Monday, November 21, 2016

Healthy Holidays: Holiday lighting safety tips

Does your family break out holiday lights and decorations after the turkey and pumpkin pie have been gobbled up? Many people begin putting up their holiday lights and decorations starting Thanksgiving Day through December. Putting up holiday lights is a tradition for many people and it can create a festive atmosphere. We encourage you to understand the health and safety risks of decorating your home with holiday lights before hanging them in and outside your home.

1.        Is there lead hiding in your lights? Believe it or not, most holiday lights in the United States contain lead. One study found that four ordinary brands of holiday lights have high enough lead levels to harm children. Lead is found in PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is used to insulate the holiday lights to prevent water exposure. Over time, the PVC breaks down from sunlight exposure and heat, releasing lead as a form of dust. If you choose to hang holiday lights, hang them at a high enough level so children will not be tempted to play with them. Wear gloves when you put up the lights and wash your hands after you’re done decorating. If you hang holiday lights inside, damp dust frequently to reduce lead exposure in your home.

2.        Replace damaged bulbs and outdated lights. If you have any damaged bulbs on your holiday lights, replace them if possible. Broken bulbs can be a safety hazard for children and pets. You will also save energy by replacing damaged bulbs. Unplug your lights before you replace damaged bulbs. If your lights are beyond repair, purchase LED holiday lights. They are made with epoxy lenses which are much more durable than glass bulbs and are the more energy efficient option.  

3.       Hang lights carefully and conscientiously. Avoid piercing holiday lights with nails or staples because that damages the cords and can create a potential hazard. Try wrapping holiday lights around hooks or nails, or purchase plastic clips to hang the lights up. Avoid wrapping lights around hot electric sources such as home theaters, stereos and water heaters. Keep holiday lights away from heat vents and electric heaters. The additional heat may damage and even melt your holiday lights. Keep indoor holiday lights away from drapes, furniture or carpeting. Place cords in low-traffic areas where they won’t be a tripping hazard or be worn out due to being stepped on. 

4.       Use extension cord(s) safely. Do not overload an extension cord. Find out the wattage rating of your extension cord and holiday lights before plugging the two together.  

5.       Hang only weather resistant lights outside. If you are hanging holiday lights outside, make sure they are rated for outdoor use or are marked waterproof. Do not use indoor holiday lights outside, that can be an easy way to blow fuses or start a fire.

6.       Use ladders safely. If you plan on using a ladder to hang your holiday lights outside, there are several ladder safety measures you can take. Pay attention to the weather forecast; pick a dry day with calm winds. Choose a ladder size that is appropriate for the job and inspect it before using it. While you are up on your ladder, make careful moves as sudden movements may cause you to lose balance, and have a second person available to spot you.  

7.       Turn off your lights. Before you go to bed or leave your house, turn off your holiday lights. You will save electricity by turning your lights off and reduce the risk of a fire.

The risks of injury and fire are reduced when you practice safe handling of holiday lights. Take the time to celebrate the holidays safely to have the best holiday season yet!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Food Safety for Game Day

Lesley Price, RD, CD

Football season is here and so are the game day celebrations. I think I just heard a “GO HAWKS”! Football is one of the many great reasons to gather with friends and family and share delicious food. To help you plan out your game day festivities, here are some food safety tips.

At the grocery store: Put raw meat and poultry in separate plastic bags to prevent juices from dripping on other foods, and separate from produce and ready-to-eat foods in your grocery cart. Make sure raw meat and poultry are bagged separately at checkout – most baggers are not aware of this and need to be asked. If you use reusable bags, wash them in hot water frequently. You have a two hour window (1 hour if it is over 90 degrees outside) to get perishable foods home and into the refrigerator or freezer, so make sure the grocery store is your last stop before home.

At home: Keep your raw meat and poultry in plastic bags and keep it separate from produce in your refrigerator. Be sure to wash your hands before preparing foods for your party. Wash all surfaces (cutting boards, counter tops, utensils) before and after processing your foods.  Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and poultry as well as produce and ready to eat foods, or wash the cutting board between uses. Wash fruits and vegetables under cold running water – do not wash meat, poultry or eggs. Perishable food can only be out two hours before needing refrigeration, so do your preparation in stages if needed. Cook all foods to proper temperatures use food thermometer to check. Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter.

Transporting to the party:  When transporting hot food make sure your destination is within a two hour window. Pack all cold foods in ice and make sure it stays 40 degrees or less.

At the party:  Reheat all hot food to 165 degrees prior to serving and keep hot foods above 135 degrees. Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold is the best way to keep bacteria that could make you sick from growing in your food. Hot food should be kept above 135 degrees, while cold food should be kept at 41 degrees or below. If you cannot keep food hot or cold, then make sure it is eaten within two hours, or placed back into a refrigerator. Food left out for more than two hours should be thrown away. One helpful tip is to only dish up a portion of the food, keeping the rest either hot or cold and re-stocking as needed. You can also use ice to keep things cold but the ice needs to be at least at the same level as the top of the food.

And last of all, no double dipping.  Not only does it give off the “ick factor”, it can spread illness to those you love.

By following this advice you can take memories of football game victories (hopefully) home, not food-borne illnesses.  For more information about food safety go to