Category Archives: E. coli

E.coli kills two girls in U.S. Pacific Northwest, boy hospitalized | Reuters

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Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaTwo young girls have died and a boy was hospitalized in critical condition in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday after becoming infected with E.coli in two separate incidents, health officials said.

via E.coli kills two girls in U.S. Pacific Northwest, boy hospitalized | Reuters.

 

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New shellfish safety map shows risks in real-time

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From the Washington State Department of Health

shellfish mapA new online shellfish safety map gives shellfish harvesters an up-to-date look at biotoxins, pollution, and bacteria levels at public beaches or on their private property.

Beach names, nearby landmarks, and specific addresses are searchable to help provide real-time information on shellfish safety risks.

The new shellfish safety map was developed to provide current information about areas where water quality conditions and public health risks are evaluated by the Department of Health. Continue reading

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Grilling tips from the Department of Health

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State officials advise: be known for great grilling, not making people sick

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Food safety experts from the Department of Health want people to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illnesses, especially when preparing foods for picnics and barbecues during warm weather.

“Bacteria in or on food can multiply quickly in warm weather,” explains State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “By making sure food is prepared, cooked, and served properly you can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and be well-known for great barbecues and picnics instead of for making people sick.”

Safeguards can be taken when preparing foods to be eaten outdoors, such as using a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked at the correct temperature. Continue reading

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Do not eat raw clover sprouts from Evergreen Fresh Sprouts, health officials warn

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Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coliO121 Infections Linked to Raw Clover Sprouts

Advice to Consumers – from the CDC

  • The Washington State Department of HealthExternal Web Site Icon and the Idaho Department of Health and WelfareExternal Web Site Icon are advising people not to eat raw clover sprouts produced by Evergreen Fresh Sprouts.
    • People who have these sprouts at home should not eat them and should throw them out, even if some of the product has been eaten and no one has become ill.
  • Contact your health care provider if you think you may have become ill from eating raw clover sprouts.
    • People usually get sick from STEC 2-8 days (average of 3-4 days) after swallowing the organism (germ).
    • Most people infected with STEC develop diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps.
    • Most people recover within a week.
    • People of any age can become infected. Very young children and the elderly are more likely than others to develop severe illness and complications such as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), but even healthy older children and young adults can become seriously ill.
  • Always practice food safety for sprouts.
    • Sprouts are a known source of foodborne illnessExternal Web Site Icon.
    • Children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
    • Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking thoroughly kills the harmful bacteria.
    • Persons who think they might have become ill from eating potentially contaminated raw clover sprouts should consult their health care providers.

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E. coli outbreak linked to raw clover sprouts

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Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!Clover sprouts eaten raw are likely source of E. coli illness outbreak

Washington state health officials are warning consumers not to eat raw clover sprouts from an Idaho producer that have been linked to an outbreak of E. coli infections in the Northwest.

The sprouts have been linked to seven confirmed and three probable cases of E. coli O121 illnesses in Washington and Idaho.

Five of those patients were hospitalized; there have been no deaths.

For more details about the outbreak:  Continue reading

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Pollution halts Vaughn Bay shellfish harvest: 14 other areas threatened

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Pollution to close shellfish harvest in one area; 14 others listed as threatened
Fecal bacteria levels force new restrictions to protect shellfish consumers

From the Washington State Department of health:

Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!OLYMPIA — The state Department of Health has closed harvesting in part of Vaughn Bay in Pierce County due to high levels of fecal bacteria. Health officials also identified 14 more of Washington’s 101 commercial shellfish growing areas that could be closed in the future if fecal pollution continues to get worse.

“The good news is that the pollution problems in almost all these areas can be found and fixed,” said Bob Woolrich, Growing Area section manager. “There have been many successful pollution correction projects using partnerships with local and state agencies, Tribes, and others.”

The agency shellfish program evaluates the state’s shellfish growing areas every year to see if water quality is approaching unsafe limits. If so, areas are listed as “threatened” with closure.

Shellfish harvesting areas threatened with closure include:

Continue reading

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Keep germs off the guest list at holiday meals

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Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keep all your guests healthy by following these food safety tips from the Snohomish Health District.

Proper planning.

Make sure your kitchen has everything you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for cooling and storage, paper towels and soap.

Store foods in the refrigerator at 41°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe shopping. 

At the grocery store, bag raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the store.

Always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under cold-running water. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature.

Working in the kitchen. 

Got extra helpers in the kitchen? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, visiting the restroom, or changing a baby’s diapers. Keep all work surfaces sanitized, too. Spray or wipe on a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach per gallon of cold water.

When baking holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Make eggnog with pasteurized eggs and pasteurized milk, or simply buy it ready-made with those ingredients.

Adding a nip of brandy or whiskey will not kill the germs. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to cook the mixture to 165°F, then refrigerate.

Cook. 

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the

harmful bacteria that cause illness. Cook your turkey to a minimum of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, including the stuffing.

The healthiest method is to prepare and cook the stuffing separately – outside the bird. Test the bird’s temp in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast, and the inside. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer rest against bone.

Potluck contributions. 

Remember to keep hot foods hot (135°F or higher) and cold foods cold (41°F or below). To help keep foods hot wrap dishes in foil, cover them in heavy towels, or put them in insulated containers designed to keep food hot.

For cold foods, put them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs, or use an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 41°F or lower, especially if traveling for more than half an hour.

Buffet, anyone? 

If you set up food in a buffet line, take care to put spoons in each dish for self-service, and assist children in filling their plates. No fingers allowed!

Wrap it up! 

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with the date it was prepared. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 41°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of an at-home food-borne illness.

Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving. Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Following these food safety steps at your house will make the meal a happy memory for everyone. Happy, healthy holidays from the Snohomish Health District!

Additional resources:

Free kit

The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at www.holidayfoodsafety.org provides food safety advice and meal planning in one convenient location.

The kit includes information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food-safe) recipes. ]

The kit also has arts and crafts activities and downloads for kids so they can join the holiday fun.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaNothing can ruin a party quite like food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 31 pathogens known to cause food-borne illness.

Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to food-borne diseases.

Typical symptoms of food-borne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps which can start hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment.

But food-borne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition or medication that weakens the immune system.

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Fair season is here: win the blue ribbon for health and safety

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Rooster looking through the wires of a cage

From the Washington State Department of Health

Hanging out with the goats, poultry, and cows can be the highlight of any trip to the local fair. Yet fair animals can also spread certain diseases.

“Going to see the animals at the fair is a treasured tradition for many families,” said Ron Wohrle, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health. “But even healthy animals can spread E. coli and Salmonella bacteria to people, which can make them sick. By following some basic safety tips you can enjoy the animals at the fair and stay healthy.”

Many kinds of animals can carry dangerous bacteria and viruses. The germs can be in their saliva, on their coats, and on surfaces contaminated by their waste. People can pick up those germs when they touch the animals or their surroundings. Most get sick by putting their hands or a contaminated object in their mouth or nose.

An estimated half-million people in the U.S. get sick every year because of a visit to animals at a fair, petting zoo, or other exhibit. Washington rules require signs warning people of the health risks, along with hand washing or sanitization stations near animal exhibits. Pregnant women, older adults, kids under five, and anyone who has an underlying illness should be especially careful to follow posted precautions.

Washing hands with running water and soap is the best way to avoid getting sick. It’s especially important after touching animals or their surroundings and before eating or drinking.

Children under five should be watched at all times while they visit animals to make sure they don’t put their hands or objects, like a pacifier, in their mouth while interacting with animals.

Stroller wheels can also pick up germs from animal areas and have been tied to illnesses in the past.

Call your health care provider immediately if someone in your family becomes sick after coming in contact with animals.

The Department of Health investigates cases and outbreaks of animal-related illnesses and works to make sure that places where animals are displayed follow state regulations. Information on staying healthy around animals is available online.

Photo courtesy of Christine Landis

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Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your summer picnic or barbecue – Department of Health

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hamburgerHot summer temperatures and meals served outside can be a recipe for illness if outdoor chefs don’t follow a few basic guidelines to keep outside eating healthy and safe.

“It’s harder to keep food at safe temperatures when it’s hot outside and we eat food away from home,” said Food Safety Program Manager Dave Gifford. “If you plan your picnic or barbecue so that food is stored and cooked at the correct temperatures and served safely, you can avoid food-related illnesses.”

Foodborne illnesses can range from mild nausea to a serious condition that requires medical attention.

Young children, the elderly, and people who have a weakened immune system are at higher risk to get severely ill.

Making sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often during food preparation is one of many ways to ensure that foods served outdoors are safe to eat.

State health officials also recommend storing ready-to-eat foods separately from raw meat to prevent contamination, preparing meat for barbecues at home using clean utensils, and washing fruits and vegetables before slicing and serving.

When packing for an outdoor picnic or barbecue, make sure to bring a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to a safe temperature; a cooler with plenty of ice to keep cold foods cold; and disposable wet-wipes, paper towels, and garbage bags for cleaning up.

Barbecued meat might look done, but only a food thermometer can show you if the food is safe. Recommended cooking temperatures:

  • Ground beef and hamburger – 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Hot dogs – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Steaks and roasts – 145 Fahrenheit
  • Chicken breasts – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Fish – 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pork – 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Food that has been kept chilled at 41 degrees or below and whole fruits, bakery items, chips, and unopened drinks can be used later. Throw away prepared food such as barbecued meat, salad, melon, and sandwiches that have been sitting out for more than two hours.

Extra food should be kept cold in a cooler that’s stored in the shade. Food left in a car, on a table, or in a picnic basket for more than two hours should be thrown out.

More barbecue and picnic food safety tips are available online.

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E. coli outbreak leads to expanded recall of frozen food products

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Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!The Washington State Department of Health is warning people that several types of frozen food products – Farm Rich, Market Day, and Schwan’s brands – have been recalled due to possible contamination with E. coli.

 

The products were distributed widely throughout Washington.

The recalls are related to a national E. coli outbreak that sickened 27 people from 15 states, including a Pierce County woman in her 20s.

“The foods in this recall were sent to stores throughout our state,” said Dave Gifford, Food Safety program manager. “E. coli can be very serious. We’re asking people to look at the recall list, check their freezers carefully, and throw out any of these products that they find.”

The type of E. coli in this outbreak is a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 (STEC O121), which is similar to E. coli O157:H7.

It can cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. It can sometimes result in severe, life-threatening illness.

The recalled product list continues to expand and now includes several varieties of frozen snacks and mini-meal products.

The full list of the products currently covered by the recall is on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website; more info is on the Food Safety Program website.

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Healthy Monday Tip: Suds up for food safety

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healthy red cherry tomatoes with green stalkWashing fruits and vegetables before eating them reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

If fruits and veggies have a ridged or uneven skin, use a scrub brush to remove dirt from the grooves.

Remember, even produce with inedible skin should still be washed as a first step.

This week, get into the habit of washing all produce thoroughly before serving.

Be sure to start with clean hands and a sanitary work station.

 

About the Monday Campaigns:

The Healthy Monday Tips is produced by a national health promotion initiative called the Monday Campaigns.

The thinking behind the initiative derives from two studies done at the Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health by Jullian Fry and Roni Neff.

In one study, they reviewed the scientific studies that looked at ways to get people to adopt healthy habits.

In that review, they found that one of the most effective ways to keep people on track is simply to remind them from time to time to stick to it.

But when would be the best time send those reminders?

Fry and Neff decided to look at Monday, which many of us consider the start of our week.

To better understand how we thought and felt about Monday, they reviewed the scientific literature as well as cultural references to Monday in movies, songs, books and other forms of art and literature, even video games.

They noted that a number of scientific studies have found that we may suffer more health problems on Monday. For example, a number of studies find that Americans have more heart attacks and strokes on Monday.

There is also evidence that we have more on-the-job injuries on Monday, perhaps because we are not quite back into the swing of things, or are still recovering from our weekend.

Fry and Neff also found that while many of us, facing the return to work, may dread Mondays, Monday is also seen as a day for making a fresh start.

Fry and Neff concluded that Monday might be a good day for promoting healthy habits. Calling attention to the health problems linked to the first day of the work week, such as heart attacks and on-the-job injuries, makes Monday a natural day to highlight the importance of prevention.

And the Monday’s reputation as a day to make a fresh start offers the opportunity to help people to renew their efforts to adopt healthier habits.

Fry and Neff’s findings are put into practice by the Monday Campaigns, which helps individuals and organizations use Monday as a focus for their health promotion efforts, providing free research, literature and artwork, and other support.

To learn more about Healthy Mondays:

 

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More than 24,000 Snohomish County residents earn food worker certification online

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At signA record 24,000 Snohomish County residents earned a food worker card through online training in 2012, compared to less than 5,000 who earned their cards in a classroom, Snohomish County health officials report.

A food worker card is required for anyone who:

  • Works with unpackaged food, such as in a restaurant or bar
  • Touches food equipment, such as washing dishes
  • Works at any surface where people put unwrapped food, including grocery store cashiers

The county began to offer the food worker card classes online in the spring of last year. The online course takes about one hour to go through the curriculum and take the test.

The popularity of the online course has reduced the need for in-person classes, officials said, so the Snohomish Health District plans to reduce the number of in-person classes to four a month in English and to one a month in Spanish next year. .

Starting January 1, Health District will offer four classes a month in English and one in Spanish at the Snohomish Health District auditorium in the Rucker Building, 3020 Rucker Ave., Everett.

  • The in-person classes in English will be offered the first and third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
  • The in-person classes in Spanish will be offered the first Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m.
  • In-person classes will no longer be offered in Lynnwood.

The online training program also provides instruction in Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Closed Caption

The cost of the training and test for a food worker card remains at $10.

Food worker cards are good for three years and are valid anywhere in Washington state.

The Health District accepts cash only for the in-person classes, and Visa or MasterCard only for online classes.

Find details at http://www.snohd.org/Shd_EH/Eh_FLE/FoodWorker.aspx#foodOnline

To learn more about food safety classes and the food safety program, visit www.snohd.org, keyword search “Food Class.” Optionally, call 425.339.5260 to hear a list of class dates.

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Turkey Time: Holiday food preparation tips from the CDC.

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Food safety tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Holidays are times we share the kitchen with family and friends. Make it a goal this year to also share good food safety practices. CDC is a partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for the safety of meat and poultry.

Here are simple tips that all cooks in the kitchen can follow this holiday season for cooking a delicious and safely prepared turkey.

Uncooked turkey in a pot

Turkey Basics: Safely Thaw, Prepare, Stuff, and Cook

When preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to adequate temperature.

Safe Thawing

Food Thermometer Truths

  • Always use a food thermometer to guarantee that foods are cooked to a safe-to-eat temperature.
  • Some food thermometers must be calibrated to ensure that they read food temperature accurately. Find out if your thermometer can be calibrated by reading the USDA fact sheet on kitchen thermometers.
  1. Fill a pot of water with distilled water and bring to a rolling boil.
  1. Hold the thermometer probe in the boiling water for one minute. Do not let the probe touch the pot.
  1. After one minute, the thermometer should read between 210° and 214° F. If it does not read between these temperatures adjust the thermometer manually to 212° F. If the thermometer cannot be adjusted manually do not use it until it is serviced by a professional.

Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly.

While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the “danger zone.”

There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven. For instructions, see “Safe Methods for Thawing;” instructions are also available in Spanish.

Safe Preparation

Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey.

If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods.

After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing

For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer.

Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.

Follow the FSIS’ steps to safely prepare, cook, remove, and refrigerate stuffingSpanish language instructions are available.

Safe Cooking

Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep.

Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary.

The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

For more information on safe internal temperatures, visit FoodSafety.gov’s Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures.

Following these cooking guidelines can help you prepare
a safe holiday dinner that everyone will enjoy.

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Samish Bay shellfish harvest closed due to high fecal bacteria in Samish River

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OLYMPIA – The state Department of Health has temporarily closed Samish Bay to shellfish harvesting because of high levels of fecal bacteria from the Samish River.

When the numbers of fecal coliform bacteria are high, the bay is closed to assure that contaminated shellfish are not marketed.

The state health agency’s Shellfish Program says this closure shows there’s more work to do to correct the pollution problems that have affected Samish Bay.

Samish Bay is currently classified as “Conditionally Approved,” because it is periodically closed due to fecal pollution when the Samish River rises quickly.

Samish Bay - Washington State Department of Ecology

The Shellfish Program will continue to collect and test water samples, and will reopen shellfish harvests when results improve. Past closures have lasted a few days.

Local and state agencies, residents, and volunteers have been working for three years to eliminate the temporary closures of Samish Bay. That would lead state health officials to change the classification to “Approved.”

State health officials say the bay could be upgraded to “Approved” if there is only one pollution closure between March 1 and June 30.

Another closure this spring would confirm that more work needs to be done to identify and correct pollution problems.

Skagit County, Skagit Conservation District, the Departments of Ecology and Agriculture, residents and volunteers are continuing to identify pollution problems and get them fixed.

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Keeping food safe during power outages

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During power outages, food can go bad. Even food that smells and tastes fine can harbor bacteria that can make you and your family ill. To help you avoid such food-borne illnesses, the Washington State Department of Health has prepared the following food-safety tips:

Uncooked turkey in a pot

Spoiled food can make you sick; handle, store food safely when power is out

Keep cold food cold to prevent bacteria from growing: if in doubt, throw it out

When the power is out it’s important to protect your food supply. Keeping foods cold or making sure they’re fully cooked can protect you from foodborne illness. That can be difficult without power.

If you think power might be out for a long time, use food that can spoil fast before food that keeps longer. It’s most important to keep meat, seafood, and dairy products cold.

Refrigerator doors should be kept closed as much as possible to keep cold air inside. Freezers that are part of a refrigerator-freezer combination will keep food frozen for up to a day.

A free-standing chest or upright freezer will keep food frozen solid for two days if it is fully loaded. The more it is opened, the quicker it will thaw.

An ice chest packed with ice or snow is a good temporary solution. However, storing food outside is not recommended. Outside temperatures change often and the sun can thaw frozen foods or warm cold foods so that bacteria can grow. Animals can also contaminate food left outside.

“If in doubt, throw it out.” 

Bags of ice or block ice from the store can be placed in the refrigerator to keep food cold. Also, many items that people often keep in their refrigerator can temporarily be stored on a countertop or in a cool place like a garage. Some examples include fresh uncut fruits and vegetables, butter and margarine, ketchup, mustard, pickles, relish and similar condiments.

When it comes to food safety, the general rule is, “If in doubt, throw it out.” Never taste suspicious food. It may look and smell fine, but bacteria that cause foodborne illness may be present and could make you sick.

If food is cold to the touch, and you know it has not been above 45 degrees F for more than an hour or two, it’s probably safe to keep, use, or refreeze. Throw away all meat, seafood, dairy products, or cooked foods that don’t feel cold to the touch. Even under proper refrigeration, many raw foods should be kept only three or four days before they are cooked, frozen, or thrown away.

It is important to be very careful when trying to cook during a power outage. NEVER USE A CAMPING STOVE OR BARBEQUE INDOORS. They put off carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can’t be seen or smelled. It can kill a person in minutes.

To learn more:

  • The state Department of Health has several fact sheets on staying safe in bad weather (www.doh.wa.gov/Topics/weather.htm). They’re available in multiple languages.
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