Category Archives: Food Safety

Dec 14 2012

Public Health News Roundup: December 14

Hookahs a Growing Public Health Concern in California
The increasing number of cafes and lounges featuring hookahs poses a public health risk for the state of California, according to state officials. Hookah use in California increased 40 percent from 2005 to 2008, according to 2011 state tobacco survey published in the American Journal of Public Health. While there is a perception that hookahs are safe than cigarettes, tobacco smoke from hookahs includes the carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, plus more carbon monoxide and extra carcinogens.  "There is a very, very concerning misperception about the use of hookahs among youth, thinking it's somehow safer. In fact, it puts you at the same risk," said Ron Chapman, MD, the state director of public health. Watch a video interview with Ron Chapman.

HHS: Child Abuse Cases Down, But Thousands Still Need Help
While the number of child abuse cases dropped for the fifth year in a row in 2011, there are still thousands of U.S. children in need of help, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families. "We have made excellent progress over the past five years," said George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary of the administration, said in a release. "But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help. We must continue coordination efforts among federal, state and local agencies to focus on child maltreatment prevention." About 11 percent of the abused children were physically or mentally disabled. In 2011, 1,570 died due to abuse or neglect. Read more on violence.

CDC Releases Tips on Staying Healthy During the Holiday Season
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released Give the Gift of Health and Safety: Healthy Living Holiday Tips, a digital kit with advice on how to keep yourself, your friends and your family healthy during the holiday season. In addition to more obvious recommendation such as making sure all food is thoroughly cooked and not drinking and driving, there are also tips on how to stay warm (especially important for older adults), how to manage stress and how to travel safely. Read more on safety.

Nov 21 2012

Recommended Reading: Don’t Drink and Shop…or Debate

Walmart, Sears and other big retailers kicked off a new Thanksgiving trend this week:  the stores will open their doors Thanksgiving evening for Black Friday sales, attracting dedicated bargain shoppers. But a thoughtful and well researched article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution published earlier this week might make you think twice: if you’ve been drinking alcohol during dinner (or are drowsy from turkey tryptophan) and head straight to the car, you pose a risk to yourself and others on the road. And that risk accelerates if you’re scanning your smart phone from the steering wheel, looking for the best buys in your neighborhood.  

As you get ready for the marathon shopping night leading into the biggest shopping day of the year, APHA’s Public Health Newswire offers some suggestions for a safe, healthy and drama-free Thanksgiving. The tongue-in-cheek article offers fun tips on how to safely discuss controversial health issues with extended family, as well as more serious public health hints, including proper food safety steps and how to consider health without counting calories. 

These hints will help you leave the dinner table alive. And above all have a safe, healthy Thanksgiving!

>>Read the driving safety article.
>>Read the healthy Thanksgiving article.

Sep 26 2012

Public Health News Roundup: September 26

HHS Program to Expand Mental Health Care for Rural Area, Military Personnel
A new program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will increase the number of social workers and psychologists providing care to military personnel, veterans and people living in rural areas. The $9.8 million grant will be shared by 24 graduate social work and psychology schools and programs. “Mental health services are critical for those dealing with posttraumatic stress and other severe problems,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a release. “Increasing the number and quality of providers to care for these individuals is a major step forward in addressing these challenges.” Read more on mental health.

Study: 20 Percent of Prescriptions Unfilled for Kids on Medicaid
A new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests that more than 20 percent of prescriptions to children on Medicaid may not be filled. The study looked at 4,833 kids receiving approximately 17,000 total prescriptions over a two-year period at two Chicago clinics, finding that 22 percent of the prescriptions were never filled. The study did find that prescriptions for antibiotics were far more likely to be filled than those for vitamins and minerals. Rachael Zweigoron, MD, lead researcher from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, said the findings suggest pediatricians need to do a better job of explaining the importance of particular prescriptions. Read more on pediatrics.

Peanut Butter Recall as 30 Sickened by Salmonella
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified peanut butter as the likely cause of 30 cases of salmonella across 19 states. So far four people have been hospitalized from the tainted Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter made with Sea Salt. The chain is recalling that and other types of peanut butter. Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps in most patients, but can lead to more serious complications and even death. Read more on food safety.

Sep 10 2012

Public Health News Roundup: September 10

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day
Worldwide, suicide is the third leading cause of death among adults ages 18 to 45. In observance of World Suicide Prevention Day, the World Health Organization has released  the Public Health Action Plan for Prevention of Suicide, and later today The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention will release the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a report from the U.S. Surgeon General and the Alliance. The report will identify community-based approaches to help curb the incidence of suicide, new ways to identify people at risk for suicide, and outline national priorities for suicide prevention. Follow NewPublicHealth for coverage of the release. Read more on mental health.

USDA Diet Tracker Reaches 1 Million Users
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) SuperTracker diet planning and tracking tool has reached one million registered users. According to the USDA, the tool helps people make healthy lifestyle choices to improve their dietary pattern, maintain a healthy weight, track their level of physical activity, and reduce their risk of chronic disease. Read more on obesity.

Multistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Turtles
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration and public health officials in several states are investigating multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to exposure to turtles or their environments (such as water from a turtle habitat). More than 160 illnesses have been reported from 30 states; 64 percent of ill persons are children age 10 or younger, and 27 percent of ill persons are children age one year or younger. Fifty-six percent of ill persons are Hispanic.

The CDC reminds households:

  • Don’t buy small turtles from street vendors, websites, pet stores or other sources.
  • Keep reptiles out of homes with young children or people with weakened immune systems.
  • Reptiles should not be kept in child care centers, nursery schools, or other facilities with young children.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after touching a reptile or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should always supervise hand washing for young children.

Read more on infectious disease.

Aug 20 2012

Public Health News Roundup: August 20

Salmonella Deaths Linked to Cantaloupes
Two deaths and approximately 150 cases of salmonella have been linked to cantaloupe in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. Health officials are encouraging consumers to immediately discard any melons purchased from those three states, according to Reuters. Salmonella can cause severe diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. It is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Read more on food safety.

Teens Who Expect Early Deaths More Likely to Take Dangerous Risks
Teens who predict they have a 50 percent or less chance of living to the age of 35 were more likely than they peers to engage in risk-taking behavior, according to a new study published in the August 1 issue of PLOS ONE. The study compared data collected on 19,000 adolescents in 1994-95 to data collected on the same group approximately 14 years later. Researchers also found the teens were more likely to attempt suicide and abuse alcohol and drugs. “The new research extends previous work by the same group that found expectations of premature death can predict future socioeconomic status” and demonstrates the value in early screening to help predict—and stop—later harmful behaviors, according to a news release. Read more on substance abuse.

Antimicrobial Products Identified in Minnesota Waterways
Chemicals found in personal care products—antimicrobial soaps, disinfectants and sanitizers—have been identified in high concentrations in bodies of freshwater in Minnesota. The study was conducted by Arizona State University researchers in conjunction with federal partners. They looked specifically for triclosan and triclocarban, two chemicals that can stay in the environment for decades. The study “shows natural degradation processes to be too slow to counter the continuous environmental release of these endocrine disrupting chemicals,” said Rolf Halden, director of Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Read more on the environment.

Jul 25 2012

Public Health News Roundup: July 25

NIH Will Test Vaginal Ring for HIV Prevention in Women
U.S. researchers announced at the 2012 International AIDS Conference yesterday that they will begin a multinational clinical trial this month to test the effectiveness and extended safety of a vaginal ring containing an experimental antiretroviral drug to prevent HIV infection in women. Results are expected in early 2015.

“Developing scientifically proven forms of HIV prevention that women can control is essential,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Because the vaginal ring is a long-acting intervention, it has a potential added benefit in that women may find it relatively easy to use.”

Most women who acquire HIV do so through unprotected sex, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because many women cannot negotiate male condom use with their sexual partners, women need forms of HIV prevention that they can use independently and regularly. The clinical trial will be conducted in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Read more on AIDS.

Ground Beef, Strollers Recalled
Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Although the “use by date” has passed, the USDA is concerned that consumers may have packages of the meat, which is stamped EST. 9400, in their freezers. So far, 33 people in seven states have become ill. The states are Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and Vermont.

Baby stroller firm Peg-Perego is recalling more than 200,000 strollers sold between 2004 and 2007 because of a baby death caused by a Peg-Perego stroller eight years ago. A baby’s head and neck can become trapped between the stroller tray and the seat bottom. Read more on food safety.

Study: Tanning Beds Vastly Increase Skin Cancer Risk in Young People
Using a tanning bed increases the risk of skin cancer by 20 percent, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal. However, starting to use tanning beds before age 35 can raise that risk by 87 percent, according to the study. The results are based on an analysis of 27 studies published between 1981 and 2012 that looked at 11,000 cases of skin cancer. Read more on cancer.

Jul 3 2012

Public Health News Roundup: July 3

UPDATE: CDC Reports Injuries from Accidental Ingestion of Wire Bristles from Grill-Cleaning Brushes

Internal injuries have been reported following unintentional ingestion of wire grill-cleaning brush bristles, according an early release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Bristles can dislodge from the grill brush and become embedded in cooked food. A series of six cases from a single hospital system were reported during July 2009–November 2010 was reported previously, and this report describes a series of six more cases identified at the same hospital system during March 2011–June 2012. The severity of injury ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract requiring emergent surgery. Report authors recommend that people should examine the grill surface carefully for the presence of bristles before cooking. Read more on food safety.

Government Agencies Urge Caution, Safety around Home Fireworks

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration have released advisories regarding transporting and using fireworks. Fireworks are not permitted in checked or carry on luggage and should never be lit in a car. Read more on July 4th safety.

Infants Born at 37 or 38 Weeks at Risk for Delays that Impact School Work

A new study in Pediatrics suggests that even infants born at 37 or 38 weeks’ gestation (technically "at term," and not typically considered early) are at risk of developmental delays as well as other mental and physical health difficulties. Researchers looked at data on 128,000 babies born between 37 and 41 weeks’ gestation in New York City. Birth records were matched with public school records of standardized third-grade math and reading tests. Researchers found achievement scores for children born at 37 and 38 weeks were significantly lower than those of children born at 39, 40 or 41 weeks. Compared to children born at 41 weeks, children born at 37 weeks have a 23 percent increased risk of having a moderate reading impairment; children born at 38 weeks have a 13 percent increased risk. Math scores were also lower for children born at 37 or 38 weeks. Researchers say this study underscores the importance of prenatal care to ensure mothers carry their infants to term as long as possible. Read more on maternal and infant health.

NIH Appoints New Director for Office of Disease Prevention

David M. Murray, PhD, has been selected as the director of the Office of Disease Prevention of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to NIH, the Office of Disease Prevention (ODP) is the lead office in the agency responsible for assessing, facilitating and stimulating research on disease prevention and health promotion, and disseminating the results of this research to improve public health.

Dr. Murray is currently the chair and professor of the Division of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health at Ohio State University and has focused on the design and analysis of group-randomized trials in which identifiable social groups are randomized to conditions and members of those groups are observed to assess the effect of an intervention. He also conducts research to develop and test new methods for their analysis.

Jul 2 2012

Public Health News Roundup: July 2

Dole Fresh Vegetables Voluntarily Recalls Bagged Salads

Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling 2,598 cases of bagged salad, due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes. The product being recalled is Dole Hearts of Romaine, with a use-by date of June 26. No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall. Read more on food safety.

Physical Punishment of Children Linked to Mental Disorders Later in Life

A new study published in Pediatrics finds that physical punishment such as slapping, pushing and grabbing was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders after adjusting for sociodemographic variables and family history of dysfunction. The study team used data collected by United States Census interviewers in 2004 and 2005 in surveys of close to 35,000 adults across the country, and excluded anyone who reported being physically, sexually or emotionally abused by family members, to help isolate the effect of physical punishment that didn't escalate to the level of severe maltreatment. The researchers estimated that estimated between two and seven percent of mental disorders might be due to punishments inflicted in childhood. Read more on violence.

Young Athletes Often Get Unhealthy Food Choices

The food and beverages available to youth when they participate in organized sports can often be unhealthy, according to a new study released in the July/August 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. The findings were based on focus group interviews with 60 parents of players participating in youth basketball programs. Common food in youth sport settings were sweets such as candy and doughnuts; pizza; hot dogs; and salty snacks such as chips and cheese puffs; as well as soda and sports drinks. The researchers recommend developing nutrition guidelines for sport leagues regarding the types of food and beverages that are appropriate for organized snacks and concession stands. Read more on nutrition.

Jun 29 2012

July 4: Fire up the Grill, Hold the Salmonella

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reporting that cases of foodborne illnesses surge in the summer season, likely because bacteria multiply faster when it’s warm. Key stats from the USDA:

  • Americans spend $400 million on beef alone for July 4th barbecues.
  • USDA research shows that 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown before it has reached a safe internal temperature.
  • New FDA research done in collaboration with USDA shows that only 23 percent of Americans who own a food thermometer actually use it when grilling hamburgers
  • 48 million Americans (at least 1 in 6) will get sick from foodborne illness this year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths



USDA also offers more resources on summer grilling and on the critical steps for food safety, as well as this handy infographic as a reminder to take steps like using separate plates for raw and cooked food when grilling:

Food safety isn't the only concern this holiday. This year, the National Safety Council estimates 17,300 serious injuries and 173 traffic deaths will occur between 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, and 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 4. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is also posing some compelling July food for thought: "Would you let your kids handle a blowtorch?" According to the CPSC, sparklers burn at the same temperature as blowtorches: 2,000 degrees. In the month surrounding July 4th, 2010, the CPSC reports that 6,300 injuries were reported involving fireworks, including burns to the hands, face and head. Additional safety tips include:

  • Steer clear of fireworks packaged in brown paper, as they may be professional-grade and not safe for home use.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket.

The National Safety Council has additional July 4 tips on safe driving over the holiday, preventing drowning and safety hazards from hot weather.

Jun 26 2012

Public Health News Roundup: June 26

Pandemic H1N1 More Deadly than Reported Previously

The H1N1 flu epidemic that struck in 2009 killed may have killed 15 times more people than reported, according to a new study in Lancet Infectious Diseases. According to the study, during the pandemic 18,500 laboratory-confirmed deaths were reported to the World Health Organization from April 2009 through August 2010, but as many as 575,400 people may have actually died, according to a review of the epidemic by an international group of scientists. The study also found that the majority of deaths were in people under 65, although in seasonal flu those over 65 are more likely to die of the virus, and populations in low-income countries were particularly hard hit. Read more on flu.

Preventive Services Task Force Releases New Guidelines on Obesity Screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has released new guidelines in the Annals of Internal Medicine recommending that doctors screen all of their patients for obesity and, if appropriate, refer them to a lifestyle-management program to help them lose weight. The task force report did not discuss weight loss drugs or bariatric surgery. Read more on obesity.

Young Children With Food Allergies May Have Reactions More Frequently than Expected

Young children with allergies to milk and egg experience reactions to these and other foods more often than researchers had expected, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in Pediatrics. The study researchers also found that caregivers often fail to give epinephrine, which can be life saving, when a reaction occurs. Read more on children's health.

Even Mild Physical Activity May Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

A new analysis by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that that mild or intense physical activity before or after menopause may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. However, weight gain may negate the benefit of the exercise. The study was published in the journal Cancer.

The study included 1,504 women with breast cancer and 1,555 women without breast cancer who were between the ages of 20 and 98, and were part of the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, an investigation of possible environmental causes of breast cancer. Read more on cancer.

Dole Recalls Bagged Salad Linked to Listeria Sold at Kroger and Walmart Stores

The Dole Company is recalling bagged salads from Kroger and Walmart stores in six states because of possible contamination with listeria. No illnesses have been reported so far. Read more on food safety.