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Georgia Consumer: Be sure to use proper washing techniques with food
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Question: I wash all of my fresh vegetables with soap. All raw meat and poultry are soaked and washed with salt water. My sister-in-law thinks all this washing is unnecessary. Is she right?

Answer: We equate washing to cleanliness. We wash clothes, cars, dishes and ourselves. So, it is logical that many people would think that meat and poultry are cleaner and safer if they are washed.

However, a review of studies from several universities related to washing meat and poultry indicate that there is no benefit. In fact, washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking is not recommended. Cooking to a temperature of 160 degrees destroys bacteria on the surface of meat and poultry.

Some consumers will soak meat or poultry in salt water, but this is a personal preference and serves no purpose of food safety. Likewise, sometimes consumers will wash or soak ham, bacon or pork because they think it reduces the sodium or salt enough to allow these products to be eaten on a sodium-restricted diet.

However, washing, rinsing or soaking these products removes very little salt. On the other hand, fresh produce should be washed but only in water. Consumers should not wash fruits and vegetables with detergent or soap. These products are not approved or labeled by the Food and Drug Administration for use on foods. You could ingest residues from soap or detergent absorbed on the produce. Wash your fresh produce under cold, running tap water to remove any lingering dirt. If the surface is firm, such as on apples or potatoes, it can be scrubbed with a brush.

Q: Can the Department of Agriculture give me the name of the best pest control company to treat my home for termites?

A: This department cannot recommend a company, but you can make an informed decision if you will follow these suggestions: Obtain at least three to four treatment estimates; contact the Better Business Bureau for information on the companies you are considering; get a signed contract before the termite treatment is performed; and contact our Pesticide Division if you want to know the status of the pest control company’s license or if the person assigned to perform your treatment is properly registered. This information can also be found on our Web site

Q: I am considering hiring a lawn care service. What should I look for in the contract?

A: When selecting a lawn care service, always get all your agreements with the company into the written contract. Then read the contract carefully. Know what specific services and lawn problems will be covered and what will not. Check for extra charges and special services, such as fertilizing, disease control or reseeding. Find out if the work is guaranteed. If it is, get the guarantee or warranty in writing. Know what the guarantee includes and excludes, and how long it will last. Know how long the service will be performed. Have the renewal or service schedule along with the costs of renewals and cost increases written into the contract. Find out how you can cancel the contract. Make sure that the company you are considering is licensed. Special training is required for companies who apply pesticides to lawns. If you have additional questions about contracting with a lawn care service, contact our commercial pesticides office at 800-282-5852, ext. 4958.

Q: A kitten I bought three years ago died after ingesting the leaves on one of my houseplants. I am considering buying another cat for my daughter. How can I be sure that my houseplants will not harm the kitten?

A: Poisonous plants are commonly kept as houseplants or used to landscape properties. You can eliminate many of these plants from your home by always asking the nursery if the plants you are considering buying would be toxic if eaten by your dog or cat. If the employees cannot answer your questions, don’t purchase the plant.

Other sources of information are your local veterinarian, county extension agents, the local library, bookstores and your poison control center. Some commonly encountered poisonous houseplants and landscape ornamentals are dumb cane, caster bean plants, cut-leaf philodendron, Japanese yew, mistletoe, poinsettia, azalea, rhododendron, tulip, iris, amaryllis and English ivy. Your pets also should avoid wild plants such as poison ivy, oak and sumac; death cap and destroying angel wild mushrooms; and climbing nightshade.

If you have questions or problems with services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture you may write the Office of Public Affairs, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 226, Atlanta, GA 30334 or call 800-282-5852.

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