Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guest post: Nom nom nom nuptials: 7 food safety questions to ask your wedding caterer

Today’s guest blog post is by food safety education staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, who share tips on making sure your wedding creates lasting fond memories, not a food illness outbreak.

WEDDING FLOWERSCatering is one of the largest expenses in a wedding budget. Couples can often find themselves struggling to satisfy their visions of a dream wedding and finicky guests. Since no one wants their guest to become ill, it’s essential to keep food safety in mind when choosing a caterer.

The key is to follow good food safety guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. In preparation for any big meal, it’s a good idea to review FSIS’ “Cooking for Groups” publication. The pamphlet, also available in Spanish, features guidelines for preparing large quantities of food. Other resources at Foodsafety.gov are available 24/7.

Choosing a caterer doesn’t have to be stressful. Here are seven food safety questions to ask your caterer:

1. Are the staff members certified food handlers? If they're certified, this means the staff is properly trained on safe food handling.

2. How do you transport food to the venue? You want to ensure cold foods stay cold and pre-prepared hot foods stay hot. If caterers transport unsealed food containers in the same compartment, spillage and cross-contamination may occur.

3. When and where is the food prepared?
If the food is prepared off-site, ensure the caterers safely transport the food. If the food is prepared on-site, ensure the caterers have the appropriate tools they need to prepare and serve the food. Budget conscious couples may choose a venue without a fully stocked kitchen. When this happens, communicating this information to the caterer will ensure that they prepare by bringing the necessary cookware and supplies.

4. How long after food — especially meat, poultry and eggs — is cooked is it brought out to guests? Perishable foods should not sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.

5. How long does the buffet remain open and how will the caterer avoid the food entering the “danger zone?” Ask the caterer to provide chafing dishes or warming trays to keep hot foods hot, and ice or another cold source to keep cold foods cold. Otherwise, food may enter the danger zone, the temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees where bacteria multiply rapidly. Never leave perishable foods in the danger zone for more than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees. After two hours, food that has been sitting out should be replaced with fresh food.

6. Are there any potential allergens used in the preparation of the food? You should certainly ask your caterer if there are any allergens in the dishes, including peanuts, soy and wheat. If there are, guests should be notified.

7. Do you use a food thermometer to check that food is properly cooked?
The answer must be yes! No one — not even a caterer — can tell if meat is properly cooked by its color. They must use a meat thermometer.

Following these tips can help you and your guests enjoy a happy, healthy wedding instead of a trip to the doctor. For more healthy nuptial tips, check out APHA’s public health wedding board on Pinterest.




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fight hunger and support preparedness this Saturday via national food drive

When your postal carrier drops by this Saturday, she or he will be ready to pick up more than just mail. Saturday, May 13, is the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive, during which postal carriers pick up food donations that are set out next to U.S. mailboxes.

Held annually since 1992, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive collected more than 80 million pounds of food last year. The event is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers, with support from the U.S. Postal Service, United Way Worldwide, AARP Foundation and other sponsors.

To take part, just leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods next to your mailbox before your mail comes on Saturday. Organizers say the most-requested items are cereal, pasta, spaghetti sauce, rice, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, juice, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and canned proteins such as tuna, chicken and turkey. Healthy items such as beans, oatmeal and canola oil are also welcome. Food should be in non-breakable containers, such as boxes and cans, and should not be expired.

Statistics show that your donation will matter: In 2015, 42.2 million Americans lived in food-insecure households — meaning that they didn’t have enough food — including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children. 

“Letter carriers see many of these folks along our routes each day,” Fredric Rolando, National Association of Letter Carriers president. “Our food drive can make a positive difference in the lives of those who have been dealt difficult hands.”

Making a donation to Stamp Out Hunger can do more than fill empty bellies in your community. Food banks play an important role in community preparedness, because they are often where people turn to for assistance after a disaster or emergency. 

For more on the food drive, read the official FAQs. If you’re not sure whether your postal carrier will be taking part in the food drive Saturday, contact your local post office.

Thanks for helping your community be less hungry and more prepared!


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Be a better bystander: Know how to help in an emergency

Trauma — a disabling or life-threatening injury — is a common effect of natural disasters.
Bystanders who provide basic emergency care during disasters can help save lives. But they need to know how.

Isaac Lasko, a volunteer for Tufts University’s Emergency Medical Services and a biomedical engineering student with a pre-med focus, talked to APHA’s Get Ready campaign about actions people can take to help injured people in the time before professional help arrives.

“For natural disasters, what all of the safety really comes down to is prevention,” Lasko said.

Trauma is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 46. About 20 percent of U.S. trauma deaths in 2014 could have been prevented if there had been better care for victims when they were injured.

That’s where people like you come in. The primary way bystanders can make a difference is by assessing the situation and giving care that prevents things from getting worse, Lasko said. He recommends starting by checking a victim’s ABCs — airway, breathing and circulation.

“A two-hour class in basic CPR can give somebody the skills to really keep the A, B and C alive to the best of the ability of a bystander,” said Lasko.

Controlling bleeding is another crucial way you can help. For example, using towels or cloths to apply pressure to a wound can help stop bleeding after a serious injury, said Lasko. If bleeding doesn’t stop, tourniquets can also be used as a last resort to tie off a wound.

Often the best way to contribute to an emergency situation is to stay calm and reduce stress, Lasko said.

“Calmness, or the lack thereof, is something that people pick up from each other, so as a group you make the best decisions and you keep people feeling the safest,” he said.

Knowing the disaster risks in your community is also helpful. For example, in Massachusetts, where Tufts University is located, EMTs are often concerned with hypothermia, Lasko said. During extreme cold emergencies, people don’t have the same ability to regulate body temperature.

The American Red Cross offers classes that can teach you how to help out in an emergency. Another option is to volunteer with your local Community Emergency Response Team program, which can help you gain basic disaster response skills.

Learning the basics can help you be a better bystander.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Take a second and “ash” yourself: Are you prepared for wildfires?

Life isn’t always a box of chocolates. Instead, it’s often like a jar of jalapeños, and what you do today might burn you tomorrow, especially when it’s wildfire season.

Nine of the 10 years with the most destructive — meaning total land burned — wildfires have occurred since 2000. A record high was set in 2015, when more than 10 million acres burned. And the length of the typical fire season has tripled because of human-caused wildfires, which made up 84 percent of wildfires from 1992 to 2012.

FEMA/Jana Baldwin
The U.S. Fire Administration is doing something about it and so can you. In the words of Smokey Bear, “only you can prevent forest fires” and here are six quick, practical ways to do that:

The first step is to prepare:
• Make an emergency plan. Learn your evacuation routes and create a communication plan.
• Make an emergency kit and keep it in an easily accessible place. Remember your pets!
• Make sure to have a way to receive emergency information from officials through radios, phones and other devices.

It’s also important to protect:
• Keep your home — roof, rain gutters — and surrounding area clean and your yard green. Assure that your house number is visible.
• Make a safety zone of up to 100 feet around your house that is free from anything easily flammable, including dry leaves, branches and propane tanks.
• Purchase insurance and furniture with fire safety in mind.

For more tips on how to reduce your wildfire risk, check out our Get Ready fact sheet and share with your friends, family and community.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Science and preparedness go hand-in-hand: Say yes to the March for Science

Imagine this: you’re sitting in a tree house eating ants on a log and playing Two Truths and a Lie. You say, “Tsunamis are fake, the Get Ready Blog is fantastic and science is fascinating.”

If this aligns with your truth — you know tsunamis are real and love our Get Ready campaign, science, tree houses and more — the March for Science is for you and you are for the march!

This Earth Day, April 22, scientists and supporters are marching to celebrate science, with over 170 organizations and counting. The march distinguishes science as not just lab coats, goggles and Bill Nye the Science Guy, but as an explanation of the world around us.

Science and preparedness go hand-in-hand. Science provides the facts on climate change, including increasing heat waves, tropical storms, floods, fires and more. Because of science, we know that it’s more important than ever to be prepared for disasters. And as our APHA T-shirt says, “science is evidence, not opinion.”

March with APHA in Washington, D.C. or join one of the hundreds of local events. If you can’t attend in person, watch a livestream of the D.C. event on the March for Science website and chime in on social media with the #marchforscience hashtag.

But wait, preparedness first! Before you run out the door full of excitement and line up in the nation’s capital or in your hometown, make sure you’re prepared for crowds. And print out some of our great pro-science signs to show your love for the cause.

Happy marching!