Consumer Reports latest tests of microwaves found few models that evenly cooked food — thus leaving some portions undercooked, with potential dangerous pathogens. You might not even know you’re eating undercooked food.
An estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are only 313 million people in the U.S., implying that potentially one third of the U.S. population has a foodborne illness at least once a year.
Consumer Reports recommends:
If cooking directions suggest letting food stand for a few minutes, allow it. The additional minutes allow the heat to spread throughout the food and continue the cooking process.
Consider stirring the food, such as halfway through the microwaving process. It will help distribute the warmth and help to ensure even cooking.
If your microwave has a lower wattage rating, you may need to cook your food longer. Be careful to compare the directions with that wattage of your microwave.
Advanced Animal Nutrition has announced a voluntary recall of its dry Dog Power Dog Food due to aflatoxin levels that were detected above the acceptable limit. The affected products were manufactured between Jan. 4 and Nov. 18.
Pets that aflatoxin consume may have symptoms of illness including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, or diarrhea should be seen by a veterinarian.
The Minnesota Department of Health on Friday said at least 60 people are likely sick with the norovirus after eating contaminated food at two events at downtown Duluth’s Greysolon Plaza Ballroom on Dec. 3.
“Preliminary information suggests that the illnesses are consistent with norovirus,” Robinson said. “This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that winter is the peak season for norovirus in Minnesota. The biggest prevention to help prevent the spread of norovirus is careful hand-washing with soap and water.”
People who have been ill should refrain from preparing food, commercially or for their own families, for an additional 72 hours after they recover, Robinson said. The virus, which moves from anal to oral contact, is not easily spread by casual contact but moves fast through contaminated food.
Symptoms usually appear 24 to 48 hours after contaminated food was eaten, “so people mistakenly believe it was the last food they ate, when it usually isn’t,” Robinson said. The virus can make people violently sick to their stomach, usually for a day or two, but rarely spurs any long-term health issues.
Greysolon Ballroom remains open and able to serve food, Robinson said, but Department of Health staff members have been on site to make sure the facility is taking proper precautions to prevent the problem from happening again.
Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed shopping cart handles in four states looking for bacterial contamination. 72 percent turned out to have a marker for fecal bacteria. Upon closer inspection of the samples, researchers discovered Escherichia coli (E. coli), on 50 percent of them.
“That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” said Charles Gerba, the lead researcher on the study and a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “That’s because they use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms. Nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts.”
Researchers at the University of Florida found that microwaving a kitchen sponge for two minutes killed 99 percent of all living germs and bacterial spores in sponges and pads, including E. coli, in about a minute.
University of Florida engineers Gabriel Bitton: “A dishwasher will not remove completely the microbes, unless you use chlorine and chlorine smells. So I think the best way to do it is simply wet your sponge, don’t do it with a dry sponge, wet the sponge, and put it in the microwave for about two minutes and the sponge will be sterilized.”
The engineers recommend:
– ensure the sponge is completely wet
– two minutes of microwaving is sufficient for most sterilization
– sponges should also have no metallic content
– be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave, as it will be hot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that romaine lettuce from a single farm is likely to blame for an E. coli outbreak in Georgia, Missouri and eight other states.
Sixty people became sick in the outbreak that began in October and ended in November. No one died, but at least 30 were hospitalized and two developed severe kidney disease.
Thirty-seven of the illnesses were in Missouri. Illinois had the second-most reported illnesses with nine. Besides Georgia, other illnesses were reported in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota and Nebraska.
American Airlines was recently sued after a passenger’s family alleged that he died as a result of a tainted in-flight meal. While it’s unlikely that evidence will convict American, there have been many stories in the past about health code violations with vendors that prepare inflight meals. Consider bringing a meal with you for your trip, rather than purchasing an onboard germ snack.
Now part of Southwest, low budget airline AirTran, formerly known as ValuJet until a horrific crash in Florida, is accused of flying planes with cockroaches. A couple is seeking more than $100,000 after allegedly spotting cockroaches crawling out of air vents and baggage compartments on their flight.
There’s new evidence that handling paper flipped through by your unwashed colleague can also bring germs to you. Researchers in Germany had volunteers handle paper contaminated with four kinds of common bacteria, including E. coli and staph. The study found that the germs survived on the paper for at least 72 hours (3 days!) and could be cultivated from those same sheets a week later. This study shows that bacteria not only survive on paper, but can also be transferred from one person’s hand to paper and back to another person’s hands.
The National Center for Infectious Diseases suggests washing your hands:
before, during and after food preparation
before and after bathroom use
after handling pets
throughout the day if someone near you is sick, or if it seems there are a number of co-workers walking around with a cold or the flu
Also, don’t think a quick swish under the faucet is enough. You need to work up a good lather with soap and water for about 10-15 seconds and scrub thoroughly before rinsing well and drying your hands. If dry skin is a concern, try using a moisturizer after washing.
Furthermore, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians outline the following four principles for hand awareness:
Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.
Do not cough into your hands.
Do not sneeze into your hands.
Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth.