Thursday, July 20, 2017

Heating things up: The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline’s popular summer questions

Today’s guest blog is by Janell Goodwin, a technical information specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, who tackles some of your summer food safety questions.

It’s summertime, and USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline agents are heating things up by answering your food safety questions! Hotline experts keep the public safe from foodborne illness by answering calls on all sorts of food safety topics.

As a technical information specialist on the hotline, the first question consumers usually ask is “Are you a real person?” The answer is “Yes!” The hotline has real, live people who single-handedly answer every one of your food safety questions. In fact, since the start of the hotline in 1985, more than 3 million calls from the public have been answered.

Summer is filled with tons of activities, festivals, concerts and most importantly, food! The hotline wants to make sure your summer is free from foodborne illness. When it comes to questions, we’ve probably heard them all. Here are a few of the most popular questions answered during summer:

I want to marinate my meat before I grill. I can just leave it on the counter while it’s marinating, right? No, marinating should be done in the refrigerator for safety.

Is it true that my hamburger is done when it turns mostly brown on the inside and the juices run clear? Your burger is only safe when it has reached an internal temperature of 160°F, as measured by a food thermometer.

I’m going to a park to grill and won’t have access to running water. What should I use to clean my hands and utensils? Bring water and soap for preparation and cleaning, or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes.

I’m going to a friend’s for a barbeque. I want to bring something to grill there. Is it safe to partially cook meat or poultry to finish grilling later? Never brown or partially cook meat or poultry to refrigerate and finish later because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed.

Is it OK to refrigerate or freeze leftover cooked hamburgers? If it’s refrigerated promptly after cooking — within two hours, or one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F — it can be safely refrigerated or frozen.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Beat the heat with our new summer infographic

Summer is officially in full force, and that means beaches, water fights and delicious barbeques.

But, unfortunately, summer can also mean heat, dehydration, ticks, mosquitoes and other hazards. Luckily, APHA’s Get Ready campaign is here to show you how to reduce your risks and stay summer safe.

Our new summer infographic can help make this summer one you remember for the right reasons. The infographic is perfect for sharing via social media, websites and events in your neighborhood. Get tips for staying safe in the sun and getting cool.

For even more summertime safety tips, check out our new Storify report for easy-to-read information on water safety, sunscreen, weather disasters, food safety and more!

Still can’t get enough? Visit the Get Ready Summer Safe webpage for fact sheets, podcasts and other resources that can help keep your summertime activities safe from disasters.

Now you’re ready for some awesome summertime fun!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

All hail hail! 7 facts to know when balls of ice suddenly fall from the sky

Hailstorms are kind of like that cousin who never calls or texts to check in and then randomly decides to show up to your house uninvited. You never know when they might appear and mess up your day. Even if you’ve never been in a hailstorm, it’s not a bad thing to brush up on your knowledge. So here are seven quick facts everyone should know about hail.

1. Hail isn’t frozen rain. According to the National Geographic Society, the big difference is that hail falls from the sky in solid form. Freezing rain falls as a liquid and then freezes to a solid as it nears the ground.
2. It doesn’t need to be cold outside for hail to fall. Hail forms when updrafts in thunderstorms carry raindrops up into extremely cold areas of the atmosphere. That’s where they then freeze into balls of ice, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

3. You can’t just eyeball a thunderstorm in the distance for signs of hail. NOAA says that to determine the probability of hail, meteorologists need radar to look inside the storm. Because hail gives off more energy than raindrops, it’ll appear as the color red on radar.

4. Never underestimate the effects of hailstones. The National Weather Service reports that even small hail can cause significant damage.

5. If there are hailstorm warnings, make sure you close blinds or window shades to prevent possible injuries from broken glass. And don’t run outside during a hailstorm to protect your car or other property, says the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. Stay inside and away from windows, skylights and doors.

6. Once a hailstorm is over, you can go out and check for damage. If shrubs, trees and plants are stripped of foliage, there’s a good possibility that your roof is also damaged. If that’s the case, cover the holes in your roof as well as any broken windows to prevent water from coming in.

7. Fun fact: The majority of hailstones are small in size, at about two inches in diameter. But volleyball-sized hailstones have been recorded, measuring eight inches in diameter. Picture that!

Photo courtesy FEMA/Win Henderson 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer fun means summer crowds: How to stay safe and healthy

Summer’s in full swing, and that means concerts, parades, vacations, baseball games and fireworks. Big summer events can mean big summer crowds. But have no fear — knowing a few tips about how to navigate crowds can help you stay safe in the sun.

First off, it’s important to know what type of event you’ll be going to. If it’s a big celebration like the Fourth of July, you may be outside for a long time. If you’re in the sun all day, take some advice from the American Red Cross and bring plenty of water and snacks.

Also important is to know the signs for heat stroke: red, hot skin; losing consciousness; shallow breathing; and a weak pulse. Wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes and face from the sun. Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and make sure to reapply throughout the day.

What if the event is a nighttime concert? Big gatherings can create a higher risk for getting sick and hurt, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Infectious disease can spread more easily in crowds. So make sure you’re up on your immunizations and use hand sanitizer. Scope out where the first-aid area is so you can quickly head there if you need to. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate you, and alcohol, which can affect your safety.

In general, it helps to always be prepared for emergencies and have a plan. Whatever event you’re going to, arrive early to check out the area. Find a safe place where your family and friends can meet if something happens. Also, be aware of where emergency exits are and stay near them. If there is a less crowded area to be in, move there.

Above all, listen for official instructions and take action right away if told to. For more tips, check out Get Ready’s fact sheet on crowd safety.Whatever event you end up attending this summer, make sure health and safety is part of the plan.

Photo courtesy PEXELS/Manuel Joseph 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Portugal wildfire claims dozens of lives: Are you ready for a wildfire?

On June 18, an enormous wildfire swept through an area of central Portugal. More than 60 people died, half of whom were trapped in their vehicles, according to news reports. Although most wildfires over the past 10 years have been caused by people, this wildfire was caused by nature. Portuguese authorities said that the fire was caused by lightning during dry thunderstorms.

With this tragic event, many people can’t help but ask “Would I know what to do in a wildfire?”

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, if you’re trapped in a vehicle during a wildfire, it’s important to stay calm. Park your vehicle away from vegetation and close all windows and vents. Cover yourself with a wool blanket or jacket and lie on your vehicle’s floor. Use your cellphone to call 911.

If you find yourself on foot and not near a home or building, Cal Fire recommends finding an area clear of vegetation, such as a ditch or depression on ground level. Lie face down, cover yourself and call 911.

If you’re at home during a wildfire, stay inside and fill your sinks and tubs with water. Close your doors and windows but don’t lock them. Stay back from outside walls and windows and listen for emergency updates.

Preparing for a wildfire begins long before the first wisp of smoke, however. If you have not already, make an emergency plan. Then set aside time to practice. This will help ensure that if a wildfire does happen, you and those you live with will be able to act quickly. You also want to have emergency supplies and keep them in an easily accessible place. Be sure you have a way of receiving emergency information from officials. This can be a radio, phone or other device. Cal Fire recommends evacuating as soon as authorities recommend it.

Remember, wildfires are uncontrolled and unplanned, so being able to act quickly is in your best interest.

Read our fact sheet for more information and check out this wildfire evacuation guide.

Photo courtesy FEMA/Jana Baldwin