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June 15, 2010

NOAA, FDA Continue Ramping Up Efforts to Ensure Safety of Gulf of Mexico Seafood

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 8:40 pm

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are taking additional steps to enhance inspection measures designed to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico reaching America’s tables is safe to eat.

The federal government, in conjunction with Gulf States’ regulatory agencies, is playing an active role in ensuring the safety of seafood harvested from federal and state waters. The federal government, led by FDA and NOAA, is taking a multi-pronged approach to ensure that seafood from Gulf waters is not contaminated by oil. The strategy includes precautionary closures, increased seafood testing inspections and a re-opening protocol.

“Closing harvest waters that could be exposed to oil protects the public from potentially contaminated seafood because it keeps the product from entering the food supply,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Combining the expertise of NOAA and FDA is the best way to use our scientific abilities to help the American people in this emergency.”

The first line of defense is NOAA’s fishery area closures, which began May 2 and are adjusted as the spill trajectory changes. FDA has concurred with this approach. The current federal closure of 32 percent of federal waters encompasses areas known to be affected by oil, either on the surface or below the surface, as well as areas projected to be affected by oil in the next 48 – 72 hours. The closed area also includes a five-nautical-mile buffer as a precaution around the known location of oil.

“FDA and NOAA are working together to ensure that seafood from the Gulf is not contaminated with oil,” said Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. “It is important to coordinate seafood surveillance efforts on the water, at the docks and at seafood processors to ensure seafood in the market is safe to eat.”

To help prevent tainted seafood from reaching the market, NOAA created a seafood sampling and inspection plan. Just after the beginning of the spill, it collected and tested seafood of commercial and recreational fish and shellfish species from areas where oil from the spill had not yet reached. NOAA is using ongoing surveillance to evaluate new seafood samples to determine whether contamination is present outside the closed area. If fish samples have elevated levels of oil compounds, NOAA will consider whether to expand closed areas.

The federal effort to ensure seafood is not contaminated with oil will also include NOAA’s dockside sampling of fish products in the Gulf. NOAA will verify that catch was caught outside the closed area using information from vessel monitoring systems that track the location of a vessel or information from on-board observers. If tainted fish are found in dockside sampling, NOAA will notify FDA and state health officials for further action.

FDA operates a mandatory safety program for all fish and fishery products under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Public Health Service Act and related federal regulations.

FDA will first target oysters, crab, and shrimp, which due to their biology retain contaminants longer than finfish, for additional sampling. Finfish rapidly metabolize the oil so the risk of exposure is far less than the other seafood species previously mentioned. The sample collection will target primarily seafood processors who buy seafood directly from the harvester. Monitoring this first step in the distribution chain will help to keep any potentially contaminated seafood from consumers.

FDA has also created a focused inspection assignment designed to help seafood processors review their individual source controls to ensure proper documentation and exclusion of any seafood obtained from unknown sources from entering commerce.

The two agencies are also establishing a re-opening protocol. NOAA will reopen closed areas only if it is assured, based on consultation with FDA, that fish products within the closed area meet FDA standards for public health and wholesomeness.

“We recognize that the effects of the oil spill continue to grow as oil continues to flow,” said Dr. Lubchenco. “As remediation efforts continue, it may be possible to alleviate some of the economic harm caused by the oil spill by reopening previously closed areas. NOAA will reopen areas only if assured that fish products taken from these areas meet FDA standards for public health.”

Before the BP oil spill, NOAA operated seafood inspection services in the Gulf – consisting of a handful of personnel – on a fee-for-service basis for the seafood industry.

Today, samples collected as part of NOAA’s efforts are sent to the National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss., where federal and state sensory testing analysts trained to detect certain thresholds of chemicals, which are not normal background odors in seafood, evaluate the catch. Samples are also sent to NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for chemical testing.

According to the most recent data available, seafood samples had been collected during 18 sampling missions by NOAA and contracted fishing vessels in areas inside and outside the closed fishery area.

From those 18 sampling missions, 640 fish and shrimp samples were processed for either sensory or chemical testing. Of the 640 samples, 118 fish samples were presented to the team of 10 expert assessors for sensory testing in the Pascagoula Laboratory. Four hundred sixteen fish and shrimp samples were sent to NOAA’s Seattle testing laboratory for chemical analysis.

“FDA has set up a hotline for reporting seafood safety issues,” said Commissioner Hamburg. “We encourage fisherman and consumers to report potential contamination to 1-888-INFO-FDA.”

FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of more than a trillion dollars worth of products that are critical for the survival and well-being of all Americans.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit NOAA at http://www.noaa.gov/ .

Release: June 14, 2010

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Sun Safety: Save Your Skin!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:40 pm

Sun safety is never out of season. Summer’s arrival means it’s time for picnics, trips to the pool and beach—and a spike in the number of sunburns. But winter skiers and fall hikers need to be as wary of the sun’s rays as swimmers do. People who work outdoors need to take precautions as well.

The need for sun safety has become clear over the past 30 years, with studies showing that exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. Harmful rays from the sun—and from sunlamps and tanning beds—may also cause eye problems, weaken your immune system, and give you unsightly skin spots, wrinkles, or “leathery” skin.

Sun damage to the body is caused by invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation. People recognize sunburn as a type of skin damage caused by the sun. Tanning is also a sign of the skin reacting to potentially damaging UV radiation by producing additional pigmentation that provides it with some—but often not enough—protection against sunburn.

No matter what our skin color, we’re all potentially susceptible to sunburn and the other detrimental effects of exposure to UV radiation. Although we all need to take precautions to protect our skin, people who need to be especially careful in the sun are those who have

  • pale skin
  • blond, red, or light brown hair
  • been treated for skin cancer
  • a family member who’s had skin cancer

If you take medicines, ask your health care professional about extra sun-care precautions, because some medications may increase sensitivity to the sun.

Cosmetics that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) also may increase sun sensitivity and susceptibility to sunburn. To learn more about this, see the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fact sheet on AHAs5.

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Reduce Time in the Sun

It is important to limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Even on an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can get through the clouds. Stay in the shade as much as possible throughout the day.

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Dress with Care

Wear clothes that protect your body. Cover as much of your body as possible if you plan to be outside on a sunny day. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and long pants. Sun-protective clothing is now available. However, FDA does not regulate such products unless the manufacturer intends to make a medical claim. Consider using an umbrella for shade.

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Be Serious about Sunscreen

Check product labels to make sure you get

  • a “sun protection factor” (SPF) of 15 or more. SPF represents the degree to which a sunscreen can protect the skin from sunburn. The higher the number, the better the protection
  • “broad spectrum” protection—sunscreen that protects against all types of skin damage caused by sunlight
  • water resistance—sunscreen that stays on your skin longer, even if it gets wet. “Water-resistant” does not mean “waterproof.” Water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied as instructed on the label

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Tips for Applying Sunscreen

  • Apply the recommended amount evenly to all uncovered skin, especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands, and feet.
  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun.
  • If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head, or wear a hat.
  • Reapply at least every two hours.
  • Give babies and children extra care in the sun. Ask a health care professional before applying sunscreen to children under 6 months old.
  • Apply sunscreen to children older than 6 months every time they go out.

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Protect the Eyes

Sunlight reflecting off snow, sand, or water further increases exposure to UV radiation, increasing your risk of developing eye problems such as cataracts.

Long hours on the beach or in the snow without adequate eye protection also can result in a short-term condition known as photokeratitis, or reversible sunburn of the cornea. This painful condition that is also known as “snow blindness” can cause temporary loss of vision.

Here are other tips for eye-related sun safety.

  • When buying sunglasses, look for a label that specifically offers 99 to 100 percent UV protection. This assures that the glasses block both forms of UV radiation.
  • Eyewear should be labeled “sunglasses.” Be wary of dark or tinted eyewear sold as fashion accessories that may provide little or no protection from UV or visible light.
  • Don’t assume that you get more UV protection with pricier sunglasses or from glasses with a darker tint.
  • Be sure that your sunglasses don’t distort colors and affect the recognition of traffic signals.
  • Ask an eye care professional to test your sunglasses if you’re not sure of their level of UV protection.
  • People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses.
  • Consider that light can still enter from the sides of sunglasses. Those that wrap all the way around the temples can help.
  • Children should wear real sunglasses (not toy sunglasses!) that indicate the UV protection level. Polycarbonate lenses are the most shatter-resistant.

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This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Updated: June 1, 2010

Barbecue Basics: Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:32 pm

It’s the season for picnics, cookouts, and other outdoor parties. But eating outdoors in warm weather presents a foodBarbeque time safety challenge. Bacteria in food multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, so summer heat makes the basics of food safety especially important.

“Fortunately, there are a lot of steps consumers can take to keep family and friends from becoming ill,” says Marjorie Davidson, Ph.D., education team leader in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Wash hands.

It seems basic, but not everyone does it. Wash hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom and before cooking or eating. If you’re in an outdoor setting with no bathroom, use a water jug, some soap, and paper towels. Consider carrying moist disposable towelettes for cleaning your hands.

Keep raw food separate from cooked food.

Don’t use a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless the plate has first been washed in hot, soapy water. Keep utensils and surfaces clean.

Marinate food in the refrigerator, not out on the counter.

And if you want to use some of the marinade as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a separate portion. Don’t reuse marinade that contained raw meat.

Cook food thoroughly.

To kill any harmful bacteria that may be present, use a food thermometer. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F. If a thermometer is not available, make sure hamburgers are brown all the way through, not pink. Chicken should be cooked to at least 165°F. If you partially cook food in the microwave, oven or stove to reduce grilling time, do so immediately before the food goes on the hot grill.

Refrigerate and freeze food promptly.

It can be hard to remember while a party is going on, but food should not be left out of the cooler or off the grill for more than two hours. Never leave food out for more than one hour when the temperature is above 90°F.

Keep hot food hot.

Hot food should be kept at or above 140°F. Hot food should be wrapped well and placed in an insulated container. If bringing hot take-out food such as fried chicken or barbecue to an outdoor party, eat it within two hours of purchase. In addition to bringing a grill and fuel for cooking to an outdoor location, remember to pack a food thermometer to check that your meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. When re-heating food at the outing, be sure it reaches 165°F.

Keep cold food cold.

Cold food should be held at or below 40°F. Foods like chicken salad and desserts that are in individual serving dishes can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Update page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Reviewed: June 11, 2010

June 14, 2010

Jewel Makes Music History in Huntsville

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:46 pm

HUNTSVILLE, AL. – I must say I was captivated by Jewel’s performance on Sunday June 13, 2010.  Singer/songwriter Jewel stepped onto the VBC Concert Hall Stage to a crowd of about 1800.  The stage was very simple—it featured a small video screen that displayed video images of nature between songs, two guitars, a microphone and stand, a table, and a cup of water.  That was it!  Her stage featured pure talent in its rawest form.  She didn’t need a huge band to back her up, or flashing lights or blazing pyrotechnics.  It was just that simple!  I can only imagine the early days of Jewel’s road to stardom–when she played in small smoke filled bars. 

She sang many of her hits such as “Foolish Games,” “Save Your Soul,” and “You Were Meant for Me.”  She began her concert with a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  This was pure delight!  She also sang several songs from her newest album, “Sweet and Wild” such as “My Father’s Daughter.”  This album was released only a few days ago.  It was amazing how she interacted with the audience and asked for song requests.  Most singers come prepared with a list of songs to perform, but not Jewel! 

I learned so much about Jewel during this show!  She told the audience so much about her road to fame.  She relayed stories about her life in Alaska and her singing career with her father.  She talked about how she lived in her car for a year and lived a life of small-time shop lifting and how one day she wanted to steal a sun dress, but at that moment she had a turning point in her life and never stole again!  Such an interesting story!  The thing I love about Jewel is that she is a real artist—she writes and sings her own music and she worked her way up to where she is now.  She is the real deal; not some created musician from a TV reality show but a real artist that worked the street corners and the small smoke filled bars and honky tonks.  This is real music!  The way it was meant to be! She captivated the audience with a song that she wrote specifically for Huntsville, Alabama!  It featured the story of Huntsville; from John Hunt to Redstone Arsenal.  She ended her brilliant performance with “Who Will Save Your Soul?” and a final encore in which she yodeled a song to a standing ovation.

May 28, 2010

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — smoore @ 12:30 pm

As we approach Memorial Day Weekend, I hope everyone takes time to remember the reasons we celebrate this day. Huntsville has many ties to the military and this is a good time to reflect upon those connections. As we honor those who have fallen, remember the freedoms we have as a result of their sacrifice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 1:12 am

Thank you!  I just want to shout out to all the men and women in the armed forces and thank them for keeping us safe.  This is going to be a long and busy weekend. I hope everyone will enjoy being with family & friends while you attend the many school graduations in the city. Please take time to think about the ultimate sacrifice of the men and women in the military who gave their lives for this country. Many of us have family, acquaintances and friends we know who have sacrificed their lives for this great country, in the present and in the past.  Stop and thank a soldier…we owe them so much!  Our lives, our families, our children’s lives, our dreams, our homes, and our futures are safe thanks to the men and women and their families, who sacrifice so much on a daily basis.  Have a safe and fun Memorial Day Weekend!

God Bless the USA!

Memorial Day Weekend!

May 26, 2010

Things To Do In Huntsville

Filed under: Uncategorized — smoore @ 6:00 pm

There are usually a number of events which are happening in Huntsville every weekend. That is one of the benefits to living in this area. No matter what one’s tastes, Huntsville has a variety of cultural, artistic, and sports events annually. This weekend should be no exception. Check out Huntsville-Alabama.net for events in the area-or post your own event.

May 14, 2010

Welcome to Rocket City Blog Space!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:19 am

This is the newest blog in Huntsville, Alabama. We are striving to make this the Number 1 website for North Alabama.

May 13, 2010

SHOULD TEEN DRIVING AGE BE INCREASED?

Filed under: Uncategorized, auto accidents — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:21 pm

Should the minimum teen driving age be increased across the country? This is a question that has plagued many of us for several years now. I am a parent and I am becoming more and more concerned with this question as my children become older. The driver’s age in many states for obtaining a driver’s license is 16 years old. This of course varies from state to state. Each state has its own set of laws that governs the age requirements for a driver’s license. Some states have certain restrictions for the driver’s once a license has been granted and an unrestricted license can only be granted once the driver reaches a certain age or number of hours driven, etc.

Countless accidents occur year after year due to the result of inexperienced, immature drivers on the road. To drive a motor vehicle a certain level of maturity and responsiveness is needed. Furthermore, a certain level of mental capacity is needed to help anticipate the outcome of a driving decision. At what age do we consider an individual to be mature enough to put their own lives in their hands or even that of others?

Let’s work to make our roads safer and reduce the number of traffic accidents and personal injury cases by revisiting these minimum driving ages. What can we do to protect our children on our roads? This is a serious issue that now plagues our society. Countless deaths occur each year that could be reduced if we were to revisit the driving age requirement.

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