Safe & Healthy: What’s all the fuss about Listeria?

BlueBellLarge food recalls have recently forced consumers to throw away foods such as ice cream and hummus because of contamination with the potentially deadly bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Tainted Blue Bell ice cream products have been linked to eight listeria illnesses in Kansas and Texas; three patients in a Kansas hospital who contracted the illness died as a result. In May, Blue Bell laid off 37% of its workforce at plants in four states as the company tried to cope with a nationwide recall of all of its products.

And on April 8, Sabra Dipping Co. announced a recall of 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus due to possible listeria contamination, though no illnesses have been linked to that recall. These recalls follow other nationwide recalls of cantaloupe, sprouts, and other products due to possible contamination with Listeria.

What is Listeria and why is it considered an important foodborne pathogen? Listeria is a hardy bacteria found in soil and water, and it can be carried by animals. It can contaminate a processing facility and stay there for a long period of time, and it can grow in the cold temperature of a refrigerator. It is commonly found in unpasteurized milk, and it is sometimes found in other foods as well — 30 people died from listeriosis in 2011 linked to Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe. About 1,600 people in the United States get sick from Listeria each year.

What are the symptoms of illness caused by Listeria? When a person contacts the disease (listeriosis), it can cause fever, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea, and even death. Listeria is particularly deadly to pregnant women and their newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Listeria is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the United States.

What is a person to do if they have contaminated food in their home? The government’s motto is “when in doubt, throw it out.” If you throw something away that you think might be tainted, place it in a closed plastic bag in a sealed trash can to prevent animals or other people from eating it. Some grocery stores may offer a refund if you purchased potentially contaminated product.

How does a person protect themselves from the illness listeriosis? In the case of the ice cream and hummus recalls, there is nothing you can do to prevent it — just throw away the food if you learn they have been recalled. If a fruit or vegetable is contaminated, scrubbing with a brush under clear running water is never a bad idea, but it may not rid produce of all contaminants. In the case of the cantaloupe, the Listeria likely hid on the fruit’s thick, rough skin. Some foods such as meat or milk can be rendered safe if fully cooked; heating to an internal temperature of 165°F or higher.

For more information, visit these resources:

Stay safe and healthy by contacting your local University of Wisconsin-Extension office with any questions. Barb

Safe Preserving: Safe Changes when Making Pickles and Relishes

easy-pickles-ck-1646440-xThe safety of the food that you preserve is important to you. The University of Wisconsin-Extension supports using up-to-date, research-tested recipes so that you know that the food that you preserve is both safe and high in quality. Here are a few quick tips on changes and substitutions that will keep your home preserved pickles and relishes safe to eat.

Homemade Pickles & Relishes. One of the fastest growing areas of the food industry is in pickled products. The time is now to try making some of these tasty products yourself! Pickles are processed in a boiling water or steam canner.

  • You may safely reduce sugar or salt in any tested quick-process pickle. The amount (and type) of salt listed in a recipe for sauerkraut or genuine dill (crock) pickles can not be changed!
  • You can rinse sauerkraut prior to serving and reduce the amount of sodium by 30-40%. Never change the type or amount of salt in a fermented product like genuine dill pickles or sauerkraut.
  • You may safely substitute grocery store cider vinegar (5% acetic acid) for white vinegar (5% acetic acid), and vice versa. Do not use other types of vinegar such as wine vinegar or homemade vinegar.
  • You may add a clove of garlic or a small dried hot pepper to any pickle recipe without impacting the processing time.
  • You may substitute zucchini or summer squash for cucumber in any relish recipe. You may substitute English or grocery store cucumbers for pickling cucumbers, but the quality of the product may be inferior.
  • You may refrigerate a pickle recipe that can’t be safely canned. If refrigerated, store for up to 2 weeks. See Homemade Pickles and Relishes for recipes for refrigerator or freezer pickles that are a tasty treat. This bulletin also contains recipes for low-sodium, and low- or no-sugar added pickles.

Research tested recipes for tasty homemade pickles and relishes can be found in the University of Wisconsin Extension publication Homemade Pickles and Relishes. And the best (ever) procedure for making sauerkraut can be found in Make Your Own Sauerkraut also from the University of Wisconsin Extension.

A full list of safe changes and substitutions is available from the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Safe preserving! Barb

Safe Preserving: Safe Changes and Substitutions when Preserving Tomatoes

The safety of the food that you preserve for your family and friends is important to you. The University of Wisconsin-Extension supports using up-to-date, research-tested recipes so that you know that the food that you preserve is both safe and high in quality. Here are a few quick tips on changes and substitutions that will keep your home-preserved tomato products safe to eat. canned tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes. Tomatoes are the most popular home-canned item. Acid is added to home-canned tomatoes to ensure safety. Many tested recipes allow you to choose either pressure canning or boiling water/steam canning for tomatoes.

  • Add ¼ teaspoon citric acid, or 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint of home-canned tomatoes. Add ½ teaspoon citric acid, or 2 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice per quart. Add a bit of sugar, is desired, to offset any changes in flavor.
  • You may safely reduce or eliminate salt in all home canned tomato recipes.
  • Where instructions are given for canning pints at 5 or 6 psi and quarts at 10 or 11 psi, you may safely process pints at the higher pressure for the length of time given for quart jars.
  • Don’t add low-acid ingredients such as peppers, onions, or celery to home-canned tomato products unless specifically allowed in a tested recipe.
  • Never thicken tomato products with flour or cornstarch in an attempt to create a condensed soup for canning. Instead, can tomatoes ‘plain’ and add thickeners prior to serving.

Research tested recipes for canning tomatoes can be found in Tomatoes Tart & Tasty!

Canning Salsa. Salsa is a mixture of high-acid ingredients such as fruit or tomatoes, and low-acid ingredients like peppers and onions.

  • You may substitute sweet peppers for hot peppers, and vice versa, measure for measure when preparing home-canned salsa. You may also substitute colored peppers for green ones!
  • You may add tomato paste to thicken any tested salsa recipe without changing the processing time. [Hint: if salsa is thinner than you like, simply drain prior to serving!]
  • You can reduce the sugar or salt in any tested salsa recipe.
  • You may reduce the amount of low-acid ingredients such as onion, celery, or green peppers in a tested salsa recipe. But you may not substitute corn, black beans, etc. for ingredients that are being reduced.
  • You may not change or reduce the type (or amount) of acid in a tested recipe. Add a bit of sugar if the salsa is too tart.
  • There are no safe methods for canning salsa in quart jars. If you wish to store in quart-size jars, then refrigerate or freeze for the long-term.
  • You may refrigerate or freeze a salsa recipe that can’t be safely canned. If refrigerated, store for up to 2 weeks.

Research tested recipes for canning salsa can be found in Canning Salsa Safely.

The University of Minnesota has some ideas for drying tomatoes in a dehydrator. Or try preparing a tomato leather to use in place of tomato paste. Other recipes for drying foods are available from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Try drying tomatoes until they are very dry and brittle, then grinding to a powder in a blender or coffee grinder. Tomato powder has a wonderful, rich tomato flavor and can be added to bread or pasta dough, or spooned into tomato sauces. I like to oven-roast tomatoes as follows: cut meaty Roma tomatoes into about 1/4″ thick slices, and place on a lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with oil and sea salt and roast at 375°F for 20-30 minutes or until soft and caramelized. Store refrigerated, or pack into freezer containers and freeze (I use waxed paper between layers for easy retrieval from the freezer). Oven-roasted tomatoes are great added to pasta, pizza or in salads.

A full list of safe changes and substitutions can be found here.

Safe preserving! Barb

Safe Preserving: Play it safe when preserving vegetables

Image courtesy of NC State University.

Image courtesy of NC State University.

The safety of the food that you preserve for your family and friends is important to you. The University of Wisconsin-Extension supports using up-to-date, research-tested recipes so that you know that the food that you preserve is both safe and high in quality. Here are a few quick tips on changes and substitutions that will keep your home preserved vegetables safe to eat.

Canning Vegetables. Vegetables are low in acid and must be canned in a pressure canner. There are some changes that you can safely make when canning vegetables at home.

  • You may create vegetable mixtures as long as there is a tested recipe for each vegetable that you are combining and you follow the processing time for the vegetable that has the longest time listed.
  • You may add a small amount of garlic (up to 1 clove per jar) to canned vegetables without impacting the processing time.
  • Do not thicken canned vegetables with flour or cornstarch, or add rice, pasta or other starchy ingredient, an unsafe product will result.

Research tested recipes for canning vegetables at home are available from the University of Wisconsin Extension.

Freezing Vegetables. Sometimes it’s just easier to freeze vegetables from the garden. Freezing vegetables takes minimal equipment, just a pot for boiling water or creating steam for blanching, and a bowl for cooling the blanched vegetables. You also need to make sure the frozen vegetables are well packaged for the freezer. In the heat of summer, freezing can be a ‘breeze.’  The key to freezing vegetables is quick cooling in ice water after blanching.  The cooling time should always equal the blanch time. So green peas blanched for 90 seconds are cooled for 90 seconds in ice water and then drained (well!) prior to packaging for the freezer.

Research tested recipes for freezing vegetables at home are available from the University of Wisconsin Extension. The National Center for Home Food Preservation also has some ideas for quickly converting your garden produce into frozen food for later enjoyment.

Drying Vegetables. Most vegetables dry even more successfully than fruits. For tips on making dried vegetables, including vegetable leathers, check out information from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Safe preserving! Barb

Safe Preserving: Safe Changes and Substitutions when Preserving Fruits

The safety of the food that you preserve for your family and friends is important to you. The University of Wisconsin-Extension supports using up-to-date, research-tested recipes so that you know that the food that you preserve is both safe and high in quality. Here are a few quick tips on changes and substitutions that are acceptable when preserving fruits that will keep your home preserved food safe to eat.

Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

 

Canning Fruits. Sugar is added to canned fruits help preserve color, help firm texture, and for flavor.

  • Choose a light fruit juice such as white grape juice for canning if you wish to reduce sugar in home-canned fruit.
  • You may safely eliminate sugar altogether when canning fruits at home, if you prefer. However, fruit canned in water is generally considered unappealing, and will spoil more quickly once opened.
  • There are no tested recipes for using sugar substitutes such as Sucralose in home canning. Refer to the manufacturer for directions for home canning using a sugar substitute.

Starting with a research tested recipe is a great first-step when canning fruits at home. Recommended sources of recipes for home canned fruits are the University of Wisconsin and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Making Jams and Jellies. Nothing says ‘summer’ like the delicious taste of homemade jam and jelly. Jams and jellies are processed in a boiling water or an atmospheric steam canner.

  • You may safely add a small amount (1 teaspoon or less) of herb or other flavoring to a fruit jam or jelly recipes; e.g. when making basil strawberry jam or vanilla cherry jelly.
  • Substitute peaches for nectarines, or apples for pears with the same tasty results.
  • You may use unsweetened, frozen or canned fruit in place of fresh in any jam or jelly recipe. Do not use pre-sweetened fruit.
  • You may use honey in making jams or jellies. In product made with pectin, replace up to 1 cup sugar with 1 cup honey for every 6-pint recipe; be sure to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe. In recipes with no added pectin, honey can replace up to ½ the sugar; decrease the amount of liquid by the amount of honey added.
  • Use 6 Tablespoons bulk pectin for every box!
  • Follow a recipe tested for the type of pectin (regular, low-sugar, no-sugar) and form (powdered or liquid) that you have. Don’t try substitutions, the product will fail to set.
  • Don’t double jam and jelly recipes….unless you like syrup! If you want to make larger batches, try using Clear-gel (modified corn starch) as a thickener rather than pectin.
  • Don’t worry about failures! Unset jam or jelly makes great pancake or ice cream topping, or can be used in cooking as a meat glaze, etc. Recook instructions are on p. 15 of Making Jams, Jellies & Fruit Preserves (B2909).

Recommended recipes for Homemade Jams and Jellies are available from the University of Wisconsin or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine also has some excellent and fun-to-try recipes.

In addition to home-canned treats, try drying fruits at home. Dried fruits add flavor to many dishes. Tips on drying food at home can be found at the National Center website.

A full list of safe substitutions can be found here.

Safe preserving! Barb

Safe Preserving: Using an Atmospheric Steam Canner

Image courtesy of Back to Basics

Image courtesy of Back to Basics

The University of Wisconsin has (finally!) published research which indicates that an Atmospheric Steam Canner may be safely used for canning naturally acid foods such as peaches, pears, and apples, or acidified-foods such as salsa or pickles, as long as all of the following criteria are met:

  • Foods must be high in acid, with a pH of 4.6 or below. Either a Boiling Water Canner or an Atmospheric Steam Canner can be used to safely preserve foods high in acid.
  • A research tested recipe developed for a boiling water canner must be used in conjunction with the Atmospheric Steam Canner. Approved recipes can be found in Extension publications or from the National Center for Home Food Processing and Preservation. The booklet accompanying the Atmospheric Steam Canner can’t be relied on to provide safe canning instructions!
  • Jars must be processed in pure steam at 212°F. The canner must be vented prior to starting the processing time until a full column of steam appears. A full column of steam (6-8 inches) should be observed venting from the hole(s) in the side of the canner during the entire timed process. Ideally, temperature should be monitored with a thermometer placed in the vent port, but the placement of jars in the canner may make this difficult. Some appliances come with a built-in temperature sensor in the dome lid and these appear to be accurate.
  • Jars must be heated prior to filling, filled with hot liquid (raw or hot pack), and cooling must be minimized prior to processing. An Atmospheric Steam Canner may be used with recipes approved for half-pint, pint, or quart jars.
  • Processing time must be modified for elevation as required by a tested recipe. Elevation for any address can be checked here: http://www.daftlogic.com/sandbox-google-maps-find-altitude.htm
  • Processing time must be limited to 45 minutes or less, including any modification for elevation. The processing time is limited by the amount of water in the canner base. When processing food, the canner should not be opened to add water. Regulate heat so that the canner maintains a temperature of 212° A canner that is boiling too vigorously can boil dry within 20 minutes. IF a canner boils dry, the food is considered under-processed and therefore potentially unsafe.
  • Cooling of jars must occur in still, ambient air. Cooling is important for safety. Jars should be cooled on a rack or towel away from drafts. Jars should not be placed in the refrigerator to hasten the cooling process.

Print guidelines for using a steam canner (Wisconsin (word) (pdf); all other states (word) (pdf)). Safe preserving! Barb

Safe & Healthy: Apple Cider

Image courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration.

Image courtesy of the FDA.

When fall arrives, many of us look forward to enjoying fresh juice and apple cider. While most people think of juices as healthy foods, juice and cider could pose a health risk to your family unless they are heated to kill harmful bacteria. News stories every year highlight this risk; here are some recent examples:

  • Oct. 31, 2014 – At least three sick with E. coli O157 in Canada from unpasteurized apple cider.
  • Oct. 26, 2013 – A northern Michigan farm owner faces criminal charges after at least 4 people who drank unpasteurized apple cider got sick from E. coli O157:H7.
  • October 16, 2013 – Unpasteurized apple cider sickens 11 in Johnson County in eastern Iowa; illness outbreak linked to Cryptosporidium.

Most of the juice sold in the United States is pasteurized (heat-treated) to kill harmful bacteria, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Juice may also be treated by non-heat processes to kill bacteria, but this is less common.  Some rules allow juice and cider sold at farmers’ markets and at farm stands to remain unpasteurized, as long as they are kept refrigerated and a warning statement appears on the product.

WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

Why the risk? When fruits and vegetables are fresh-squeezed to produce juice, any bacteria that are present on the inside or the outside of the produce can become part of the finished product. Unless the juice or cider is further processed to destroy harmful bacteria, it could be dangerous for those most at risk for foodborne illness. Infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS and cancer patients, diabetics, recipients of organ transplants, and others with chronic diseases are at greatest risk for foodborne illness.

While most people’s immune systems can usually fight off foodborne illnesses, people in these “at-risk groups” are susceptible to serious illness from drinking juice or cider that has not been processed to kill harmful microorganisms.

And even juices and cider that are further processed must still be handled under sanitary conditions and kept cold to ensure safety.

Two simple steps to prevent illness. 1) Always read the label. If you are concerned about your health, read the label on fresh juice or cider to make sure it’s been pasteurized to destroy harmful microorganisms. 2) When in doubt, ask! Always ask if you are unsure if a juice or cider product has been pasteurized, especially a fresh drink served at a restaurant or juice bar where labeling of a package with a warning statement does not apply.

You can take comfort knowing that pasteurized juices have been treated to help protect the health of your family and friends.

Stay food safe (and healthy)! Barb

Safe & Healthy: The Dangers of Raw Milk

Kate_rawmilkA recent outbreak of illness in Pepin County at Durand High School highlights the dangers of consuming raw (unpasteurized) milk. Several high school students who drank raw milk at a potluck were sickened with campylobacteriosis, liked to the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia: Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Campylobacter. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

Milk is a natural liquid food. It is nutrient-rich; it contributes high-quality protein, essential vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, to the diet. Since prehistoric times humans have used milk in many ways: to drink; to churn into butter; to produce cheeses and other cultured or fermented products, such as yogurt and buttermilk; and to combine with other foods and ingredients to make frozen desserts, candy, and baked goods.

Bacteria in Milk

Milk, like many other foods and the environment around us, contains bacteria. Bacteria can be classified into three general types: 1) beneficial or benign, 2) spoilage, and 3) harmful or pathogenic. Beneficial bacteria help make food products people like to eat. For instance, cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk are dairy foods that are produced with the help of beneficial bacteria. Benign bacteria are harmless organisms which have no effect on the food or human or animal health. Spoilage bacteria cause foods to smell, taste, look, and feel bad. Spoilage bacteria cause milk “to go bad” and produce foul smells and off flavors. Harmful or pathogenic bacteria are the ones that make people and animals sick.

 Most of the bacteria in fresh milk from healthy animals are harmless. However, an unhealthy animal or dairy-farm worker, polluted water, dirt, or manure, or contaminants introduced into the milk from open wounds or cuts, or even the air, can make raw milk potentially dangerous. And since milk is such a nutritionally complete food, it provides an excellent medium for survival and growth of bacteria.

Health Hazards of Raw Milk

Decades ago, before pasteurization of milk was mandated by government agencies, milk contaminated with harmful bacteria was linked to serious diseases including typhoid fever, diphtheria, scarlet fever, dysentery, Q-fever, and other kinds of foodborne illness. Other diseases, including tuberculosis and undulant fever (brucellosis), can be transmitted to people in raw milk from diseased animals. Milk pasteurization was initially designed to kill the bacterium that caused tuberculosis, considered to be the most heat resistant pathogen found in raw milk. In the 1960’s the temperatures at which milk is pasteurized was increased slightly to ensure destruction of the bacteria, Coxiella burnetii, which causes Q-fever.

In addition to the hazards historically associated with raw milk, scientists and some unfortunate consumers have become painfully aware of some new strains of harmful bacteria which also can get into milk and may make people very ill. These bacteria include E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium DT-104, and Campylobacter jejuni.

Pasteurization Protects Dairy Product Consumers

Food safety specialists strongly recommend that milk be pasteurized prior to consumption. Milk pasteurization is a rapid, carefully controlled heat treatment which renders milk free of harmful pathogens. Current standards require a minimum of 161°F for 15 seconds to ensure safety. Following pasteurization, milk is rapidly cooled and, kept cold, milk has a long shelf life in the refrigerator. Milk pasteurization does not reduce the nutritional value of milk; many companies actually enhance the nutritional value of milk at the time of pasteurization by fortifying milk with vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption.

More information about raw milk can be found online:

Stay food safe! Barb

Safe & Healthy: Food Safety at the Farmers’ Market

Image courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration.

Image courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration.

Shopping at a farmers’ market can be a great way to get locally-grown, fresh fruit, vegetables, and other foods for you and your family.  Market stands in the Madison area this past weekend were overflowing with winter squashes, apples, potatoes (white and sweet), cabbage, onions, peppers and even some late-season lettuce and tomatoes.

As more and more people shop at farmers’ markets, it’s important to remember those food safety steps that keep that farm-fresh food safe to eat.

Produce

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Don’t use soap or detergent. Commercial produce washes are not necessary, they may make your produce look shinier but they will not make it any safer.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables even if you plan to peel the items before eating. Any bacteria present on the outside of items like melons can be transferred to the inside when you cut or peel them.
  • Refrigerate cut or peeled fruits and vegetables within two hours after preparation, and keep them cold.  Remember to use an ice pack to keep cut or peeled produce cold in a lunch box.

Juices and Cider

Before you purchase juice or cider, check to make sure it has been treated (pasteurized) to kill harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems should drink only pasteurized or treated juice.

Milk and Cheeses

  • Buy only pasteurized milk. Raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms, such as Salmonella, toxin-producing E. coli, and Listeria, that can pose serious health risks to you and your family. See Myths about Raw Milk for more information.
  • Pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes. One source for this bacteria is soft cheese such as Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, cream-style cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela made from unpasteurized milk. If you are in the at-risk group, or you are caring for someone in this group, only purchase soft cheeses made from pasteurized or heat-treated milk. Individuals in the at-risk group must also take care to avoid blue-veined cheeses or mold-ripened cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, and blue-cheeses, whether made from pasteurized milk or not.

Eggs

  • Purchase eggs only if properly chilled at the market. The Food and Drug Administration requires that untreated shell eggs  be stored and displayed at 45°F.
  • Before buying eggs, open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.

Meat

  • Meat must be properly chilled at the market. Meat should be kept in closed coolers with adequate amounts of ice to maintain cool temperatures.
  • Transport meat safely. Bring an insulated bag or cooler with you to the market to keep meat cool on the way home.
  • Keep meat separate from your other purchases, so that the juices from raw meat (which may contain harmful bacteria) do not come in contact with produce and other foods.

Practicing these few food safety tips will help you and your family enjoy the end-of-the-season bounty. And remember that  www.foodsafety.gov is a place to find up-to-date food safety information. Stay food safe! Barb

Safe & Healthy: A new Halloween treat for children with food allergies

Image courtesy of Food Allergy Research & Education

Image courtesy of Food Allergy Research & Education

October 15, 2014. CNN news has reported on a new project to try to make Halloween a more food-safe holiday for children with food allergies. The Teal Pumpkin Project designed by the Food Allergy Research & Education organization is designed to help children with food allergies choose treats without tricks on Halloween this year.

Halloween candy can be frightening if you’re allergic to milk, nuts or other common food ingredients. So the Food Allergy Research & Education organization is promoting a teal-colored Halloween this year. The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages people to place a teal-painted pumpkin outside their door if the household is offering non-food treats such as small toys, stickers, and crayons.

Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 4%–6% of children in the United States. Allergic reactions can be life threatening and have far-reaching effects on children and their families. A food allergy occurs when the body has a specific and reproducible immune response to certain foods. The body’s immune response can be severe and life threatening. Although the immune system normally protects people from germs, in people with food allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to food as if it were harmful.

Eight foods or food groups account for 90% of serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Many of these same foods are commonly found in Halloween candies, cookies, and other treats.

Parents of children with food allergies are urged to be extra careful at Halloween. Food-label reading is key. As an extra precaution, consider visiting only those homes who are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project and offering non-food treats. Stay food safe! Barb

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