Saturday, November 10, 2018

Turkey, pie, stuffing, oh my!


Is everyone ready for cookies, pie, turkey, ham and stuffing? I know I am! My mouth is watering just thinking about all of my holiday favorites! What are some of yours?  It is such a magical time of year filled with laughter and creating memories with friends and loved ones, but uninvited guests can quickly ruin your plans. As we move into the holiday season it is important to keep food safety tips in mind to protect ourselves and loved ones from foodborne illness. Wouldn’t we all prefer to look back fondly with memories such as “Remember when Billy finally beat Uncle John at Monopoly last Thanksgiving?” instead of “Remember when we were all sick for days after Thanksgiving last year?”.

As you begin to plan your delicious menus keep in mind these 4 simple tips

This is important all year round, especially when preparing foods! Our hands carry a lot of germs that can contaminate the food that we touch and then serve to others. Wash your hands before you begin preparing food and every time they become dirty or after you have handled raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.  Even if you are not sick you can still contaminate food with other germs. Speaking of sick - keep anyone who has been or is sick out of the kitchen! 

When preparing foods in your kitchen, be sure to keep “hazardous” foods (raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs) separate from the other “non-hazardous” foods in the kitchen (fresh fruits and vegetables, desserts, cheese, breads, anything “ready-to-eat”). “Hazardous” foods can carry pathogens that cause the classic food poisoning symptoms. To prevent contamination be sure to thoroughly wash and sanitize any utensils, knives, counter tops, cutting boards or equipment that have come into contact with “hazardous” foods and their juices before working with the “non-hazardous” foods. 

In order to make the “hazardous” foods safe to eat we must kill the pathogens they might be carrying. Many pathogens found in our foods can be killed simply with thorough cooking. One of the best investments you can make in your kitchen is to purchase a food probe thermometer. This will take the guess work out of cooking. When cooking “hazardous” foods make sure that the INTERNAL temperature reaches:
  •  165°F - Poultry, stuffed meats and stuffing containing meat
  • 158°F – Ground Meats (beef, pork, veal, etc) 
  •  150°F – Pork and foods containing pork 
  • 145°F – Eggs and egg products 
  • 140°F – All other potentially hazardous foods 
  • 130°F – Rare roast beef and/or rare beef steaks

Refrigerate or freeze left overs within 2 hours of serving. This will help prevent the growth of new pathogens. Can you guess their favorite temperature for growth? You guessed it - room temperature or about 70°F.

We don’t have time to be sick during the holidays. By following these simple tips we can spend our time enjoying the festivities and each other’s company…and all that pie! Bon appetite!

Amanda Finckel
Public Health Sanitarian
Environmental Health & Safety Division

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Teal is the New Orange


A few years ago I would not have known what this title meant, and maybe as you are reading it right now, you are questioning the same thing. I would not have realized how important the color teal is to millions of Americans all over the country, and how important it has become to our family.

My two and half year old son has a rare allergic disorder, eosinophilic esophagitis which causes inflammation in his esophagus, and makes him extremely sick if he eats certain foods. My son is lucky, in that his only food allergy is dairy.  However, many children and adults are allergic to many different foods. It is always a challenge when we go to special events, such as birthday parties and holiday gatherings.  I am that mom who carries bags and coolers of food around, so he can eat just like all of the other kids, and not feel different or feel left out.

Halloween is a special event, that yes, we are most definitely looking forward to.  But it is especially tricky (pun intended) for kids and families with food allergies, like us. Many of the traditional Halloween treats contain common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat. Lots of the fun-size versions of candy items contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts, and do not have ingredient labels, so it can be a real challenge when trick-or treating.

Here is where the color teal comes in. Teal is the color of food allergy awareness. The Teal Pumpkin Project is a worldwide movement that not only brings awareness, but it also helps those who suffer from food allergies to feel more included and safe on Halloween.

For four years, people have been placing teal pumpkins outside of their homes to show that they have non-food treats for children with food allergies and medically-necessary dietary restrictions.

Participating in the movement is easy:

  • Place a teal pumpkin outside of your home, 
  • Provide non-food treats
  • Add your home to the teal pumpkin project map, and  
  • Spread the word with friends and family.

Not only are food allergies life-altering and potentially life-threatening, but the disease is also a growing public health issue. In the U.S., one in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s roughly two in every classroom. The Teal Pumpkin Project is simple, but the impact it can have on those living with food allergies, is immense.

My family will be looking for teal pumpkins this Halloween for good reason but we want all families to avoid Halloween hazards we all need to be aware of.  For a quick rundown of safety tips to keep your little pumpkins safe, click here.  

Lindsay Dareff, RN
Registered Professional Nurse 
Health Planning and Promotion 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Do You Know How to Keep Your Family Safe?


The leaves are changing, the air is getting crisp and the snow will be flying before we know it! In the North County many homeowners and renters depend on the heat from fireplaces, wood stoves and other fossil-fuel heating appliances to keep their family warm during our cold winter months. Unfortunately, each year thousands of families experience costly property damages and injuries due to improperly cleaned heating sources. In fact, in the US there are more than 70,000 house fires annually causing more than $1.3 billion in property damage and over 2,500 injuries. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), chimney fires were the cause in approximately 30 percent of house fires. 
Good news…we are here to help! As a Public Health Educator in the Healthy Neighborhoods Program here at the Clinton County Health Department, I can provide free education and safety products to anyone living in Clinton County. You read that right, FREE!! Over the past year, Maryann (our other Public Health Educator in the Healthy Neighborhoods Program) and I have visited over 400 homes in Clinton County and given out countless home safety items to families just like you! 
  • Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detector,
  • Child safety products (cabinet locks, shock stopper, safety gates), 
  • Asthma safety materials (allergen barrier mattress and pillow covers, dust wipes, cleaning supplies) and
  • Other safety products like first aid kits, flashlights, nightlights and non-slip bath treads.
Keep Your Home and Family Safe

While enjoying the glow and warmth of your fireplace or wood stove this winter I urge you to keep your family’s safety in mind. As you probably know, your chimney is an important ventilation system that allows smoke, toxins and dangerous fumes to escape your home. A clean chimney means a safer, more efficient fireplace and home heating appliance 


I know we are all busy and the to-do list is never ending but let me tell you why it is so, so important to stay on top of chimney cleaning. Each time you have a fire in your wood-stove or fireplace creosote and soot stick to the flue and masonry inside the chimney. When this creosote buildup gets too thick the heat and burning embers from the fire is often all it takes to spark a chimney fire

Creosote is a black or brown residue that can be crusty and flaky, tar-like, drippy and sticky or shiny and hardened. All forms are highly combustible and can result in a chimney fire.  

More Efficient Home Heating
I think we can agree that we all want to be more efficient, especially when it comes to heating our homes. Cleanliness and efficiency go hand in hand. The cleaner your home heating system the more efficient it will be. The creosote buildup that we were just talking about not only poses a potential fire hazard but also decreases the efficiency of your fireplace. This means that you will have to burn more wood or other fossil fuels to stay warm.
Birds, rodents, insects oh my! Did you know that these little buggers can get into and clog your flue, preventing the escape of toxic fumes?! As these toxic fumes buildup it increases your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, also known as the silent killer. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) reports that there are more than 200 carbon monoxide deaths each year.
During a Healthy Neighborhoods Program visit, I make sure that your home has working carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors. Schedule a visit today 518-565-4870!
Proper Maintenance Pays Off
Budgeting for and scheduling an annual (more frequent cleanings may be needed based upon usage) chimney cleaning and inspection will help: 
  • Ward off chimney fires, 
  • Decrease your risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, 
  • Increase heating efficiency, 
  • Reduce the wear and tear and buildup of by-products that can cause costly chimney repairs and 
  • Uncover minor masonry problems before they develop into larger, more expensive problems.

Clean chimneys don’t catch fire. Keep your home and family safe by keeping your heating source clean. 

Heather Alden, Public Health Educator
Environmental Health and Safety Division