Frankfurters Cut the Wrong Way Can be Choking Hazard for Kids

Amy Haneline wrote . . . . . . . . .

Summer is already filled with enough hazards to stress out parents — we’re looking at you, open water and fireworks.

But what about your kids’ plates?

Summer is peak hotdog season. Considering 150 million franks are consumed on the Fourth of July in the United States alone, there is a strong chance they will be on the menu many a weekend.

So, now is a good time for a reminder that hotdogs can be serious choking hazards, said Dr. Tanya Altmann, author of Baby & Toddler Basics.

The size, shape and texture of hotdogs make them especially dangerous for young children, so the pediatrician is here to explain everything parents should know before handing a kid a dog.

“Hotdogs are long and round and when (young children) bite off a piece of it, it really looks kind of like a thick quarter and that is the perfect size to get lodged into a child’s throat,” Altmann said.

Any food that is “large, round and solid” can be a potential choking hazard, Altmann said.

That’s why hotdogs often rank at the top of lists of foods to avoid giving young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that hotdogs should be kept away from children younger than four years old.

Other potentially dangerous foods include whole grapes, hard or sticky candy, chunks of meat or cheese and popcorn.

Choking incidents among kids

In a 2013 study of choking incidents among young children, the AAP reported “choking is a leading cause of injury among children, and can sometimes be fatal.”

Researchers investigated non-fatal food-choking-related emergencydepartment visits among children ages zero to 14 years from 2001 to 2009. On average, 12,400 children (or 34 per day) were treated for a choking incident.

Hard candy caused most choking episodes (15 per cent), followed by other candy (13 per cent), meat other than hotdogs (12 per cent) and bones (12 per cent). Hotdogs accounted for 2.6 per cent of the cases.

At what age can a child eat a hotdog?

Parents can start introducing solid foods (except raw honey, which can harbour bacteria that causes foodborne illness in infants) to babies around six months of age, Altmann said. Parents should consider both the nutritional value and safety of a food when choosing their baby’s diet.

“If you wanted to mash up a hotdog into puréed or bite-sized pieces, theoretically you could feed it to an older infant or toddler, but I would argue it may not be nutritionally the best choice,” she said.

Cut hotdogs lengthwise first

All foods for babies and young children should be cut into one-centimetre or smaller pieces, the AAP recommends. However, cylindrical-shaped foods require extra care.

Thus, hotdogs should be cut lengthwise into strips first and then cut again into smaller pieces. The same goes for other common choking hazards such as grapes, cherries and cherry tomatoes.

For older kids who want to eat a hotdog while holding it, Altmann says parents could still cut the dog in half longways to help reduce choking risk.

When can parents stop cutting hotdogs for kids?

Usually around age four is when the choking risk is reduced because children are a little more aware, their throats are a little bit bigger and they are able to handle things that need to be chewed a little more before they swallow them, Altmann said.

What to do in a choking situation

“Make sure the child is really choking,” Altmann said. If a child is coughing or talking, there’s a chance the child can push the food out on his or her own.

But look for the following signs of a choking child: being unable to breathe; gasping or wheezing; unable to talk; turning blue; grasping at their throat; waving their arms; appearing panicked; and going limp or unconscious.

If a child is choking, call 911 and start a rescue procedure such as back-blows for infants or the Heimlich manoeuvre for older kids.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

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Compostable Food Containers Could Release PFAS into Environment

Compostable food containers seem like a great idea: They degrade into nutrient-rich organic matter, reducing waste and the need for chemical fertilizers. But much of this packaging relies on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to repel water and oil. Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology Letters have shown that PFAS can leach from the containers into compost. However, the potential health effects of applying this material to crops are unknown.

PFAS are widely used in manufacturing because of their flame-retardant and water- and oil-repellent properties. Two long-chain PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), have been linked to negative health effects, so companies in the U.S. have voluntarily phased out their production. As a result, many manufacturers have switched to shorter-chain PFAS, whose health effects are less well known. Previous research has shown that PFAS in biosolids applied as fertilizer can migrate from soil to plants and then accumulate in humans through the food chain. Because compostable food packaging is becoming increasingly popular, Linda Lee and colleagues wanted to find out how much PFAS end up in the composted material.

The researchers obtained 10 samples from five states: nine from commercial facilities and one from a backyard compost bin. The researchers extracted perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs), which are compounds produced by microbial degradation of PFAS during composting, and analyzed them using mass spectrometry. The samples from seven facilities that accepted compostable food packaging had higher total levels of PFAAs than the two that didn’t or the one from the backyard bin, which did not contain food packaging. The researchers found PFAAs corresponding to PFOA and PFOS, which are still produced in some countries, in all of the samples, but most of the detected compounds were short-chain PFAAs. The results from this study contributed to the passage in 2018 of the State of Washington’s Healthy Food Packaging Act, which will ban the use of PFAS in paper food packaging after January 1, 2022, the researchers say.

Source : American Chemical Society


Today’s Comic

Is Raw Seafood Safe To Eat?

Jackie Newgent wrote . . . . . . . . .

People have been eating raw seafood from the beginning of time. But does that mean we should be doing so now?

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, it is recommended that foods be cooked to their appropriate internal temperature. For most healthy people who choose to eat raw or undercooked seafood, it may only pose a small health risk but for others the risk can be severe. Foodborne illness can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, among other symptoms.

Major types of food poisoning that can result from eating raw or undercooked fish and shellfish include Salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus. For raw shellfish connoisseurs, especially raw oyster lovers, you specifically need to know about the risk for Vibrio infections. Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that lives in warm seawater. While not as common as some other foodborne illnesses, 1,252 people were infected with Vibrio in 2014, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To reduce your risk of any type of food poisoning, know that neither hot sauce nor alcohol kills bacteria, despite popular myth. The best rule of thumb is to follow good food safety practices and properly cook all seafood. Prepare fin fish until it reaches 145°F — or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork; prepare shellfish until the flesh is opaque; or, for clams, oysters, and mussels, until the shells open.

One other safety tip of interest: If you do decide to eat raw fish, choose fish that has been previously frozen. That’s because freezing will kill any potential parasites present. Unfortunately, freezing doesn’t kill every harmful organism.

High-Risk Individuals

For people at higher risk for foodborne illness, severe and life-threatening illness may result from consuming raw or undercooked fish and shellfish. These individuals include those with compromised immune systems, as well as pregnant women, infants, young children and older adults. Raw fish and shellfish consumption is never advised for high-risk individuals. If you’re in this category, thoroughly cook fish and shellfish. If you’re unsure if you are at risk, consult with your physician or registered dietitian nutritionist.

Keeping it Safe from Market to Mealtime

Follow these key tips when buying, storing and preparing fresh, raw seafood.

At the market:

  • Be sure fresh seafood is properly refrigerated below 40°F or well-packed with ice.
  • Look for fish with shiny, firm flesh and no overly “fishy” odor.

In your fridge:

  • Keep fresh fish well wrapped or in air-tight containers for no more than two days on the bottom shelf.
  • Store fresh or smoked seafood below 40°F; store live clams, crabs, crayfish, lobsters, mussels and oysters in well ventilated containers.

During preparation:

  • Keep raw and cooked seafood separate, including using separate cutting boards and utensils.
  • Wash hands, cutting boards, plates and utensils thoroughly between handling raw seafood and any ready-to-eat food.

Dining Out Advice

There are a plethora of well-liked raw and undercooked fish and shellfish items on menus today. For healthy individuals who choose to consume these foods, make sure they’re from reputable restaurants or markets that use fresh, high-quality ingredients and follow proper food safety practices. But be aware of these menu items, especially if you’re in the high-risk category, since they contain raw or undercooked seafood: sushi, sashimi, raw oysters or clams on the half shell, ceviche, crudo, gravlax, poke, tuna tartare and tuna carpaccio.

The Bottom Line

Properly cooked fish and shellfish offer a variety of nutrients that benefit our health. However, there’s an increased risk with raw fish and shellfish. Be aware of food safety considerations when eating it. And if you’re a high-risk individual, simply do not eat raw seafood.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

E. coli and Food Safety

What are Escherichia coli?

Escherichia coli (abbreviated E. coli) are bacteria found in the intestines of people and animals and in the environment; they can also be found in foods.

Most E. coli are harmless and are part of a healthy intestinal tract. However, some cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections, and other illnesses. The types of E. coli that can cause illness are spread through contaminated food or water and through contact with animals or people.

Two types of E. coli that cause diarrheal illness diagnosed in the United States are Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC).

STEC are a group of E. coli that produce Shiga toxin. This toxin causes people to have diarrhea, which can be bloody. When you hear reports about outbreaks of E. coli infections in the United States, they’re usually talking about a type called STEC O157.

ETEC are the leading cause of traveler’s diarrhea and a major cause of diarrhea around the world, especially among children.


A Dangerous Complication

About 5–10% of people diagnosed with STEC O157 infection develop a life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)external icon, a type of kidney failure. Signs that a person is developing HUS include:

  • urinating less often
  • feeling very tired
  • losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids

People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent health problems or die.


Who is more likely to get an E. coli infection?

Anyone can get sick from harmful E. coli, but some people have an increased chance of infection. These people are:

  • Children younger than 5 years of age
  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • People with weakened immune systems, including pregnant women
  • People who travel to certain countries

What are the symptoms of E. coli infections?

STEC: Most people have bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps that may be severe. Some people may also have vomiting. A high fever is uncommon. Symptoms usually last 5–7 days.

ETEC: Most people have stomach cramps and watery diarrhea. Symptoms usually last 3–4 days.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea or vomiting that lasts for more than 2 days, bloody stools, a fever higher than 102˚F, or signs of dehydration (including little or no urination, excessive thirst, a very dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness, or very dark urine).

Most people with an E. coli infection will recover without any specific treatment. Whether your doctor prescribes antibiotics depends on several factors, including the kind of E. coli infection you have and the severity of your infection.

Antibiotics should not be used to treat STEC infection. Taking certain antibiotics may lead to the production or release of more Shiga toxin, which can increase the chance of kidney damage.

How can I prevent E. coli infection?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water.
  • Follow the four steps to food safety when preparing food: clean, separate, cook, and chill.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat has reached a safe minimum cooking temperature.
  • Cook ground beef, pork, and lamb to an internal temperature of at least 160°F (70˚C).
  • Insert food thermometer into the side of the patty, to the center, to check.
  • Cook beef steaks and roasts to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (62.6˚C) and allow to rest for 3 minutes after you remove meat from the grill or stove.
  • Check temperature in the thickest part of steaks or roasts.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils with soap and water after they touch raw meat.
  • Do not drink untreated water or swallow water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
  • Don’t eat raw dough or batter.
  • Drink pasteurized milk and juices.
  • Take precautions with food and water when traveling abroad.

How can I prevent E. coli infection from animals?

  • Play it safe around animals, including those at petting zoos, farms, fairs, and even your backyard.
  • Wash your hands often
  • Eat and drink safely
  • Keep food and drinks out of animal areas
  • Keep children safe around animals
  • Children always need adult supervision around animals

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Salmonella and Eggs

Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious and economical foods. But it’s important that you take care when handling and preparing fresh eggs and egg products.

The inside of eggs that appear normal can contain a germ called Salmonella that can make you sick, especially if you eat raw or lightly cooked eggs. Eggs are safe when you cook and handle them properly.

How can I reduce my chance of getting a Salmonella infection?

  • Consider buying and using pasteurized eggs and egg products, which are widely available.
  • Keep eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or colder at all times. Only buy eggs from stores and suppliers that keep them refrigerated.
  • Discard cracked or dirty eggs.

Poultry may carry bacteria such as Salmonella, which can contaminate the inside of eggs before the shells are formed. Egg shells may become contaminated with Salmonella from poultry droppings (poop) or the area where they are laid.

  • Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm. Egg dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter.
  • Make sure that foods that contain raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and tiramisu, are made only with pasteurized eggs.
  • Eat or refrigerate eggs and foods containing eggs promptly after cooking. Do not keep eggs or foods made with eggs warm or at room temperature for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if the temperature is 90°F or hotter.
  • Wash hands and items that came into contact with raw eggs—including counter tops, utensils, dishes, and cutting boards—with soap and water.

Illness from Salmonella can be serious and is more dangerous for certain people.

Adults older than 65 years, children younger than 5 years, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or an organ transplant, may get a more serious illness that can even be life threatening.

In most cases, illness lasts 4–7 days and people recover without antibiotic treatment. Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps

Symptoms typically appear 6 to 48 hours after eating a contaminated food, though this period is sometimes much longer. Some people can have diarrhea many times a day for several days and the sick person may need to be hospitalized.

Should I see the doctor?

Call your child’s doctor if your child has:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 1 day
  • Vomiting lasting more than 12 hours for infants, 1 day for children younger than age 2, or 2 days for other children
  • Signs of dehydration, including not urinating in 3 or more hours, dry mouth or tongue, or cries without tears
  • Fever higher than 102˚F (39˚C)
  • Bloody stools

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 2 days
  • Vomiting lasting more than 2 days
  • Signs of dehydration, including little or no urination, excessive thirst, a very dry mouth, dizziness or lightheadedness, or very dark urine
  • Fever higher than 102˚F (39˚C)
  • Bloody stools

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services