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Category: Food Safety

USDA Celebrates the Public Service of 12 Unsung Heroes

USDA colleagues and teams honored at Unsung Hero Award Ceremony

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, outstanding USDA colleagues and teams from around the country were honored at the Department’s 31st Annual Unsung Hero Award Ceremony in Washington, DC. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Every day, USDA employees are hard at work providing safe, nutritious food for our families and children; conserving our land and natural resources; supporting our nation’s farmers and ranchers; expanding market opportunities for American agriculture at home and abroad; and investing in our rural economies.  Recently, Secretary Vilsack penned a moving essay as to why he dedicates his life to public service at the USDA.

Nearly 100,000 USDA employees serve our country with pride and dedication. As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I joined the Organization of Professional Employees at the Department of Agriculture to honor 12 outstanding colleagues and teams from around the country in our 31st Annual Unsung Hero Award Ceremony.  I invite you to congratulate these extraordinary public servants for their dedication to their jobs and their communities. Read more »

Meeting to Prepare Industry for Food Safety Modernization Act Compliance

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending a public meeting held by our colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update for the pending Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This law will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing food-borne illnesses. I spoke on behalf of my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – as part of a panel of domestic and international officials who provided the government’s perspective on how we would like to see the final law implemented.

With several of the law’s rules set to become final later this summer and early in the fall, the FDA is still seeking comments and suggestions for the best way to implement FSMA. The meeting, which included breakout sessions where participants could start an open dialogue about the implementation, is part of the FDA’s emphasis on educating the industry before regulating it. Read more »

NIFA Research is Working to Make Every Day World Health Day

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

April 7 is World Health Day and food safety is the primary focus—and with good reason.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that, in the United States alone, every year there are 48 million foodborne illnesses and 3,000 deaths from unsafe food.

Most of these illnesses are the result of bacteria, such as Salmonella, that finds its way into various types of food.  About half of all microbial foodborne illnesses are associated with animal foods, and about half from produce.  CDC reports that most illnesses come from leafy greens, which could be contaminated on the farm, during processing, at retail or in the home. Chemicals, such as mercury in fish or mycotoxins from molds are also a concern. Read more »

USDA and the World Health Organization Highlight Food Safety this World Health Day

Everyone involved in the farm to table continuum has an interest in making our food safe to eat.  Because safe food is important to consumers around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has picked Food Safety as the theme of World Health Day 2015. Today, April 7th, as we observe World Health Day, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what a safe food supply means globally and domestically. WHO estimates that unsafe food causes 2 million deaths each year, with 1,000 of those deaths occurring in the United States.  Here at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), we focus on food safety day in and day out, working around the clock to prevent foodborne illness and protect public health.

In the United States, we are fortunate to have one of the safest food supplies in the world. In the last eight years, the U.S. has seen a decrease in the number of foodborne illnesses with 50,000 fewer reported illnesses since 2007. This decrease is the result of our work to develop innovative ways of educating consumers about safe food handling, our efforts to modernize how we inspect food, and the work we have done with establishments to prevent bacteria from contaminating food. We are committed to using an inspection system based in science—science that derives from the work of researchers and public health experts.  It is important to remember how far we’ve come, but our work is not done. Read more »

New USDA ‘FoodKeeper’ App: Your New Tool for Smart Food Storage

Image of person using app in refrigerator. Text overlay reads: “Are these leftovers still good? There’s an app for that now, the FoodKeeper.”

Have questions about items in your refrigerator or pantry? USDA has a new app that can help.

How many times have you gone into your pantry or refrigerator, only to find that what you were going to use in your meal was spoiled? The USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new application, the FoodKeeper.

Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because home cooks are not sure of the quality or safety of items. USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels! Read more »

USDA Releases Strategies to Reduce E. coli Levels at Beef Slaughterhouses

Reduction of E. coli O157 illnesses since the mid-1990’s has been one of the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s greatest public health successes, with illnesses having dropped by over 50% since 1998.  While overall illnesses are down significantly, the most recently available outbreak data shows a slight increase in illnesses from this dangerous pathogen.  FSIS’ Strategic Performance Working Group (SPWG) has released a six-point strategy to turn the trend back in the right direction.

The Strategic Performance Working Group includes professionals from across FSIS, including field personnel, microbiologists, and policymakers who come together periodically to tackle serious and stubborn challenges that limit the Agency’s successful performance of its mission.  The SPWG previously developed the Salmonella Action Plan, which has been the agency’s blueprint for tackling Salmonella since December 2013.  Now the SPWG is also recommending a multipronged approach to address pathogenic E. coli in beef slaughterhouses. Read more »