Whether or not you’re a fan of eggnog, odds are someone in your family is bringing it to your New Year’s gathering. If not made properly, the recipe could include Salmonella. 

This is especially dangerous if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Each year this creamy drink causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? It is usually raw or undercooked eggs that cause the problems.

Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture. 

Eggnog recipes vary greatly, and the use as coffee creamer or part of a cocktail doesn’t mean that bacteria aren’t finding their way into your drinks.

Here are some answers to common eggnog questions and how to keep your eggnog free of harmful pathogens.

Myth #1 — Alcohol kills bacteria in eggnog

Some people think that adding rum, whiskey or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But, the alcohol in the drink does not kill bacteria.

Myth #2 — Adding eggnog to hot coffee kills bacteria

At its very hottest, coffee is served at 160 to 185 degrees F. But the adding of cold cream quickly drops the temperature of your beverage. To be sure that any Salmonella is killed in eggnog, the mixture must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

Myth #3 — All store-bought eggnog have raw eggs

The eggs in store-bought eggnogs have been pasteurized. This is a process of cooking the eggs by heating the drink to high temperatures for a short time in order to kill any bacteria or microorganisms that may be present.

How to make safe eggnog:

The FDA advises consumers to start with a cooked egg base for eggnog.

To make a cooked egg base:

  1. Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.
  2. Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present.
  3. After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients such as cinnamon.

Other options for safe eggnog

You can also use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your eggnog, or you can find a recipe without eggs.

  • With the egg substitute products, you might have to experiment a bit with the recipe to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.
  • Pasteurized eggs can also be used in place of raw eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys Salmonella that might be present, without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. These are available at some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost than unpasteurized eggs. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.

So, by following these safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick for the beginning of the New Year.

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Arruda’s Dairy Farms of Tiverton, RI, is recalling eggnog that has sell-by dates well into 2018 because a sample was found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recall was announced Monday after routine testing, according to WPRI-TV Channel 12. The owners of Arruda’s Dairy Farms have suspended production of the eggnog while they and the Rhode Island Department of Health continue to investigate the source of the Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the recalled products, however, public health officials are concerned that consumers may have unused portions of the eggnog in their homes. The recall includes Arruda’s brand eggnog in pints, quarts and half-gallons.

Sell-by dates of “2-3-18” and “2-10-18” are stamped on the recalled eggnog. Arruda’s distributed the eggnog to retail stores and home-delivery customers throughout eastern Rhode Island and the Fall River area.

Customers who purchased the recalled eggnog can return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

Anyone who has consumed any of the eggnog and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Symptoms can include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal. Infants, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune system are at greatest risk.

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Some of the most popular holiday foods, such as eggnog and French toast, feature undercooked eggs as a key ingredient.  But does the risk of Salmonella in raw eggs make “nog” a no-go?

“Here’s the dilemma consumers are facing: This time of year, recipes come out of the woodwork. They’re taking another look at those recipes and saying ‘Hey, these don’t meet today’s food safety standards,'” says Elisa Maloberti, director of Egg Product Marketing at the American Egg Board. 

The concern is that Grandma’s family eggnog recipe might not be considered safe anymore. While only 1 in every 20,000 eggs contains Salmonella, no one wants to spend their holiday in the hospital.

Pasteurized shelled eggs are becoming increasingly available (one brand is called Safest Choice); however all consumers may not have ready access to them. 

But don’t put away your nutmeg (or your rum) just yet.  It turns out that as long as the right precautions are taken, raw eggs can be used safely in liquid form.

 
Maloberti says the key is to heat raw eggs to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill all bacteria.

The savvy egg-eater might point out that a runny egg becomes an omelet when heated to this temperature; and he or she would be right.  However, Maloberti explains, a simple addition can solve this problem.  Eggs harden when their proteins coagulate, so in order for them to stay runny, their proteins must remain separate.  This can be achieved by diluting the egg with a substance like milk or sugar.

“The magic number is two tablespoons of sugar per white,” Maloberti says.  When cooking yolks and whites together, the American Egg board says to add ¼ cup of liquid or sugar per egg.  This mixture can then be heated to 160 degrees and will not harden.

Maloberti recently received a call from a woman worried about making French silk pie, a no-bake dessert containing eggs.  Maloberti told her that by combining the eggs, sugar and chocolate squares and heating them to 160 degrees before adding the creamed butter, she would not only make a pasteurized pie, but would save herself the step of melting the chocolate.

Explains Maloberti, “We didn’t change her recipe.  We just combined the ingredients in a different order.”

Maloberti stands behind the safety of the technique she teaches: “I have done this, and I can tell you first hand, without a doubt, I’m 100 percent confident that these methods work.”

Not surprisingly, this food-safety method is effective beyond its use in custards and holiday pies.  It can be used year-round when making ice cream, Caesar salad dressing, or any other food containing raw eggs.  Maloberti says the necessary step is adding the recipe’s liquid or sugar ingredients (at least 1/4 cup for every egg) to the raw eggs and heating the mixture to 160 before adding it to cooked or solid ingredients.

What about all those essential nutrients that we rely on eggs to give us?  Does this high heat diminish their value?

For the most part, the answer is no.  “Egg nutrients are pretty heat-stable,” Maloberti says. “The proteins themselves are only affected by overcooking.”  The B vitamins found in eggs, on the other hand, are more heat-sensitive, but these are vulnerable any time an egg is cooked.

For those who don’t feel the need to use fresh eggs, but still want to make safe food, Dean Hughson, vice president of Henningsen’s Foods, recommends liquid, frozen, or dried egg products, which are required by law to be pasteurized.

 
However people choose to make their holiday goodies safe, Maloberti has one final piece of advice for bakers: “French silk pie on a display table is a no-no.”  Pies might look lovely on a banquet table, but the rich nutrients in the eggs also make a lovely home for bacteria. Maloberti recommends taking pies out to serve, and then putting them back in the fridge or oven.

 
For more information on egg safety, visit the American Egg Board‘s website.

Whether trick-or-treating or hosting a fall party, we all need to be careful that food poisoning doesn’t make our fall festivities scary in the worst ways. 

Follow these tips to keep family, friends and pets safe this Halloween:

  • Snacking: Children shouldn’t snack on treats from their goody bags while they’re out trick-or-treating. Give them a light meal or snack before they head out — don’t send them out on an empty stomach. If you are not escorting them, tell them to wait until they get home and let you inspect their loot before they eat any of it.
  • Safe treats: Tell children not to accept — and especially not to eat — anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
  • Food Allergies: If your child has a food allergy, check the labels to ensure the allergen isn’t present. Do not allow the child to eat any home-baked goods he or she may have received.
  • Choking hazards: If you have very young children, be sure to remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.

Bobbing for apples is an all-time favorite Halloween game. Here are a couple of ways to prevent bacteria that can cause foodborne illness from ruining the fun.

  • Reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Try this new spin on apple bobbing from FightBAC.org: Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper. On each apple, write activities for kids, such as “do 5 jumping jacks.” Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string. Let the children take turns “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple. Give children a fresh apple for participating.

Fall party tips:

  • Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. To stay safe, always serve pasteurized products at your parties.
  • No matter how tempting, don’t taste raw cookie dough or cake batter that contains uncooked eggs or unbaked flour.
  • Keep all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped cream and cream-cheese frostings.
  • Don’t leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F).

Eggnog

Traditional eggnog is made with raw eggs, which just like the cookie dough, creates a potential risk of salmonella poisoning. While cooking can destroy disease-causing bacteria, consumers can still become ill if the eggnog is left at room temperature for more than two hours before being consumed. Safe alternatives are pasteurized eggnog beverages sold in grocery dairy cases, though these products should still be kept refrigerated.

Pet safety

With candy all around the house at this time of year, make sure your pets can’t get to it as chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats.

According to the American Kennel Club, signs of chocolate poisoning usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after a dog has eaten it. Older dogs and dogs with heart conditions are more at risk of sudden death from chocolate poisoning. 

The symptoms, which may last up to 72 hours, include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Diahrrea
  • Restlessness
  • Increased urination
  • Tremors
  • Elevated or abnormal heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Collapse and death

According to PetMD, though eating chocolate is less common in cats, the toxicity is just as severe.

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Multiple cooks, including children and the elderly, and multiple meals and dishes being prepared at the same time during the holidays, all make for a potential food poisoning nightmare.

The best way to keep your family safe, is to follow the four basic food safety rules — clean, separate, cook and chill.

“Clean” reminds consumers to wash their hands and kitchen surfaces often during cooking. “Separate” prevents cross-contamination by encouraging consumers to keep their raw meats away from other foods. “Cook” informs consumers of the necessity of cooking their meat, poultry, fish and egg products to the right internal temperature. “Chill” highlights the importance of prompt refrigeration of food. Focusing on those behaviors provides consumers with clear steps they can take to protect themselves and their families from food poisoning. 

Are you a Christmas ham or turkey family?
According to Monday’s Food Safety News Twitter poll, more than 40 percent of our followers say they prefer ham for Christmas. 

Ham cooking safety tips from the USDA:

  • Both whole or half, cooked, vacuum-packaged hams packaged in federally inspected plants and canned hams can be eaten cold, right out of the package.
  • If you want to reheat these cooked hams, set the oven no lower than 325 °F and heat to an internal temperature of 140 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Unpackaged, cooked ham is potentially contaminated with pathogens. For cooked hams that have been repackaged in any other location outside the processing plant or for leftover cooked ham, heat to 165 °F.
  • Spiral-cut cooked hams are also safe to eat cold, if they have been held at proper temperatures. These hams are best served cold because heating sliced whole or half hams can dry out the meat and cause the glaze to melt and run off the meat. If reheating is desired, hams that were packaged in processing plants under USDA inspection must be heated to 140 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer (165 degrees F for leftover spiral-cut hams or ham that has been repackaged in any other location outside the plant). To reheat a spiral-sliced ham in a conventional oven, cover the entire ham, or individual portions, with heavy aluminum foil and heat at 325 degrees F for about 10 minutes per pound. Individual slices may also be warmed in a skillet or microwave, but must reach 165 degrees F.
  • Cook-before-eating hams or fresh hams must reach 145 degrees F (with a 3-minute rest time) to be safely cooked before serving. Cook in an oven set no lower than 325 degrees F. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, other countertop appliances, and on the stove. Consult a cookbook for specific methods and timing.
  • Country hams can be soaked for 4 to 12 hours or longer in the refrigerator to reduce the salt content before cooking. Then they can be cooked by boiling or baking. Follow the manufacturer’s cooking instructions.

According to yesterday’s Food Safety News Twitter poll, over just less than 30 percent of our followers say they prefer turkey on Christmas. 

Turkey cooking safety tips from the USDA:

Thaw the turkey safely
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, at room temperature or in hot water. They must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. There are safe ways to thaw a turkey and other food, including in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave.

Even though the center of the food may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food can easily be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. The danger zone allows potentially deadly bacteria to multiply rapidly.

Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing and cook them separately.

Thoroughly cook your turkey

  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is done. The turkey is done when the thermometer reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey thigh. Be aware dark meat takes longer to cook than any other part.
  • Basting the turkey while it is cooking is not necessary. Basting tools could be sources of bacterial contamination if dipped into uncooked or undercooked poultry juices and then allowed to sit at room temperature for later basting.
  • Do not cook a turkey overnight in an oven set at a low temperature. Cooking a turkey at a temperature below 325 degrees Fahrenheit allows harmful bacteria to multiply.
  • If you purchase a fully cooked turkey, pick it up hot and take it home to eat immediately or refrigerate it.

Holiday specials

  • If your eggnog is egg-based make sure to cook the base to a minimum safe temperature of 160 degrees F.  Adding alcohol alone does not make eggnog safe for consumption. 
  •  “Tiger meat” or “cannibal sandwiches” are a winter holiday dish common in the upper Midwest as well as other parts of the country. It contains raw ground meat, usually beef, seasoned with spices and onion and sometimes raw eggs, and served on bread or a cracker. Hundreds are sickened every year from eating this dish. Never eat raw meat. Both ground beef and raw eggs pose health hazards when eaten undercooked or raw. A safe alternative is to mix ground beef with spices and onion and cook it to a safe 160 degrees F.
  • When baking this holiday season do not eat raw dough if it contains eggs or unbaked flour.

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Almost half of Australians surveyed are washing raw chicken before cooking it, according to a poll.

A consumer survey by the Food Safety Information Council and Australian Chicken Meat Federation found 49 percent of people reported washing whole, raw chicken. However, this is down from 60 percent when the question was posed a decade ago.

Washing raw poultry can spread bacteria to hands, surfaces and other foods that may not be cooked. It is also unnecessary as cooking poultry to 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) as measured with a food thermometer in the center of a fillet or the thickest part of the thigh will kill any bacteria.

The survey was conducted nationally by Omnipoll with 1,219 people aged 18 and older in October ahead of the holidays and the Australian summer.

Cathy Moir, Food Safety Information Council chair, said washing any raw poultry is risky.

“We are pleased that rates of washing raw whole chicken has reduced from 60 percent to 49 percent since we last asked this question in 2011. Cooks who wash raw chicken pieces with skin on has also reduced from 52 percent to 43 percent and washing skinless pieces from 41 percent to 40 percent,” she said.

“The survey found that chicken is a popular dish with 78 percent of respondents cooking whole chicken, 83 percent cooking chicken pieces with skin on and 88 percent cooking skinless pieces. But the message is that washing any raw poultry, whether it is chicken, duck, goose or the Christmas turkey, is both unsafe and unnecessary.”

Hot weather
Other holiday and summer entertaining food safety tips include washing hands with soap and water before preparing and cooking food, and after handling shell eggs, seafood, raw meat and poultry, burgers and sausages.

Reduced salt hams are becoming popular but will not last as long as conventional hams so check storage instructions and dates on products. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible.

Tools, utensils and chopping boards should be cleaned and dried thoroughly before starting to prepare food and cleaned with hot soapy water after use. Use separate chopping boards such as red for raw meat and poultry and green for vegetables.

Plan ahead and don’t buy more food than you need so the refrigerator and freezer are not overstocked. Try to avoid raw or minimally cooked egg dishes, such as raw egg mayonnaise or aioli, eggnog or desserts like tiramisu, which can pose a higher risk of food poisoning.

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This article originally appeared in the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, a monthly publication of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Find more expert guidance on healthy cooking, eating, and living here.

The feast that officially kicks off the holiday season is here. Thanksgiving is steeped in the comfort and familiarity of traditional foods — turkey and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce —as well as a few time-worn misconceptions. If you blame the turkey for your after-dinner snooze or feel you’ve ruined your healthy diet by splurging on pumpkin pie, it’s time to set things straight. We’re taking on — and debunking — five Thanksgiving feast un-truths.

1. Turkey makes you sleepy: Not really.
Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin, which is involved in regulating sleep cycles. But many protein-rich foods, including chicken, fish, soybeans, and some cheeses, contain as much or more tryptophan by weight than turkey, yet don’t have the same reputation for inducing sleepiness.

Post-meal malaise is more likely due to other factors. The high intake of rapidly digested carbohydrates (e.g., white potatoes, stuffing, sugary desserts) at most Thanksgiving meals increases blood sugar quickly. The major boost in insulin released to manage that blood sugar can cause an overcorrection, leading to low blood sugar levels and tiredness.

Our over-full plates could also contribute to post-feast fatigue. The body diverts blood away from other parts of the body to the digestive tract, which can leave us feeling low energy. Let’s not forget the sleep-inducing effects of alcoholic beverages or the exhaustion brought on by preparing the feast and the stress involved in entertaining guests.

Try this: To prevent a stupor caused by overindulgence, don’t go into the Thanksgiving meal overly hungry. Eat small portions of white potatoes, stuffing, sweetened cranberry sauce, and other sugary treats — and put those carbs to task with an energizing post meal walk instead of a nap.

Turkey may not be the culprit of post-meal malaise. Over-full plates also contribute to post-feast fatigue. Photo: Ingimage

2. Canned pumpkin is not as nutritious as fresh: They are pretty equivalent.

Whether fresh or canned, you really can’t go wrong with this flavorful and nutrient-dense winter squash. A single half-cup serving of either fresh or canned pumpkin packs more than 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A and is a good source of several other vitamins and minerals, including fiber, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Choose 100 percent pumpkin, not cans of pumpkin pie mix, which contain a lot of added sugar, salt, and spices. Using canned pumpkin purée saves time, energy, and even money and might help boost intake of this nutritious food. One definite perk to using fresh pumpkin is the pumpkin seeds, which can be roasted and used in various dishes. Be aware that the flavor of fresh pumpkin might be slightly different than canned, depending on the type of pumpkin used.

Try this: Use 100 percent pumpkin purée in muffins, pancakes, and savory dishes like soups, overnight oats, casseroles, and pasta sauce. Try making homemade pumpkin pie taste a little more like pumpkin and a little less like sugar.

3. Cranberry sauce is great for health: Not with all that added sugar
For many, a Thanksgiving meal is not complete without cranberry sauce. This celebrated staple might seem to be among the healthiest dishes on the table. It could be — if it weren’t for all the added sugar. Whole cranberries, fresh or frozen, are naturally low in sugar, but it takes a lot of added sugar to counter their tartness. Cranberries’ distinct flavor, along with their deep crimson color, indicate the presence of many healthful plant compounds. They are also rich in fiber and vitamin C.

Try this: Consider making your own sauce or relish with less sugar. Experiment with ingredients like fresh or dried fruit, citrus zest, unsweetened fruit preserves, vanilla or almond extract, and cinnamon to help cut the sugar when making this year’s cranberry side-dish.

4. The bird is done when the juices run clear: No — use a meat thermometer
Myoglobin, the pigment that causes the pink color in a turkey’s juices, becomes clear when heated. But the color of the juices is not a reliable way to avoid giving your guests food poisoning. According to the USDA, poultry is done when its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. The best way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer.

Try this: Remove the turkey from the oven and check the temperature by inserting a meat thermometer horizontally into the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh, making sure not to let the thermometer touch bone. When the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F is reached, remove the bird from the oven and let it rest 20 to 40 minutes, depending on size so the juices reabsorb and keep the meat moist. Note that it is not safe to cook poultry in an oven set lower than 325 degrees F.

5. One day of feasting will ruin a healthy dietary pattern
Food is an important part of celebratory gatherings. Depriving yourself can lead to overindulgence later, so it’s all right to enjoy a modest serving of au gratin potatoes, glass of eggnog, or slice of your favorite pie as the occasional treats that they are.

Savoring your favorite holiday foods slowly and mindfully and reflecting on how much you enjoy sharing them with family and friends is an important aspect of enjoying life.

Try this: Create some new healthy food traditions, and limit portions of indulgent family favorites. Precutting and using small serving utensils can help. Enjoy indulgent foods mindfully. Consider packaging and sending some of the leftovers home with guests or freezing them for later. Storing food out of sight for another occasion is an effective anti-splurge strategy.

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Texas has shown that you do not need a legislative body to make it easier to sell unpasteurized, raw milk legally. 

The new Texas Department of State Health Services rules permit widespread delivery of raw milk anywhere in the Lone Star State, allowing raw milk dairies to distribute their products to practically anyone in the state. 

It means groups like the Cameron, TX-based Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance have, after a decade or more, been successful in winning in Texas  in the debate about sales of milk without pasteurization that kills most bacteria.

“We’ve been trying for several sessions to get a bill passed that would have allowed the farmers to deliver their milk,” said Judith McGeary, executive producer of the Farm and Ranch Alliance.

Such raw milk sales are now possible because of a change in rules by the state health department, a move that McGeary credits mostly commercial dairies that pasteurize milk.

Whoever gets the credit means raw milk dairy farms in Texas are much more able to make deliveries in the Lone Star State. Once there is a sale at a farmer’s market or over the internet, a complete sale can occur just about anyplace.

The key is to keep the sale at the self size or its online site, not just on the farm as was in the past.

The new rule in Texas also recognizes the legality of an animal purchase that can be a  share of an animal or herd to receive a portion of the raw milk produced.

After years, Texas now has revised rules for raw milk producers in the state that opens new opportunities for farmers, and addresses problems that have occurred with sampling, and provides clear recognition for dairy herd shares, supporters say.

Previously, by meeting licensing requirements — a Grade A “raw for retail” license — Texas farmers could sell raw milk directly to consumers, but sales  were limited to on-farm only because of DSHS rules. 

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance first tried in 2009 to change the rules at the agency level. When the agency refused, it took the issue to the Texas Legislature and got a bill introduced during five sessions.

Majorities in both the Texas House and Senate voted in favor of the Farm and Ranch Freedom bill — but never in the same session. The regular industry, which uses pasteurization in the processing and distributing dairy products, and local health departments were in opposition and expended significant financial and political resources to kill the bills each time.

But persistent, strategic organizing paid off. The pressure raw dairies created over the years through the legislative process, together with a reputation for solid factual and legal arguments and its approach to negotiating, made an impact on the agency, proponents say.

In February of 2020, the alliance launched into action when DSHS posted draft rule changes that it considered contained several bad provisions. In addition, it urged the agency to pull back on the problem sections where the alliance also recommended changes that raw dairy farmers needed — not just those that it had supported in past legislation, but additional for concerns that have never made it into a bill. 

This tactic opened extensive negotiations with the DSHS staff, which have resulted in some changes. The final rules reverse the bad provisions from the draft version and incorporate many of the affirmative changes the alliance urged.

The new rules:

  1. Legalize delivery of raw milk anywhere in the state that the consumers and farmers wish to arrange. Sales at farmers’ markets — a provision the alliance pushed for many years — are still not allowed, but a farmers’ market booth could serve as a delivery point for pre-purchased raw milk.
  2. Empower farmers to take their samples to any approved lab, so they have an option if they are concerned that their inspector or the local lab is not handling their samples properly. Such an issue that, in the past, caused several farmers to have their licenses suspended.
  3. Recognize the legality of animal shares. Until now, cow/goat/herd shares — under which someone purchases a share of the animal or the herd and then gets a share of the milk produced by that animal — have operated in a gray area of Texas law. We contended that they were legal under normal principles of contract law, while the agency contended that they were illegal sales. So, people with one or two cows, too few to justify the expense of a license, operated under a cloud of fear of government action. Now, as long as the herd share operates with a bill of sale and divides milk proportionally, which a true herd share should do, the agency’s new rules recognize that it is not a “sale” and is excluded from the regulations.

Other victories claimed by the alliance in the final rule include:

  • No requirement for farmers to keep or provide a customer list, which was a proposal in the draft rules that agency staff had also urged back in 2009.
  • The definition of the raw milk products that can be sold by Grade A licensed producers has been expanded. It includes not only milk, but also cream, sour cream including acidified and cultured sour cream, plain and flavored yogurts, buttermilk, whey, eggnog and kefir. It does not include infant formula, ice cream or frozen desserts, raw butter, or raw cheese that has not been aged a minimum of 60 days.
  • Inspections will be “at least quarterly,” which is less frequent than the current requirements. Because of the reduced frequency of sampling, two consecutive violations of bacterial counts, coliform, somatic cell counts, water adulteration, or cooling temps is enough for the agency to take a farmer off-grade, as opposed to the current three out of five tests.

More details in the new rule

Delivery requirements: In addition to the general requirements for a Grade A license, the farmer must keep cold temperatures, use ice from potable water sources, and have a temperature-control sample. The farmer must keep records of how much is delivered and the sample’s temperature.

Labeling Requirements: Each bottle will have a batch number showing the date the milk was bottled, but, unlike the draft rules, the time is not required. There is also a warning label that follows the language put forward as part of bills in past years.

Frozen Milk: If the farmer freezes milk, there must be unfrozen samples available for the department to sample from the most current milking. The draft rules had completely banned freezing raw milk.

Test Results: Farmers must post their last two test results in the milk house or store front and notify customers that testing results are available upon request.

What is a herd share?
A herd share, also known as a cow or goat share, is the purchase of ownership of a portion, or share, of a milking herd or individual milking animal.

A consumer first buys a share of the animal or herd through a legal bill of sale. They then enter into a boarding agreement with the farmer, paying the farmer a fee — typically monthly — to house, care for, and milk the animal. The boarding agreement fee is supposed to cover costs of feed, maintenance, time, labor, equipment depreciation, etc. This fee is nota charge for the milk. The boarding fee must be paid regardless of variations in milk production; and even if a herd share owner is out of town for a few weeks, they still pay the boarding fee even though they aren’t getting their milk while they are away.

The farmer provides the share owner with their share of the milk produced at no additional expense — because it’s not a sale of the milk, it’s that consumer’s milk already. The consumer pays costs, and receives milk, in proportion to their ownership interest.

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A few days ago, “Down Under” a.k.a. Australia, my friend, food safety guru, and for some strange reason, eater of raw shellfish, Dr. Julian Cox, was speaking about the risk of pregnant women consuming unpasteurized juice or cider and tahini or hummus. The risk to the mother and the baby is Listeria, which can spread from the human digestive tract to the placenta causing miscarriage or birth defects.
It did get me thinking about what risks of foodborne illness women have during pregnancy. Here are my thoughts about what women should avoid while carrying a child.

Bacteria, parasites, and viruses may threaten the health of the mother and the baby, possibly leading to miscarriages or severe neurological illnesses, including intellectual disability, blindness, and epilepsy.

So, what to avoid or at least pay close attention to.

FISH (cooked only)

Fish is a wonderful food. It has lots of good protein and omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s). Omega-3s are important to your baby’s brain and eye development. You should not eat some types of fish, but it is okay to eat two meals of low mercury fish every week to give you the benefits of omega-3s.

Note: Cook fish by broiling, baking, steaming, or grilling. Remove skin and fat before cooking. Do not eat the fat that drains from the fish while cooking.

Safe Fishes:

  • Farmed salmon (once a month)
  • Albacore tuna (once a week)
  • Shrimp, canned light tuna, canned or wild salmon, pollock, and catfish, cod, anchovies, or flounder (safe to eat up to two meals a week)

Do NOT eat raw fish!

Raw fish can contain parasites (anisakid nematodes, aka “worms”), bacteria (such as Vibrio, Salmonella, or Listeria) or viruses (Hepatitis A or Norovirus):

  • Sushi
  • Sashimi
  • Raw Oysters
  • Raw Clams
  • Raw Scallops
  • Ceviche

High mercury fish, in higher amounts, can be toxic to your nervous system, immune system, and kidneys. It may also cause serious developmental problems in children, with adverse effects even in lower amounts. This can cause brain damage and affect the baby’s hearing and vision.

  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tuna (especially bigeye tuna) (Albacore is okay – “white” tuna – once a week only)
  • Marlin
  • Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Orange roughy

Deli Meats and Smoked Fish:

Do NOT eat meat spread or pate.

Do NOT eat UNLESS you reheat to steaming hot: Hot dogs, lunch meat, deli meat (such as turkey, salami, and bologna)

Deli-smoked seafood (unless HEATED to steaming hot) can contain Listeria.

  • Nova-style
  • Lox
  • Kippered
  • Smoked
  • Jerky

Dairy Products:

Some cheese may contain bacteria called Listeria. These bacteria can cause a disease called listeriosis which may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious health problems for your baby. In addition to Listeria, raw milk and some raw milk cheeses can contain bacteria like Campylobacter, E. coli, or Salmonella:

  • Brie
  • Feta
  • Camembert
  • Roquefort
  • Queso blanco
  • Queso fresco

Eggs:

Raw and undercooked eggs may have bacteria that can cause food poisoning, especially Salmonella. Do not eat food with raw eggs like Hollandaise sauce and homemade Caesar salad dressing.

 Do NOT consume:

  • Homemade eggnog
  • Raw batter
  • Homemade Caesar salad dressing
  • Tiramisu
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Homemade ice cream
  • Freshly made or homemade hollandaise sauce
  • Soft-scrambled eggs

Meat:

Premade ham salad, chicken salad, seafood salad may contain Listeria. As described above, luncheon meats may also contain Listeria.

Do NOT eat undercooked poultry, pork, lamb, and beef – Some of the same issues with raw fish affect undercooked meat, too. Eating undercooked or raw meat increases your risk of infection from several bacteria or parasites, including ToxoplasmaE. coliListeria, and Salmonella.

Fruits and Vegetables (and other raw foods):

Like undercooked meats and fishes, raw or undercook sprouts, like alfalfa, clover, mung bean, or radish may contain E. coli or Salmonella. Pregnant women should drink only pasteurized juices.

Raw cookie dough – flour can contain E. coli or Salmonella.

Tap water, though not a “food” can contain bacteria and parasites if untreated or comes from a well. Do not drink any water you are not certain is from a trusted municipal source, or drink only bottled water or water that has been commercially filtered (i.e., some home water filters do not sufficiently remove bacteria, viruses, or sediment) or boiled.

NOTE: washing fruits and vegetables in untreated or “raw” water can contaminate them and cause food poisoning.

Drugs:

Caffeine is absorbed very quickly and passes easily into the placenta. Because babies and their placentas do not have the main enzyme needed to metabolize caffeine, high levels can build up. High caffeine intake during pregnancy has been shown to restrict fetal growth and increase the risk of low birth weight at delivery.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can also cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which involves facial deformities, heart defects, and intellectual disability.

Public health officials are reporting a new Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak that is likely from the consumption of eggs. As of today, the outbreak has sickened more than 50 people in Canada.

Investigators from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) are working with provincial authorities in the search of the source of the contamination, according to a public health notice released late this afternoon. Fifty-seven sick people are spread across Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.

The outbreak appears to be ongoing, PHAC reports because illnesses continue to be reported. Based on the investigation findings to date, exposure to eggs has been identified as a likely source of the outbreak.

“Many of the individuals who became sick reported consuming, preparing, cooking, and baking at home with eggs. Some individuals reported exposure to eggs at an institution — including nursing homes and hospitals — where they resided or worked before becoming ill,” according to the PHAC notice.

“As the outbreak investigation is ongoing, it is possible that additional sources could be identified, and food recall warnings related to this outbreak may be issued. This public health notice will be updated as the investigation evolves.”

Outbreak patients became sick between late October 2020 and late January 2021. Nineteen people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. People who became ill are between 2 and 98 years of age. The majority of cases, 68 percent, are female.

Between October and December 2020, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued food recall warnings for a variety of eggs distributed in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The recalled eggs are now past their shelf-life and are no longer available for purchase. 

Some individuals who became sick in the current outbreak reported exposure to recalled eggs. However, there are a number of recently ill individuals that do not. 

It is likely that more recent illnesses may be reported in the outbreak because of the lag time between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. For this outbreak, the illness reporting period is between three and six weeks.

The CFIA is continuing its food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated food recall warnings.

General warnings about eggs
The PHAC is issuing this public health notice to inform Canadians of the investigation findings to date and to share important safe food handling practices to help prevent further Salmonella infections, according to officials.

Eggs can sometimes be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria on the shell and inside the egg. The bacteria are most often transmitted to people when they improperly handle, eat or cook contaminated foods. Salmonella contamination cannot be seen or smelled.

Illnesses can be prevented if proper safe food handling and cooking practices are followed. PHAC is not advising consumers to avoid eating properly cooked eggs, but this outbreak serves as a reminder that Canadians should always handle raw eggs carefully and cook eggs and egg-based foods to an internal temperature of at least 74 degrees C (165 degrees F) to ensure they are safe to eat.

The following food preparation tips may help reduce your risk of getting sick, but they may not fully eliminate the risk of illness.

  • Always handle raw eggs carefully and cook eggs and egg-based foods to an internal temperature of at least 74 degrees C (165 degrees F) to ensure they are safe to eat.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked eggs. Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.
  • When purchasing eggs, choose only refrigerated eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch raw eggs. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • Eggs (whether raw or cooked) should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Eggs that have been at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out.
  • Use pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs when preparing foods that aren’t heated (such as icing, eggnog or Caesar salad dressing).
  • Do not taste raw dough, batter, or any other product containing raw eggs. Eating even a small amount could make you sick.
  • Microwave cooking of raw eggs is not recommended because of the possibility of uneven heating.
  • Sanitize countertops, cutting boards, and utensils before and after preparing eggs or egg-based foods. Use a kitchen sanitizer (following the directions on the container) or a bleach solution (5 ml household bleach to 750 mL of water), and rinse with water.
  • Do not re-use plates, cutting boards, or utensils that have come in contact with raw eggs unless they have been thoroughly washed, rinsed, and sanitized.
  • Use paper towels to wipe kitchen surfaces, or change dishcloths daily to avoid the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria. Avoid using sponges as they are harder to keep bacteria-free.
  • Do not prepare food for other people if you think you are sick with a Salmonella infection or suffering from any other contagious illness causing diarrhea.

About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to public health officials.

Anyone who has eaten eggs and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

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