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Beach Beat: Avocado hand and other summer food hazards


I figure you haven’t properly celebrated a summer holiday unless you consume some potato salad and baked beans, but an increasing number of people are making guacamole a summertime tradition, and according to some doctors the trend is a dangerous one.

In an odd moment in the world of food safety, the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons recently called for warning labels on avocados. They say an increasing number of people are showing up in emergency rooms with serious cuts because they lost control of their knives while trying to get to the good stuff between the skin and stone of the fruit.

“Many cases involve serious nerve and tendon injuries, requiring intricate surgery — and even then some patients never recover the full use of the hand,” reported The Times newspaper in London earlier this month.

According to my colleagues across the pond at The Times, the situation is so serious that a term has been coined. “Avocado hand” is what they’re calling in in emergency rooms apparently.

avocado potato salad credit Calif Avocado Commission

For tips on how to choose and use avocados, click on the image to go to the California Avocado Commission’s website.

Thankfully the good folks at the California Avocado Commission have tons of tips on how not to end up doing your own personal avocado version of Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation of chef Julia Child. I don’t care what the millennials say. They have no idea what it was like to watch “Saturday Night Live” live in its early years.

Anyway, as the summer partying begins this weekend, with cookouts, picnics and feasting for all, be sure to take a moment to think about the food you are serving and the people who will be eating it. Foodborne illnesses make really rotten party favors, so take a look at the tips below from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Also, please remember infants, toddlers, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone with a suppressed immune system — which can mean anything from cancer patients to people with severe allergies — are particularly susceptible to foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, etc.

Words of wisdom from USDA
Summer is a time for family vacations, backyard barbeques and plenty of outdoor activities with food as the centerpiece. But before those steaks and burgers go on the grill, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) wants to remind consumers to keep their family and themselves safe from foodborne illness by using a food thermometer to ensure meat and poultry is cooked to the correct internal temperature.

“The best and only way to make sure bacteria have been killed and food is safe to eat is by cooking it to the correct internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. “It is a simple step that can keep your family and guests from getting foodborne illnesses.”

Recent research by USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that only 34 percent of the public use a food thermometer when cooking hamburgers. If you don’t verify your burger’s internal temperature, pathogens may still be present. When eaten, those hamburgers can make your guests and your family sick.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

So how do you avoid becoming a part of those statistics? Follow USDA’s four easy steps to food safety this summer.

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. If cooking outside or away from a kitchen, pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

Separate: When taking food off of the grill, use clean utensils and platters. Don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat or poultry.

Cook: Alwaysuse a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat and poultry. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food.

  • illustration grilling safety temperaturesHamburgers, 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: Place leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate or freeze immediately. Discard food that has been sitting out longer than two hours, or one hour if its 90 degrees of hotter and the food is outdoors without a heat source or ice.

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