Shellfish Safety

There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t eat oysters in months that don’t have an “R” in them? That would be May, June, July and August.

The idea behind this may have originally been sound.  These months are summer months when coastal waters where shellfish are harvested are warmer and the risk for bacterial growth might be higher.

The concern behind this warning is Vibrio. This bacterium is a natural inhabitant of unpolluted coastal marine waters that is more prevalent in warmer water. People can get sick from this bacteria and the resulting illness is called vibriosis. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/index.html estimates that vibriosis causes 80,000 illnesses with 500 hospitalizations and 100 deaths a year. About 52,000 of these illnesses are estimated to be the result of eating contaminated food and the rest are caused by exposing open wounds to brackish or salt water containing the bacteria.

About 80% of Vibrio infections occur between May and October…oops…September and October has “Rs” in them….so there goes that myth.

The reason for the concern is that many people like eating raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish and this can make people sick. Thorough cooking of shellfish will kill these bacteria.

Healthy people exposed to Vibrio may experience nausea, stomach pain, abdominal cramps, vomiting and/or diarrhea. For most healthy people a mild case of vibriosis will recover in about 3 days.

Caution needs to be taken by those with chronic illnesses. At highest risk are those with diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, stomach or blood disorders. People with alcoholism and liver disease are at extremely high risk.  These people should NOT eat raw shellfish.  Cooked seafood and shellfish is safe for these at-risk people. 

Oysters seem to be the food most commonly linked to Vibrio. An oyster that contains harmful bacteria doesn’t look, smell or taste different from any other oyster. To protect yourself and family members:

  • Oysters should be purchased from approved sources that are inspected and regulated. Oysters harvested from approved waters, packed under sanitary conditions and properly refrigerated are usually safe for raw consumption by healthy individuals
  • If purchasing shellfish to serve raw make sure they are alive. Shells of live oysters will be tightly closed or slightly open. If the shell is gaping open or does not close after tapping it, the animal is dead and may harbor high number of bacteria. Discard any shellfish with open shells. After cooking, only eat shellfish that have opened during the cooking process.
  • Don’t eat shellfish raw that has been shucked or removed from the shell and sold as “shucked” products. These previously shucked products are intended to be cooked before serving.
  • Follow standard food safety precautions of washing hands before handling raw shellfish and avoid cross contamination with raw seafood and cooked foods.
  • Properly cooking shellfish reduces the risk of illness. Oysters, clams, and mussels should be cooked in small batches so that those in the middle are cooked thoroughly. When steaming, cook for 4 to 9 minutes after the start of steaming. When boiling, after the shells open boil for another 3 to 5 minutes. Shucked products should be boiled for 3 minutes, or fried at 375°F for at least 3 minutes or baked at 450°F for 10 minutes. Shellfish should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. They can also be cooked on a barbecue grill to the proper temperature.

Hog Island Oyster Company's finest

You know how these “old sayings” go… so don’t believe the one about hot sauce or lemon juice either—they DO NOT kill the Vibrio bacteria. Neither does drinking alcohol while eating raw oysters.

If you’re an educator, the folks at Sea Grant http://www.safeoysters.org/ emphasize the importance of education and not frightening the consumers when teaching about seafood.  Remember seafood can be a part of a healthy diet and is good source of low fat protein and Omega 3-faty acids with lots of positive health benefits.  But we do need to remind consumers that eating raw shellfish can be risky and teach ways consumers can protect themselves and specifically those at the most risk.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

It is time for holiday education

 

Top 10 Foods for Better Health

A new study out of Boston suggests that focusing on 10 specific foods in your diet may cut the risk of premature death from diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease by almost half.

The author of the study, Renata Micha from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University says that about 45% of US deaths in 2012 could be traced to eating too little or too much of certain foods. Her study draws information from previous research done using National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys from 1999 to 2002 and 2009 to 2012. The researchers used food diaries of participants and found that 318,656 deaths out of 702,308 from stroke, heart disease, or type 2 diabetes were based on people eating too much or too little of the following 10 foods or food elements…

Too Much:

  • Sodium
  • Unprocessed red meat
  • Processed red meat (sausage, bacon, hot dogs)
  • Soybean and corn oil
  • Sugar-sweetened drinks

Too Little:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Seafood with omega-3 fatty acids

For example, consuming too much sodium was linked with 66,508 deaths. Poor nut and seed intake was associated with 59,374 deaths. Processed read meat intake was associated with 57,766 deaths, while 54,626 deaths were linked with inadequate fatty fish intake. Minimal vegetable and fruit intake was linked to 53,410 and 52,547 deaths, respectively. Sugar-sweetened drinks were tied to 51,695 deaths.

Demographics also made a difference. For example, men and women fared differently in the study. Women were less likely than men to die from poor diets and younger people were at higher risk than older individuals. Hispanics and blacks had higher risk than whites, and individuals with less education were at higher risk than more educated people.

Deaths from cardiovascular disease decreased by 25% between the two survey periods because of improvements in dietary habits such as eating more polyunsaturated fats, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and fewer sugar-sweetened drinks.

Consumers can reduce their risk for chronic disease by adopting one dietary habit at a time (such as eating fatty fish twice per week or choosing water over sweetened beverages) and then moving on to another positive habit once they’ve mastered the first. This helps build confidence and motivate people to continue building healthful eating patterns to reduce their risk of chronic disease.

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

References:

  1. Micha, Renata, PhD, Penalvo Jose, PhD, Cudhea PhD, et. al. Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA. 2017;317(9):912-924
  2. Mueller, Noel T., PhD, MPH, Appel, Lawrence J. Attributing Death to Diet Precision Counts. JAMA. 2017;317(9):908-909.

Nutrition from A to Z

It’s time for an exclusive look at the handout that accompanies our awesome Nutrition from A to Z poster! How will you use your free copy?

A is for Apples. An apple a day may be a cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. You see, apples are naturally fat-free and are very low in sodium. They are also excellent sources of fiber, antioxidants, and vital nutrients like vitamin C. Try one today!

B is for Balance. MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines both emphasize the importance of balance in your life. Balance your calorie intake with physical activity, and balance your plate according to MyPlate’s proportion guidelines.

C is for Cooking. When you cook at home, you control exactly what goes into your meals. Cook healthfully with plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean protein, and nonfat dairy.

D is for Dairy. MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to choose low- or nonfat dairy when possible. The saturated fat found in dairy products is very bad for your health, especially your heart!

E is for Empty Calories. According to MyPlate, foods with empty calories are foods that contain solid fats and added sugars. They are usually calorie-dense, but these calories are very nutrient-light. Avoid foods with empty calories whenever you can — they just aren’t good for you.

F is for Fruit. MyPlate’s fruit group contains everything from stone fruits to berries to tropical rarities. Follow MyPlate’s advice and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

G is for Grains. MyPlate advises people to make at least half the grains they eat whole grains, every day. In a rut? Try a new whole grain like amaranth, bulgur, or quinoa!

H is for Healthy Eating Patterns. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans insist that healthy eating patterns should meet nutrient needs at a reasonable calorie level. Stick to nutrient-dense foods whenever you can.

I is for Include Seafood. Did you know that most people should consume at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week? That’s what MyPlate suggests. Just remember to keep seafood preparations lean and sidestep breaded or fried options.

J is for Juice. If you do drink juice, be sure to choose options that are 100% fruit or vegetables. Juice is a hiding place for a surprising amount of added sugars. Don’t fall into the trap! Choose 100% juice instead.

K is for Kids. Did you know that kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise every day? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans posts that number as the minimum for most children, so get out there and play!

L is for Lean. When you go to get your servings from the protein food group, stick to lean options. Try beans, peas, white meat poultry, or lean cuts of beef or pork.

M is for MyPlate. Follow the plate! At each meal, half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, with the rest divided equally between protein and grains. Add a bit of dairy too, and remember to keep things balanced!

N is for Nutrients. Most Americans aren’t getting enough nutrients. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should replace foods that are made mostly of empty calories with nutrient-dense foods. Nutrients of concern in American diets include calcium, potassium, vitamin D and dietary fiber.

O is for Orange. Oranges are a nutrient powerhouse. They are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. Eating oranges may also help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Try one today!

P is for Protein. MyPlate’s protein group is filled with meat, nuts, poultry, seeds, seafood, eggs, beans, and peas. Eat a wide variety of lean options daily.

Q is for Quality of Life. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Achieving and sustaining appropriate body weight across the lifespan is vital to maintaining good health and quality of life” (2010, page 8).

R is for Reduced Risk. MyPlate claims that eating fruits and vegetables will reduce your risk of heart disease. That’s just one more reason to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal.

S is for Sodium. Most people are consuming way too much sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to keep sodium consumption below 2300 mg per day. People who are African American, are over 51, or who have hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease should all consume less than 1500 mg of sodium per day.

T is for Tomato. Tomatoes are filled with key nutrients to improve your health. They are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain fiber and several B vitamins.

U is for Unique. Did you know that beans and peas are unique foods? MyPlate counts them as both a vegetable and a protein, so tally them where you need them the most!

V is for Variety. While portion sizes should stay small, it is important to eat a variety of fresh and healthful foods. Don’t fall into the rut of eating the same foods over and over — you could be missing out on nutrients! Look for new and nutritious foods to try each day.

W is for Water. One of MyPlate’s key consumer messages is to replace sugary drinks like soda and sport beverages with water. Water is essential to health, and many people don’t drink enough of it.

X is for eXplanation. Do you want more details about healthful eating and balanced nutrition? Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information about MyPlate. Or, drop by www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines for a closer look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Y is for Yogurt. Yogurt is a great source of calcium, but make sure that it doesn’t overload you with sugar and fat. Stick to low- or nonfat options, and check sugar content to make sure it isn’t too high.

Z is for Zone. Keep foods out of the danger zone. Food that has been sitting out at 40-140 degrees F for more than 2 hours is no longer safe to eat.

Like what you see? Here’s the free handout! Normally you can only get this when you get the Nutrition from A to Z poster, but we’re making an exception for you today!

Nutrition from A to Z Handout

But wait, there’s more! Check out these great nutrition education posters that will help you look your very best, right now!

Nutrition Poster Set

Whole Grain Poster

12 Lessons of Wellness and Weight Control Posters