Gunning Daily News

Start at the Store: 7 Ways to Prevent Food-borne Illness

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

Safeguarding your home against food-borne illnesses begins not at home, but at the supermarket, grocery store, or any other place where you buy food that you plan to store and serve.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne ailments cause about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,200 deaths nationwide each year.

You as a consumer can play a key role in preventing these illnesses. While shopping for food, you should:
1. Check for cleanliness
Buying from a retailer who follows proper food handling practices helps assure that the food is safe. Ask yourself: What is the general impression of this facility? Does it look and smell clean?

2. Keep certain foods separated
Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods in your grocery shopping cart. Place these foods in plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping on other foods. It is also best to separate these foods from other foods at checkout and in your grocery bags.

3. Inspect cans and jars
Don't buy food in cans that are bulging or dented. Also, don't buy food in jars that are cracked or have loose or bulging lids.

Since foods sold in cans or jars are processed to be sterile, they can "keep" for a long time if the can or jar is intact. A bulging can or jar lid may mean the food was under-processed and is contaminated. A dent in a can, especially if the dent affects a seam, may cause an opening in the seam which may allow contamination, as would a crack in a jar. A loose lid on a jar means the vacuum has been lost and the product may be contaminated. Don't buy a food product whose seal seems tampered with or damaged.

4. Inspect frozen food packaging
Don't buy frozen food if the package is damaged. Packages should not be open, torn or crushed on the edges. Also, avoid packages that are above the frost line in the store's freezer. If the package cover is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean that the food in the package has either been stored for a long time or thawed and refrozen. In such cases, choose another package.

5. Select frozen foods and perishables last
Meat, poultry, fish and eggs should be the last items placed in your shopping cart. Always put these products in separate plastic bags so that drippings don't contaminate other foods.

6. Choose fresh eggs carefully
Before putting eggs in your cart, open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and none is cracked. Buy only refrigerated eggs and follow the "Safe Handling Instructions" on the carton.

7. Be mindful of time and temperature
It's important to refrigerate perishable products as soon as possible after grocery shopping. Food safety experts stress the "2-hour rule"—because harmful bacteria can multiply in the "danger zone" (between 40° and 140° F), perishable foods should not be left at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Modify that rule to 1 hour when temperatures are above 90° F, as they often are in cars that have been parked in the sun.

If it will take more than an hour to get your groceries home, use an ice chest to keep frozen and perishable foods cold. Also, when the weather is warm and you are using your car's air conditioner, keep your groceries in the passenger compartment, not the trunk.

Source: www.fda.gov

Expecting? Household Hazards Pregnant Women Need to Avoid

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

Many women try to lead healthier lives during their pregnancies. To promote the health of their baby, they may clean up their diets, take vitamins and eliminate alcohol and caffeine.

Unfortunately, all those efforts may be for naught if they are still being exposed to unseen chemicals in their daily lives. Dr. Doris Rapp, an experienced physician and expert on all the hidden household and environmental hazards, dishes on the details about the many insidious and dangerous threats to their unborn babies. These exposures can cause serious harm and damaging birth defects to babies in the womb, and they are right under our noses.

“One of the most dangerous groups of chemicals to pregnant women is known as PCBs,” says Rapp, author of 32 Tips That Could Save Your Life.

“PCB stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, and they are commonly used in industrial pesticides. While they may not be in your house, they may exist in your office, your water or your food, especially if you live near the Great Lakes or consume seafood caught there. These chemicals pass through the placenta into the unborn, and some exposures have been known to cause devastating birth defects. These chemicals have also been found in the breast milk of women.”

According to Rapp, some of the dangers of these pesticides include, but are not limited to:
• Lower birth weight
• Smaller head size and developmental delays
• Movement, mental, and behavioral problems
• Increased or decreased activity levels
• Slowed thought processing and “less bright” appearance
• Lower reaction times
• Compromised nervous systems
“Moreover, a group of pesticides known as organophosphates also poses a high risk for pregnant women,” Rapp adds.
“These include Bisphenol-A and phthalates,” she says. “They are derived from World War II nerve agents and are highly toxic. Even at low levels, organophosphates can be toxic to the developing brain, and studies show that they can affect brain and reproductive development in unborn animals. While most pesticides categorized as organophosphates have been banned for household use, they are still permitted for commercial use, including in fumigation for mosquitoes. Malathion, a common toxic organophosphate, is still allowed for use as an industrial and household insecticide. In the US, approximately 15 million pounds of Malathion are used each year by the government, as well as by businesses and homeowners.”
Her advice for women is to do all they can to avoid contact with these chemicals, starting before conception.

“Stay as far away as possible from pesticide-treated areas,” Rapp says. “Do not eat pesticide-laden food or any fish from the Great Lakes. Try to eat only organic foods. Further, if your job requires you to be in contact with any chemicals or pesticides, insist that other tasks be given to you for the duration of your pregnancy. Half the battle is knowing these dangers exist, but the other half is being informed and conscientious enough to be able to avoid contact with these dangerous and toxic agents.”

Dr. Rapp is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric allergy and environmental medicine.

Retirement Wake-up Call: Survey Shows Majority of U.S. Residents Shortage of Savings Will Delay Their Retirement

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

According to a recent BMO Harris survey, the majority of U.S. residents are not confident in their ability to save for their ideal retirement lifestyle (57 percent). Adequate retirement savings has become an issue of significant concern to members of every income bracket, and approximately half of U.S. residents (52 percent) say they have/will or anticipate maybe having to delay their retirement and/or work part-time during retirement due to a shortage of retirement savings.

"This is a critical wake-up call to everyone, no matter what your age," says Mike Miroballi, president and chief operating officer, BMO Harris Financial Advisors.

"Our best advice? Start now. Get smart about planning and saving for retirement, and get educated about the many strategies and tools available to help maximize your savings."

Miroballi provides the following tips to guide you as you review or initiate your retirement planning:
Meet with a professional: A financial advisor can provide the guidance you need to learn about the retirement planning process and assist you in creating a realistic retirement plan. You just might be surprised at some of the opportunities available to help build your nest egg.

Start Early: We can't say it enough. Start saving at an early age. Doing so gives you the advantage of compound interest, your money will be working for you every single day. Just ask your parents, they learned this lesson the hard way.

It's never too late: Don't be discouraged if you haven't been saving for retirement. Instead of giving up, like many people do, start now. Contact a financial planner who can help you develop a plan for the best retirement that you can have.

Take advantage of your company 401(k): There are many advantages to 401(k) plans. Don't miss out on any of them. Although rare these days, some companies still offer to match your contributions (guidelines will vary by company). If there is no match, you still benefit because whatever you put into your 401(k) plan is tax-deferred. Don't forget that no matter how long or short your career at the company, you can take your 401(k) contributions with you or roll it over into other retirement vehicles.

Consider a Roth IRA: A Roth IRA is a special type of retirement plan under U.S. law that is generally not taxed, provided certain conditions are met. This plan is different from other retirement plans because the tax break is granted on money withdrawn from the plan during retirement, rather than for money placed into the plan.

Commit to saving, even if you start small: Ben Franklin said it best, "A penny saved, is a penny earned."
Parents, educate your children: So many of us are learning the retirement lesson, save early and save often, the hard way. Please be sure to share this knowledge with your children, and guide them to make saving an important part of their financial lives.

Source: BMO Harris Financial Advisors

Word of the Day

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

Tenants in common. Style of ownership in which two or more persons purchase a property jointly, but with no right of survivorship and separate undivided interests. They are free to will their share to anyone they choose, a principal difference between this form of ownership and joint tenancy.

Question of the Day

January 12, 2012 6:00 pm

Q: When should I tackle the job myself or call in the pros?

A: A lot will depend on your time, level of expertise or willingness to handle the job, amount of help from friends or relatives, and how much you want, or need, to save by doing the job yourself. You could save up to 20 percent of the project cost through your own hard work.

There are several do-it-yourself books that offer guidance, and some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, offer classes that can be helpful getting you on the right track.

Be aware, however, that you may end up spending more time, and up to double your estimated budget, if problems arise. Also, you may have difficulty selling your home if the workmanship looks shoddy.

Unless you are very experienced, home improvement experts suggest that you stick to painting, minor landscaping, building interior shelving, and other minor improvements.

Remember, too, that you may need to deal with local agencies to get permits, inspections, variances, and certificates of occupancy.

2011 Finds High Consumer Debt

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Despite lower unemployment rates and strengthening economic indicators, debt continues to be a pressing consumer issue, according to a recent Bills.com "Debt Report."

The report finds that overall debt is highest amongst West Coast consumers, with an average of $19,900. Credit card debt remains the most frequent type of consumer debt, and student loans rose by 4.5 percent to become the second most frequent type of debt.

"Consumers continue to be squeezed financially, but they are being practical and focused when it comes to deleveraging, which has become the buzzword and financial strategy of 2011," says Brad Stroh, CEO and co-founder of Bills.com.

"Those consumers forced into late payments are choosing low dollar bills with delayed penalties, while those in more severe debt are searching for the best debt relief strategy for their unique situation."
Credit Card Debt Highlights
• Nationally, average credit card debt is $5,500;
• Users hold an average of 2.5 credit card accounts;
• West Coast consumers hold highest credit card debt at $7,100;
• Banks are the top five credit card issuers amongst users.

For more information, visit www.bills.com

Sanity-Saving Tips for Single Parents

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

At your wit's end trying to manage life as a single parent? The following tips, provided by author Laynee Gilbert, single mom and licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, can help you stay sane and enjoy a sound relationship with your child.

1. Identify "buttons and hooks" that can cause you to react negatively vs. respond thoughtfully.

2. When it comes to saying "yes" or "no," ask yourself, "What is my best possible response right now, considering the needs of my child, our relationship and myself?"

3. Balance the need to control with the need to let go. Per Gilbert, "Letting go of some control is not a slippery slope to letting go of all control."

4. Adopt a "good enough" standard, and learn to forgive imperfection.

5. Ask for help, and take personal time without guilt. Self-care relieves stress and lessens resentment.

Laynee Gilbert, M.A., M.F.T., is the author of five books, including, "So What: A Single Mom's Guide to Staying Sane in the 21st Century

Word of the Day

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Tax shelter. A realty investment that produces income-tax deductions for its owner.


Addressing the Chinese Drywall Debacle

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

The year of 2011 saw some resolution to the Chinese drywall debacle, which affected thousands of property owners and builders. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (cpsc.gov/info/drywall) received about 4,000 reports from those who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in their homes were related to problem drywall.

State and local authorities have also received similar reports. Consumers largely report that their homes were built in 2006 to 2007, when an unprecedented increase in new construction occurred in part due to the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

For anyone affected, on September 15, 2011 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released updated remediation guidance for homeowners with problem drywall. The guidance calls for the replacement of all: problem drywall; smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms; electrical distribution components, including receptacles, switches and circuit breakers, but not necessarily wiring; and fusible-type fire sprinkler heads.

The updated remediation guidance is based on studies completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on potential long term corrosion effects of problem drywall on select gas components, fire sprinkler heads and smoke alarms

For additional findings from the Interagency Drywall Task Force’s investigation, visit: DrywallResponse.gov

Love to Garden? Winter Prep Makes a Difference

January 12, 2012 5:30 pm

Many passionate gardeners look forward to spring the way sports fans look ahead to their team’s upcoming season. It can’t come soon enough. If you’re a garden fanatic, there is no need to wait until the sun is shining to work on next years beds. These tips are things you can do during winter to prep next seasons flora.

Weed control: If the ground is clear, keep an eye out for weeds, which are already rooting. Spend a few hours pulling weeds and layering mulch over your clean soil.

Lay it out: When your garden is bare, you can really get a good view of the design. Decide if you’re happy with your spacing and layout. Plan to add or remove any shrubs or trees. Put in a fence or repair a trellis. Find a birdbath or birdhouse on sale in the off-season.

Test your soil. Most seasoned gardeners know a soil test can do wonders for your plants. Winter is prime soil testing season because it gives you time to make any necessary adjustments based on your results.

Enrich your soil. Spent the winter creating compost—with leaves or foodscraps—to enrich your soil. Come spring, your beds will be brimming with nutrients.