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Tag Archive | "USDA"

Protect gardens from invasive pests


By following USDA’s six easy tips, you can help protect your plants, trees and crops from invasive pests.

By following USDA’s six easy tips, you can help protect your plants, trees and crops from invasive pests.

(NAPS)—Nothing tastes better than fresh-picked fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, invasive pests threaten to devour the crops in our gardens and farms, and the flowers, trees and plants in our landscapes. They are a real threat, costing our nation approximately $120 billion each year.

These pests can spread quickly as they come from other countries and have few or no natural enemies here. In particular, the USDA cautions gardeners to be wary of 19 destructive, invasive species known as Hungry Pests, which include the emerald ash borer and Asian citrus psyllid. People need to be aware of these pests, because they are primarily spread in the things people move and pack.

Tips to Save Gardens

Fortunately, homeowners can follow six easy tips to protect their gardens and landscapes, and help keep Hungry Pests from spreading:

  • Only buy plants and seeds from reputable sources, such as established nurseries or online businesses. Ask where they buy their plants and if they comply with federal quarantine restrictions. Temporary, roadside vendors—and even non-established dealers online—may not be doing what is required to keep plants free of pests.
  • If you are in a quarantined area—check www.HungryPests. com/the-spread—don’t move plants or homegrown produce. And to be safe, don’t bring back plants from other areas, including abroad. That’s how the Mexican fruit fly—which threatens 50 types of fruits and vegetables—entered the United States.
  • When doing property clean-up, call your local USDA office to find out how to safely dispose of trees, branches and other yard debris. Moving such materials outside your property in quarantined areas could spread invasive pests. Make sure your contractors also follow the procedures.
  • Don’t move homegrown citrus or citrus plants outside your property. That’s how citrus greening, a disease that is killing America’s orange groves, has spread.
  • Look for round and D-shaped holes in trees. They could be the exit holes of Asian longhorned beetles or emerald ash borers. Also look for yellow, thin or wilted leaves, shoots growing from roots or tree trunks, sawdust-like material and unusual woodpecker activity. If something looks suspicious, be safe and report it using the “Report a Pest” button on the Hungry Pests’ website.
  • For those in the northeast quadrant of the country, inspect lawn furniture, fences and other outdoor items, and remove and immerse gypsy moth egg masses in soapy water. Gypsy moths eat more than 300 species of trees and shrubs, so early detection is key. Report findings to agricultural officials.

Go to HungryPests.com to learn more, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments Off on Protect gardens from invasive pests

Keep clear of the “Danger Zone” this summer


 

Summer cookouts are right around the corner and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is urging consumers to remember the four simple steps to food safety – Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill – and to steer clear of the ‘Danger Zone’ while cooking outdoors.

“I encourage families to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors and the variety of food America’s farmers are able to provide,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “It’s important to remember that bacteria grow faster in the same warm temperatures, so extra care should be taken to make sure perishable food doesn’t spend too long in the Danger Zone. That is temperatures between 40 and 140˚F when perishable food spoils rapidly. Foods that should be served hot or cold should not spend more than one hour in the Danger Zone when temperatures are above 90˚F, and two hours when temperatures are below 90˚F.”

Planning ahead is a key factor for ensuring food is safely handled and stored, and USDA’s FoodKeeper App can help. Developed by FSIS in partnership with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, this application informs users on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality, helping to promote food safety while also reducing food waste. The FoodKeeper application offers users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. The app also links to FSIS’ other digital resources, such as AskKaren.

What is the Danger Zone?

The Danger Zone is the temperature range in which bacteria can grow faster. Bacteria can actually double in number in as little as 20 minutes when perishable food is kept in the Danger Zone. In order to steer clear of the Danger Zone, you should always:

  • Keep cold food, at or below 40°F, in the refrigerator, in coolers, or in containers on ice.
  • Limit the time coolers are open. Open and close the lid quickly. Do not leave coolers in direct sunlight.
  • Keep foods served hot at or above 140°F, in chafing dishes, warming trays, slow cookers or on the grill. You can keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the safe recommended temperatures.
  • Never leave food between 40 and 140˚F for more than two hours.  If the temperature is above 90°F, food should not be left out more than one hour.

As always, we remind consumers to follow the four steps to food safety when preparing dishes for a cookout:

Clean: Make sure to always wash your hands and surfaces with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before cooking and after handling raw meat or poultry during cooking. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and work spaces with soap and warm water too. If you plan to be away from the kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate:  When taking food off the grill, use a clean platter. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry. Any harmful bacteria present in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

Cook: Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of burgers, steaks, chicken, and foods containing meat or poultry.

Hamburgers, sausages and other ground meats should reach 160 °F.

All poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165 °F.

Whole cuts of pork, lamb, veal, and of beef should be cooked to 145 °F as measured by a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, and allowed to rest for three minutes before eating. A “rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens.

Fish should be cooked to 145°F.

Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside, and by using a food thermometer you can be sure items have reached a safe minimum internal temperature needed to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Chill: After a cookout, place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food left in the Danger Zone too long. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

Posted in HealthComments Off on Keep clear of the “Danger Zone” this summer

Back to school food safety tips 


 

Back to school, back to the books, back shuttling students to and from extracurricular activities. The new school year likely means back to packing lunches and afterschool snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One “back” you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is foodborne bacteria.

Bacteria that cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In this temperature range, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels in just two hours, increasing the risk of foodborne illness. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those for whom you pack, you should follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Packing Tips

If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources. Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly, so perishable food transported without an ice source will not stay safe long.

Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquid should be thawed and ready to drink.

Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.

If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot at 140 °F or above.

If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.

If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.

After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by “following” @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by “liking” Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

If you have questions about storage times of food or beverages, download USDA’s new FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices.

Posted in Back 2 SchoolComments Off on Back to school food safety tips 

Fun, healthy lunchbox ideas


Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

(Family Features) The daily routine of packing foods for lunchtime may seem boring, but the food inside those lunchboxes doesn’t have to be. Consider your students’ personality when planning school lunches.

Whether the cafeteria-bound container features Hello Kitty or Justin Bieber, the foods inside should be customized to fit age, activity level and personal style. So how do you get beyond the usual carrots and celery sticks? Noted nutrition expert, award winning food journalist and television personality, Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD LD, advises parents to think about the personality of each child when assembling lunch.

BACK-Lunchbox-ideas2-myplateFix finger foods for young eaters

Overwhelmed little students may do best with tiny bites of finger foods. So, if you have a shy first grader, send them with string cheese sticks, whole grain crackers, baby carrots and cut-up fruit.

Cucumber wheels, red or orange bell pepper strips, and sugar snap peas are also colorful and nutritious finger foods. Add low-fat ranch dressing or individual packs of fiber- and protein-rich hummus for dipping. The oil in these dips actually helps kids absorb more of the veggie’s fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A.

Up the nutrition for those not focused on lunch

What about the teens and tweens focused on anything but the lunch at lunchtime? Older kids focused on friends might prefer a sandwich and a bunch of grapes.

“That table of girls checking out the new guy don’t want to be seen wolfing down large portions,” O’Neil said. “A dainty sandwich cut into quarters or half of a whole-wheat pita sandwich might be a better fit. Choose lean proteins such as sliced turkey, roast beef or deli ham to maximize nutrition and minimize calories. For something sweet, they may prefer to dip grapes, strawberries or pineapple chunks in protein-packed Greek yogurt.”

Pack plenty of food for hungry athletes

Hungry athletes need larger servings of healthy foods for lunch, such as an extra slice of turkey on a sandwich and whole grain tortilla chips with an individual pack of salsa. These energy-burning kids may also need two cartons of cold milk for hydration and nutrition.

For after school, pack a snack to keep your sports star energized. They can refuel before sports practice with fresh fruit or the extra protein in a granola bar with peanuts or other nuts.

No matter what’s on the menu for your students, follow the USDA MyPlate nutrition icon. This visual for good nutrition indicates half of a healthy plate be filled with fruit and vegetables, with the two other quarters occupied by a lean protein and a whole grain starch. To complete the meal, add a cup of fat free or low fat milk. Look for food safety tips and after school snack ideas at www.BestFoodFacts.org.

 

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Reduce your waistline and your personal impact on the environment


Biggest Loser contestants

Contestants on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” are also learning about ways they can help the environment while losing weight this season. Tune into the show and take the FilterForGood Pledge at www.filterforgood.com to learn more and get involved.

(ARA) – It’s empowering to know that there are small changes you can make in your own life that can also have positive effects on everyone else’s life. But did you know that many of the same things you personally do to live a healthier lifestyle can also positively impact the environment?
In fact, improving your own waistline and reducing your personal waste are connected in more ways than you’ve probably thought about. Here are four changes you can make to your everyday life that will also make a positive impact on your health and the earth:
* Eat local, organic foods. By making sure that you are purchasing locally grown, organic foods, you are also reducing the amount of energy it takes to transport the food to your area. When you eat locally, it means that the food has to travel a much shorter distance to make it onto your plate, therefore reducing its impact on the environment. It also allows you to know that you are eating some of the freshest produce available to you, which are packed with vitamins you need to improve your health.
* Drink more water, but ditch the disposable plastic bottle. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so grabbing some water might quench both a craving and your thirst. Water is a far better choice than calorie-ridden sugary beverages.
By carrying a reusable container  with you instead of single-use plastic water bottles, you’ll do your part in reducing plastic waste. “If everyone in the United States pledged to give up bottled water for just one month it could save more than 5 billion bottles,” says Josh Dorfman, environmental activist, TV host and author of “The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget: Save Money. Save Time. Save the Planet.”
* Eat more fruits and vegetables. The health benefits of increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet are well-documented, as vegetables are a low-fat, low-calorie source of essential nutrients. But did you know that when you eat less meat and more vegetables, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint?
According to a 2008 Economic Information Bulletin from the USDA, the food market produces hundreds of pounds of meat each year per American to meet demand – an amount that has not been good for our nation’s waistlines. The production of meat uses many more resources than fruits and veggies, which is why Dorfman recommends going meatless at least one day a week. For a fun and healthy way to learn more about how your food is sourced, ride a bike or jog over to a local farmer market.
* Power of the pedal, or your feet. On your way to becoming healthier, you’re sure to include exercise in your plan. Sometimes though, exercising can have a greater purpose than just working your muscles and improving cardiovascular health.
Consider including daily chores into your workout plan, as it will help you fit in your workout while also leaving your car on the curb. Bike or walk to the grocery store to do your weekly shopping.

Posted in NewsComments Off on Reduce your waistline and your personal impact on the environment