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Cooking for an Allergy Sufferer this Thanksgiving

If you or a family member has any food allergies, the holidays are even more worrisome for you than everyone else.

You have to worry about offending extended family members you may not know, you’re don’t want to feel like you’re causing extra work for your hosts, and most of all, you don’t want to have an allergic reaction!

Whether you’re going somewhere familiar or to an extended family member’s home twice removed, it’s important to prepare an allergy friendly menu.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that more than 160 different foods can cause allergic reactions. However, 90% of the reactions can be traced back to 8 different foods:
• Milk
• Eggs
• Fish
• Crustacean Shellfish
• Tree Nuts
• Peanuts
• Wheat
• Soybeans

With an estimated 15 million Americans, 5.9 million of those being children, having food allergies, it’s likely you know someone coming to the Thanksgiving feast with an allergy. And, about 30% of those children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food. So, whether you’re the person with food allergies or you’re hosting someone with a food allergy, there are things you should do to prepare.

If You Have A Food Allergy:

You are probably very familiar with phoning ahead to restaurants, social gatherings, or schools to verify an allergy friendly menu. Thanksgiving is no different. It’s best to be proactive and check ahead of time. You could offer to bring a dish that’s an allergen-friendly dish that can replace a menu item for you if need be. If it’s your child with the allergy, make sure you have a refresher talk with them. It’s going to be difficult to resist things when this holiday in particular

focuses entirely on eating. Always carry two Epi Pens just in case.

If You’re Hosting Someone With an Allergy:

The first thing you can do to ensure no one has a reaction to any of the food items is to check with all the invited guests. You might not even be aware that the person has a food allergy.

Have a menu that’s conscious of food allergens or sensitivities. You want everyone to enjoy the holiday together. Make sure to prepare any children that someone is coming with a food allergy.

This is especially important if it’s a child with the allergy. It can already be something that makes the child feel uncomfortable and you don’t want anyone to say something rude or offensive, even if unintentionally.

When all else fails, there are plenty of allergy-friendly Thanksgiving recipes, ideas, and menus to be found online.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Looking after your Guests this Thanksgiving

Let’s face it, the holiday season is stressful and stopped being fun when we became adults. Now it’s the shopping, the cooking, the planning, the house-guests, the different food preferences, and yes, (insert groan) the in-laws.

The absolute very last thing you need to deal with on top of everything else is the issue of food safety. Can you imagine your mother-in-law EVER letting go of that Thanksgiving 12 years ago where you cooked and everyone got sick?! To ensure that doesn’t happen and to help alleviate as much stress as possible, here are a few Thanksgiving related food safety tips:

The first thing to keep in mind is the sheer volume of food you’ll be preparing. Cooking for a large group requires a different more energy and diligence than cooking for your family. Plus, most people don’t make several course meals every Tuesday night so chances are, you’ll be making a lot of food for many people.

The USDA recommends the refrigerator method for thawing your turkey. It’s the safest way to ensure that bacteria growth is kept to a minimum. Frozen turkeys should not be left on the front porch, basement, car trunk, or any other place where temperatures can’t be controlled.

Be sure to plan ahead. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey in a fridge set at 40 degrees or lower. Place the turkey in a pan so the juices don’t drip on top of other food.

Do not wash or rinse the turkey, this will just spread the pathogens onto other kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes food illness is fully cooking it. Use separate cutting boards, knives, and utensils when prepping raw food.

Make sure to test the internal temperature of the turkey because, though it may look done, it could still need longer on the inside.

Refrigerate the leftovers within 2 hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food.

Store the stuffing and meat separately. Avoid eating any leftovers left in the fridge longer than 3 to 4 days. Use the freezer to store any extras for longer than the couple days.

Families and holidays are tough, but there’s no getting around either. Get yourself some wine and buck up because the holidays are coming. Hopefully, your year to cook doesn’t become the infamous food-poisoning year. We’re pulling for you!

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Food Safety Tips for Halloween

Halloween Candy

Halloween is one of those holidays that’s fun no matter what age you are. Most everyone enjoys the costumes, décor, and festivities.

That said, Halloween can be scary for reasons not having to do with spiders, witches, and ghosts. Here are a few tips to ensure you and your family have a safe Halloween:

Party Tips:

Let’s get real about something; there is nothing scarier, on Halloween or otherwise, than a house full of party guests clamoring to get to your guest bathroom because Cathy, the nosy neighbor, brought deviled eggs that sat out too long. Now your bathroom is a mess and Cathy is the real monster. Let’s agree to avoid that entire scene with some helpful party tips:

• Scare away bacteria by keeping all perishable food chilled until serving time.
• Keep store-bought party trays cold. If it’s not possible to fit them in a fridge, fill lids with ice and place trays on top. Similarly, keep salads and other perishable items in bowls cold by nesting them in larger bowls of ice.
• Arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters every two hours.
• When whipping up Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters because uncooked eggs and flour can be harmful.
• Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Serve pasteurized products at your Halloween party.
• Remind kids (and adults too!) to wash their hands before and after chowing down to help prevent foodborne illness.

Remember to provide utensils so your guests can scoop up their snack mix as opposed to reaching in with their bare hands. Another thing, we’re not trying to ruin your childhood memories here, but we can’t be the only ones grossed out by the idea of Bobbing for Apples. First of all, who is Bob and how does he factor in? (we’re kidding about that last part, we know that Bob is Cathy’s husband. Duh). We’re not kidding about spreading germs and bacteria as everyone takes turns sucking in water into their mouths only to spit it back into the communal “Bobbing Bucket” in an attempt to snatch out an apple with their teeth. There has to be a better idea here, folks. At this point, if you’re that desperate for party activities, try carving a pumpkin like everyone else.

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What is The Teal Pumpkin Project®?

Dogs in Halloween Costumes

For most families, preparing for Halloween is fun and exciting. Everyone is deciding what they’ll dress up as, planning their trick-or-treat route, and trying to figure out the best way to carry the most candy. Halloween is a time of whimsy and fantasy, a time for kids to be their favorite superheroes, if only for an evening.

It’s a time where everyone can pretend to be something different, something special. As each child walks down the leaf-scattered sidewalks, they’re scanning the crowds, looking for someone else who’s also pretending to be Batman, or maybe they spot a Robin across the street and a connection is made.

Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so overwhelming, suddenly it’s not so lonely. Halloween is exciting and is truly the quintessential representation of childhood.

Chances are you’ve seen or will see some pumpkins painted teal this Halloween. You’re probably wondering what they represent, if anything at all.

Well, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), launched the Teal Pumpkin Project® to promote safety, inclusion, and respect of individuals managing food allergies.

This movement offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children for whom candy is not an option, and keeps Halloween a fun, positive experience for all!

What can you do to get involved and continue to help children everywhere create magical memories? We’re glad you asked!

• Spread the word! The FARE website has resources available for free to help promote the project!
• Participate! Paint some teal pumpkins to let everyone who that you support, respect, and include ALL children!
• Prepare! You can find inexpensive, non-food treats at dollar stores or online. Many of them are easily found with a Halloween theme. Here are some ideas:
o Bubbles
o Glow sticks, bracelets, or necklaces
o Pencils, pens, crayons, or markers
o Bouncy balls
o Finger puppets or novelty toys
o Stickers
o Spider rings
o Temporary tattoos
o Bookmarks
Help create awareness and inclusivity this Halloween! Support the efforts of the Teal Pumpkin Project and make Halloween fun for every child!

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Always Food Safe partner with Food Recovery Network

Food Recovery Network Logo

In 2012, a small group of college students noticed the large amount of perishable dining hall food that went to waste at the end of each day. Together, they started The Food Recovery Network.

Their mission was to recover perfectly good food, that would otherwise be thrown away, and donate it to hunger-fighting nonprofits. Food Recovery Network is the largest student movement that seeks to fight food waste and hunger in America.

By the end of the first school year, the group had recovered and distributed 30,000 meals.

From there, the movement spread across campuses nationwide. There are currently 230 chapters in 44 states across the United States. Collectively, the chapters have recovered more than 2 million pounds of food; that equates to more than 2.5 million meals to people in need.

Always Food Safe is proud to support and join forces with the FRN to ensure food safety standards be met and practiced while continuing their mission of less waste and less hunger. Food safety is a major concern. The CDC estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually.

Each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Another food related issue is food waste. Wasted food is a huge challenge to our natural resources, our environment, and our pocketbooks. When prepared food is dumped in the trash, or even composted, it’s not only the food, but the time and energy put into preparing it, that gets wasted.

Food Recovery Network began when a group of students recognized a problem and realized that solving that problem could also solve a whole other list of problems. The initiative has reduced food waste and fought the hunger epidemic in the United States.

It’s a privilege for us, at Always Food Safe, to help contribute to such a noble and worthy cause. If you would like to join Always Food Safe and the Food Recovery Network, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Visit the FRN website to learn more:

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56% of foodborne illnesses in school can be attributed to norovirus

It seems to be a buzz phrase you hear thrown around lately, “food safety culture.” It’s everywhere and it’s important because until everyone is aware of and prepared with food safety training and education, we’ll continue to see foodborne illness outbreaks around the globe.

So how do we create that food safety culture? Well, we start with educating young people! Food safety education creates an awareness of the dangers of improper food safety and that awareness begins to create a standard of expectation.

Here are some ways of bringing food safety education into schools:

56% of foodborne illnesses associated with outbreaks in schools can be attributed to norovirus, a highly contagious stomach illness that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Anyone handling food can easily contaminate and spread the illness.

Food-safe schools take a school-wide approach to food safety, and with the help of partners in the school community, create a culture of food safety.

Food-safe schools have two main ingredients (pun intended):

• They are built on comprehensive procedures, policies, and plans that address the science of food safety.
• They address people’s behavior to encourage the use of food safety procedures, policies, and plans.

So how do you create a food-safe school?

First, you have to either create a food safety policy or review the one you already have. The policy review should acknowledge important food safety efforts that are already in place, as well as identify ways to strengthen and expand on those efforts.

Keep in mind the overall policies that are in place in the food industry as a whole and train and educate based on those practices. Food allergies are another element of food safety and it’s just as important to carefully implement procedures to protect those students with allergies.

It’s also important to plan and prepare to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks in the school.

Proper food safety training and awareness will help food staff and students alike, be aware of the procedures. Employee health is also an important factor when it comes to creating a food safety culture.

Once your policy is in place and in practice, it’s important to communicate with other districts, families, and communities. Spread the word about food safety because you can’t build a food safety culture without a collective effort.

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More than 15% of school-aged children with food allergies have had an allergic reaction at school

BAck to school drawn on a blackboard with chalk

As August turns into September every school-aged child begins to think, and probably worry about, if their friends will still be friends, if the course material will be too challenging, if their teachers will be nice, or if they’ll make that sports team they’ve been planning on trying out for.

However, for kids with food allergies, those concerns only add to the other concerns they’re having. They’re wondering if everyone in their class knows not to bring peanut products, if the lunchroom staff knows they can’t have eggs or gluten, if the teachers know that rewarding with food treats can be life threatening, or if the other children will make fun of them for not being able to eat the same foods. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education website, more than 15% of school-aged children with food allergies have had an allergic reaction at school. These reactions can range anywhere from mild to fatal. It’s a serious concern and awareness is essential.

So, how do we help those kids with food allergies? We have to make teachers, parents, and other students aware of the dangers and how they can help be part of a solution.

Here are a few tips:

Classrooms can be food-free
It might be the easiest route to just keep all food out of the classroom. That way, no one has to worry or think about what’s allowed in and what’s restricted.
Restrict Identified Allergens from Classrooms
If snacks aren’t taken out of the classrooms completely, it needs to be well-known by all students, teachers, and parents which foods are dangerous allergens. Those foods must be restricted from snacks, parties, or other activities.
Find Fun and Inclusive Ways to Celebrate
It’s a wonderful gesture to bring treats and snacks into the classroom for parties and holidays, but that gesture can marginalize or be dangerous to some kids. Instead, try extra recess or celebrate with games and free-time.
Educate Your Kids
Inclusion and acceptance can go a long way in helping any child adapt. If everyone knows that there are just some foods that are dangerous for their classmates, understanding and recognition can happen.
Seek out Resources
In addition to explaining to kids about food allergies, find activities, resources, videos, or testimonials to share with children in, and out of the classroom. If the ideas are delivered in a fun and inclusive manner, children are more likely to respond to that information.

All-in-all, excluding foods from the classroom as opposed to excluding children from participating in activities is the best way to handle food allergies at school. Kids with food allergies will have their own emergency plans and their parents will have discussed with staff and teachers what to do in the event of a reaction. In order to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow, and enjoy school, allergen awareness is critical. Remember, safety isn’t a privilege, it’s a fundamental right to every child in every classroom. To learn more about allergen awareness training visit our website:

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Health Inspection Ratings Now on Yelp!

Yelp Logo

The CDC estimates that each year, 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Food safety is more important than ever and is becoming a hot topic issue. With states continuing to reform and pass laws that create stricter food safety requirements, it’s no surprise that Yelp is now going to publish health inspection ratings along with reviews.

The update is part of the company’s Local Inspector Value Entry Specification, or LIVES, program. The health inspection score will update on a business’s page to reflect the most current information regarding hygiene.

The emphasis on food safety and the dedication to unifying the restaurant industry is something that will only continue to gain attention. Yelp is hoping that publishing health inspection scores will have a positive impact on consumers and the industry itself. Apparently, the first few major cities in which Yelp included the scores along with the reviews have seen a decrease in hospitalizations from foodborne illness. In addition, posting hygiene scores on Yelp has led to a 12 percent decrease in purchase intentions for restaurants with low scores relative to those with higher scores.

The push for food safety highlights the importance of hygiene, food rotation, and allergy awareness. Consumers can already locate health code ratings through other avenues with some digging, but mobile devices make it easier for customers to rely on reviews for restaurant suggestions. Adding health scores will provide consumers with more information for that selection process.

Next time you’re browsing for lunch options on your road trip, you won’t have to take the chance that food poisoning will ruin your getaway; just check the health inspection ratings on Yelp!