Monday, May 6, 2013

Turkeys and Carnival Rides

Four days ago the news carried warnings of injuries on amusement park rides – that they are more prevalent in the summer and that they can happen even in unexpected places like malls, restaurants and arcades.  Since 1990 an average of over 9,000 children were treated in emergency rooms annually for ride-related injuries.  But what does this have to do with turkeys? 

The end of the USA Today article about the risks of amusement park rides included “tips for staying safe.”  Some of the tips were:  follow all posted height, age, weight and health restrictions; follow special loading instructions; use safety equipment such as seat belts and safety bars; and keep hands and feet inside the ride at all times.  This can be condensed to knowing and following the rules.  Parents were also cautioned to keep children who might be unable to follow the rules off the ride.

On the same day we were reading about problems with ground-turkey purchased in supermarkets.  People who thought they were eating healthier by switching from beef to turkey burgers were distressed to find out that 90 percent of samples tested in 21 states were contaminated with one or more types of disease-causing organisms, some of which were antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Most reports emphasized the debate over whether treating turkeys with antibiotics was a good idea, but NBC and a few others concluded with advice for consumers on how to reduce risks.  This advice is fairly generic and is often included at the end of food safety reports relating to meat:  Store it at 40° F or below if you will cook it within a couple of days, otherwise freeze it; cook ground turkey to at least 165° F; wash you hands and all surfaces after handling ground turkey; and don’t return cooked meat to the plate that held it raw.

These are the rules for handling meat.  If your local restaurant or school cafeteria failed to follow these rules, the health inspector would charge them with a major violation.  If you follow these rules at home you will greatly reduce risk of food-borne illness.  Do you have a meat thermometer and a thermometer in your refrigerator?

When you think about problems in behavioral terms, commonalities leap out from seemingly-unrelated areas, like turkeys and carnival rides.  In both cases, responsible behavior, following the rules, reduces risk of injury on one hand and illness on the other.  These positive behaviors have good consequences.

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