Monday, March 9, 2009

Food Related Helath and Safety

Yet another e-mail from my Mom. Here's some interesting info about food related health and safety.

It's safe to follow 'the five second rule' for food dropped on the floor.
Verdict: FICTION.
It's probably not even safe to follow a one-second rule: The transfer of bacteria from a contaminated surface to food is almost instantaneous—or, at the very least, quicker than your reflexes. In a recent study, Clemson University food scientist Paul Dawson, Ph.D., and students contaminated several surfaces (ceramic tile, wood flooring, and carpet) with Salmonella. They then dropped pieces of bologna and slices of bread on the surfaces for as little as five seconds and as long as 60 seconds. After just five seconds, both food types had already picked up as many as 1,800 bacteria (more bad bugs adhered to the moisture-rich bologna than the bread); after a full minute, it was up to 10 times that amount.

Bottom Line: There are 76 million cases of food borne illness annually in the United States, according to the CDC—so unless you're the only family on the block that sterilizes their floors on an hourly basis, you should refrain from eating dropped food. 'Let's not forget what comes into contact with floors—people bring animal feces on their shoes into their homes,' Dawson says. And don't assume that counter tops are clean. Dawson's team also found that the Salmonella actually survived as long as four weeks on the test surfaces. As the recent tomato-related illnesses nationwide showed, 'raw fruits and vegetables are as frequently the perpetrators of Salmonella transfer as poultry,' Dawson says.

Cola-type soft drinks can damage your kidneys.
Verdict: FACT.
Despite their global popularity, there's nothing remotely healthy about cola beverages: Drinking 16 ounces or more daily (whether diet or regular) doubles your risk of chronic kidney disease, according to a recent NIH study of more than 900 people. The researchers already knew that consuming any type of soft drink—the average American adult guzzles 59 gallons' worth per year—is associated with several risk factors for kidney disease (hypertension, diabetes, and kidney stones), but the spike in the cola category was remarkable. Experts suspect that the ingredient phosphoric acid may be the culprit; it's been repeatedly linked to 'urinary changes that promote kidney stones,' say the study authors. Cola has an additional knock against it: Consumption is associated with significantly lower bone density in women, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, says a separate study.

Bottom Line: If you're going to indulge in an occasional soda, go for Sprite, 7-Up, ginger ale, and the like—the NIH study found that noncola drinks didn't have the same impact on the kidneys. But you'll be better off if you skip soda altogether, even the sugar-free varieties: Recent research showed an association between drinking diet soda and weight gain.

'Double dipping' spreads germs from one chip to another.
Verdict: FACT.
In a classic episode of 'Seinfeld,' a man accused George Costanza of spreading germs by 'double-dipping'—swiping a chip into a bowl of dip, taking a bite, and then dipping the same chip again. Having settled the five-second rule debate, Clemson University's Dawson decided to do the same recently with this alleged party faux pas. It turns out that George really was contaminating the other guests: Using Wheat Thins and various dips, Dawson found that a double-dip deposited thousands of saliva bacteria into the dip—and of those, 50 to 100 were later transferred through the dip to a clean cracker, presumably destined for another guest's mouth. Still unknown, however, is how long such bacteria can survive in the dip or if they can actually infect another dipper upon ingestion.

Bottom Line: You'd better be pretty comfy with your party guests. 'Eating from a dip after someone has dipped twice is basically the same as kissing that person,' Dawson says. Be especially wary of thin dips; the study found that the lower the dip's viscosity, the higher the rate of germ transfer from a double dip. For example, a chip's second plunge into a cheese dip is less cause for concern than a watery salsa—thicker dips apparently don't allow errant bacteria to travel as far as thinner varieties. Finally, think twice about digging into any dip at the end of the night; remnants on the sides or bottom of a bowl are most likely a highly concentrated mash of germs, Dawson says, akin to the last sip in a can of soda.

Julie Notes: Let me just say that while all of this is good to know, I also believe that being overly cautious about germs can also have a negative effect since recent studies have suggested that keeping children away from germs and having everything constantly sterilized has actually increased the amount of allergies in our country and also weakens the immune system. So of course I will try to stop my daughter from eating off the floor, but if I don't make it in time, I will breathe and relax and realize that it's okay, even if she gets a cold from it. Obviously, there's no reason to induce vomiting or to rush her to the ER.