice are usually transmitted by direct contact, so it's less likely that people will get lice from touching household items, but it is still wise to clean all hair-care items and bedding used by the person who had lice, the guidelines say.

Children should be taught not to share items such as combs, brushes and hats, although such precautions may not prevent all cases of head lice, they can reduce the risk of transmission.

Source: Rachel Rettner, http://www.livescience.com/50629-head-lice-recommendations.html

Parenting

Norovirus Prevention: Tips for Swimming in Untreated Waters

2:00

With summer around the corner, lots of families will be headed to the lake for picnics, fishing and swimming. And not to rain on anyone’s parade, but every parent should be aware that the Norovirus loves untreated waters just as much as you and the kids do.

What is Norovirus? Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining. They are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S.; In other words, severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Noroviruses are the same viruses that give you food poisoning – but they can also be active in waters that are untreated with chlorine such as lakes and ponds.

A norovirus outbreak in July 2014 was linked to a lake near Portland Oregon, and sickened 70 people. Those who swam in the lake were 2.3 times more likely to develop vomiting or diarrhea than those who visited the park but didn’t go in the water. More than half of those who got ill were children between 4–10 years old.

Experts believe the outbreak began after a swimmer infected with norovirus had diarrhea or vomited in the water and other swimmers swallowed the contaminated water. To prevent other people from getting sick, park officials closed the lake to swimmers for 10 days.

“Children are prime targets for norovirus and other germs that can live in lakes and swimming pools because they’re so much more likely to get the water in their mouths,” said Michael Beach, Ph.D, CDC’s associate director for healthy water. “Keeping germs out of the water in the first place is key to keeping everyone healthy and helping to keep the places we swim open all summer.”

Swimmers can help protect themselves, their families and friends by following a few easy and effective steps: 

Keep the pee, poop, sweat, and dirt out of the water!

•       Don’t swim if you have diarrhea or have been vomiting

•       Shower before you get in the water

•       Don’t pee or poop in the water

•       Don’t swallow lake or pool water

Every hour—everyone out!

•       Take kids on bathroom breaks

•       Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area–to keep germs away from the water.

Noroviruses, like other viruses, don't respond to antibiotics, which are designed to kill bacteria. No antiviral drug can treat noroviruses, but in healthy people the illness should go away on its own within a couple of days.

Children and the elderly are most susceptible to dehydration. Children should be given an oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte) to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Avoid giving your child sugary drinks, which can make diarrhea worse, as well as caffeinated beverages, which can dehydrate them further.

Norovirus is very contagious and can be spread through contaminated food, water, or surfaces.

Summer is a time when families have more opportunities to have fun and spend time together. You can help make sure your picnic or day at the lake doesn’t include the side effects from a norovirus by adhering to the health safety prevention tips listed above.

Sources: http://www.physiciansbriefing.com/Article.asp?AID=699479

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/a0514-norovirus-from-swimming.html

http://www.webmd.com/children/norovirus-symptoms-and-treatment

Parenting

Recall: Cracker Barrel’s Animated Toy Monkey Due to Burns

1:45

Giggles International is recalling about 13,000 of their Animated Sing Along Monkey toy due to the possibility that the battery compartment can reach temperatures up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, posing a burn hazard for children.

This recall involves Giggles International Animated Sing-Along Monkey toys. The monkey is made of brown and beige plush material and is about 9 inches tall. The toy is designed to hold a songbook titled "5 Little Monkeys" and to sing the song when activated. A red music note is on the bottom of the monkey's right foot and the face of a child with its hands covering its eyes are on the bottom of the money's left foot. Recalled sing-along monkeys were manufactured between 6/7/2014 and 7/5/2014 and have batch code GP1410028.  

The manufacture date in the M/D/YYYY format and batch code are printed on the bottom of a white fabric label attached near the base of the monkey's tail. The monkey toys came in a tan colored box with words "Animated Sing-Along Monkey," "Sing along with me!" and "I play peek-a-boo with you!" on the front. The age advisory "For ages 3+" and the warning that batteries are included are also on the front of the box.

Giggles International has received two reports of toys overheating and melting their battery compartments.

The toy is sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores nationwide from September 2014 to October 2014 for about $25.

Consumers should immediately take the animated monkey away from children, remove the batteries and return the toy to any Cracker Barrel Old Country Store or contact Giggles International for a full refund.

You can contact Giggles International at (800) 738-6018 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.LoveMyGiggles.com and click on Recall at the top of the page for more information.

Toy monkey recall

Parenting

Blue Bell Creameries Recalls All of Its Products

1:30

Say it isn’t so! Yes, one of the country’s favorite ice cream brands is recalling all of its ice cream products due to possible contamination with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes.

Until now, Blue Bell Creameries has been issuing gradual recalls of specific ice cream items. Monday, the company decided to recall all of its ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and all other frozen snacks.

Three people have died and five others have fallen ill from the bacteria that may have come from Blue Bell products, health officials have said.

Listeria is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Blue Bell made the decision to recall all of its products after analysis of some half-gallon containers of chocolate chip cookie-dough ice cream contained listeria.

"This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants," the company said in a written statement.

"At this point, we cannot say with certainty how Listeria was introduced to our facilities, and so we have taken this unprecedented step."

So far there have been five confirmed cases of listeria infections in Kansas and three in Texas.

According to their website notification about the recall, the company promises to sure all their products are safe before they go back on sale.

“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president.

“We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.”

Blue Bell says it is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.

Sources: http://cdn.bluebell.com/the_little_creamery/press_releases/all-product-recall

Holly Yan, http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/20/health/blue-bell-ice-cream-recall/

 

Parenting

Be Kind, Give Thanks

2:00

In the spirit of this holiday season and throughout the year, I shall try and follow the example of Perri Brackett. Who is Perri Brackett? She’s a Dallas Morning News Community Voices volunteer columnist that wrote a wonderfully thought-provoking column the other day on losing patience and finding kindness.

The act that changed her perspective happened last December. She was shopping at Sprouts and had two coupons for free products. I’ll let her tell you what happened next.

“ I got to the checkout, and I pulled out my coupons. The checker was first confused with the “free product” on the coupon. She did her job and read the fine print. At this point, I started getting frustrated. Why couldn’t she just take the coupons that I knew were good?

She then decided to scan the coupons, and they didn’t work. My impatience was rearing its ugly head as she called over a manager to help. And what did I do? I grabbed the coupons, paid my bill and stormed out. Nothing free that day.”

I can’t even begin to count the times that I’ve let myself get frustrated in a line or with the person checking me out, so I understand how quickly it can happen.

However, I don’t usually take the follow-up action Ms. Brackett took.

She went home, sat down and wrote a letter of apology to the checker.  She returned to the store the next day, but the checker was off. She gave the letter to the manager and apologized for her behavior. He remembered her from the day before. After hearing her out, he hugged her and said in all his years of managing, this was the first time a customer had apologized for being rude.

I’ll let her pick it up from here: “I decided right then and there, I was going to be nicer to people I didn’t know who were trying to help me. Have you noticed yourself being just flat-out nasty to people who are trying to help you? Losing patience? If so, try being nice to people; you’ll be happier.

I now thank the checkers for their help each and every time I check out from a store. I’ve even started thanking the janitor in the women’s bathroom, if I see one. That’s an interesting one — do that and watch their face light up. Talk about a thankless job that isn’t easy that people do with pride.” Brackett wrote.

I’ve found that being patient with people feels much better than feeling frustrated or angry with them. Having said that, I admit that there have been too many times when I’ve lost my patience with someone.  Granted, not every sales person or checker is helpful or nice to me. Sometimes, my anger may even be considered justified.

But you know what? Kicking a hornet’s nest doesn’t help any situation. There’s enough anger and ugly actions taking place these days without my contribution.

Which brings me to setting an example for our kids. Children seldom pay as much attention to what we say as we think they should, but they watch what we do. They learn how to respond to situations by watching how we respond.

As the classic Crosby, Stills and Nash song says, “Teach your children well”, by showing them that love, kindness and patience are the most positive ways to respond when life’s irritations creep up and get under our skin.

Particularly during this time of year, there are lots of opportunities to be a good example. As Bracket so eloquently writes at the end of her article; “As the year winds down and shopping season speeds up, it might be a nice time to remember to take a deep breath and thank someone for their help. It might become a habit.”

While Thanksgiving is a special day that rolls around once a year, giving thanks and being kind are actions we can take every singe day.  

Source: Perri Brackett, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20141121-perri-brackett-its-not-easy-being-nice-but-try-it.ece

Parenting

Flour with Added Folic Acid Is Reducing Birth Defects

2:00

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is known to help prevent certain types of birth defects in newborns. In January 1998, the FDA added a requirement that folic acid be added to breads, cereals, and other products that use enriched flour. These fortified foods include most enriched breads, flours, corn meals, rice, noodles, macaroni, and other grain products.

Since then, a new report shows that serious birth defects have fallen 35 percent. While that is certainly wonderful news, a 2014 study found that as many as 25 percent of American women are still not receiving even the minimum amount of recommended folic acid from either their diet or through supplements.

Women who don't get enough folic acid have an elevated risk of giving birth to a child with conditions called neural tube defects, the best known of which is spina bifida, which often causes paralysis.

Health experts began recommending that women of childbearing age take folic acid in 1992 because studies showed that taking 400 micrograms a day could reduce spina bifida and related birth defects by up to 70%.

Doctors now recommend that women who are considering having children start taking folic acid before trying to get pregnant. Since some pregnancies are not necessarily planned, many doctors recommend that women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid.

The benefits of folic acid have been researched for quite some time and since food producers began adding folic acid to grains, that simple step has prevented more than 1,300 babies a year from being born with spina bifida or related conditions, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Authors of the new study found that Hispanic women are more likely to have a baby with spina bifida or a similar birth defect.

That's partly because the "masa harina" corn flour used in tortillas and other Hispanic foods isn't fortified with folic acid, the study says. The March of Dimes has petitioned the FDA to require that folic acid be added to corn flour. Adding folic acid to corn flour would prevent another 40 cases of spina bifida or related conditions each year, the report says.

"Even with fortification, there will be some women that do not get the recommended amount of folic acid every day," says Candice Burns Hoffmann, of the CDC's National Centers for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "We still have more work to do."

If you’re considering having a baby, talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant about the benefits of folic acid and how much you may need.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/15/folic-acid-birth-defects/21784019/

http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org

Parenting

The Magic of Music

2:00

“Where words fail, music speaks,” wrote Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson and he was so right. Music is the universe’s official language where old and young share its beauty and complexity.

Alzheimer’s patients have been known to respond with joy and excitement when played their favorite music after being non-responsive to other stimulus.

Children jump in rhythm and clap their hands when they hear the sounds of instruments playing. Hundreds of YouTube videos show how quickly tears can turn to smiles and giggles as the first notes of Disney’s  “Let It Go” spring forth. 

Is there really anyone who isn’t deeply affected by music?

Research has shown that particpating in music benefits children when learning other subjects and offers kids a variety of skills they can use throughout their life. 

“A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Can particpation in music make a child smarter? There’s a difference of opinion about that. However, it’s safe to say that it takes an assortment of specific skills to sing or play an instrument or do both simultaneously.

For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Children have learned how to sing and speak in other languages by listening to cross-culture songs. I even picked up a little French from the Beatles’ “Michelle” when I was a child. “Michelle, ma belle, Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,Tres bien ensemble.”(These are words which go together well, together well.)

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a non-musician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.

Playing music makes your brain work harder, but what about just listening to music? While some studies have noted that learning to play music can enhance your brain, listening to music just makes you feel good. But really, isn’t that wonderful too?

Music enriches your life. It’s captivating and has the power to make you smile or cry. Most of all, it’s universal.

Introducing children to music at a young age opens the door to new adventures. Whether it’s classical or hip-hop, country or rock, bluegrass or blues, jazz or Dixieland, African rhythms or Mongolian throat-singing; borders and politics may separate people, but nations and communities will share their music.

“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”

Yes, music is the official language of the universe and a beautiful gift to share with our children.

Source: Laura Lewis Brown, http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education

Parenting

Kidde Recalls 4.6 Million Fire Extinguishers

1:30

A lot of families have fire extinguishers in their homes in case of a small fire. Kidde makes one of the more popular brands and is recalling 4.6 million of their plastic valve disposable fire extinguishers.

A faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency, posing a risk of injury.

This recall involves 31 models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers with Zytel® black plastic valves. The recalled extinguishers are red, white or silver and are either ABC or BC rated. The ratings can be found to the right of the nameplate. 

Manufacture dates included in the recall are July 23, 2013 through October 15, 2014. A 10-digit date code is stamped on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom. Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format.

Date codes for recalled units manufactured in 2013 are XXXX 20413 X through XXXX 36513 X and 2014 are XXXX 00114 X through XXXX 28814 X.

A complete list of the nameplate affixed to the front of the fire extinguishers is located on their website at  www.kidde.com.

Kidde has received 11 reports of the recalled fire extinguishers failing to discharge as expected. No injuries have been reported.

The fire extinguishers were sold at Home Depot, Menards, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide, and online from August 2013 through November 2014 for between $18 and $65, and about $200 for model XL 5MR.

Consumers should immediately contact Kidde for a replacement fire extinguisher at Kidde toll-free (855) 283-7991 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.kidde.com and click on Safety Notice for more information.

Pages

Please fill in your e-mail address to be included in our newsletter.
You may opt out at any time.