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Category: Food Safety

Enjoy Your Holiday Weekend – Use a Food Thermometer!

Those of you who follow the news have probably seen the recall this week of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Understandably, this causes concern among consumers. However, this does not mean you can’t enjoy a hamburger off the grill or that you need to cancel your backyard BBQ. You can still enjoy your Memorial Day weekend cookout, just remember to practice safe food handling! And if the cooking is to be done by your “weekends only” cook, make sure you take the time to educate him or her about these important steps.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds all cooks to follow four simple tips—clean, separate, cook and chill—for a safe cookout. Additional safe food handling and cooking tips are available at the Grill it Safe website. Read more »

Wolverine Packing Company Recall: What Consumers Need to Know

You may have heard about the FSIS announcement this week that the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, MI was recalling 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  This recall is linked to 11 patients in four states.  I wanted to provide an update on what FSIS is doing based on the evidence available.

FSIS was notified of the first illness on May 8 and immediately began working with our partners at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find the source of these illnesses.  Based on the initial findings in the investigations, FSIS and CDC were able to establish a direct link to ground beef products supplied by Wolverine Packing Company. Read more »

Food Safety Scientists Double Up on Ground Beef Testing This Summer

As grilling season heats up, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is enhancing our food safety testing program for ground beef.  While FSIS has a range of safeguards to reduce E. coli in ground beef, this summer we will begin new testing to improve the safeguards against Salmonella as well.  Salmonella is commonly found in ground beef and, in fact, caused an illness outbreak in January 2013 in six states.  Salmonella is an especially difficult bacteria for food safety experts to address because it is so prevalent in almost all food sources.

Recognizing that we need more information about the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef to better prevent food-borne illness, FSIS is “super-sizing” our pathogen testing program to include Salmonella every time our laboratories test for E. coli in samples of ground beef and ground beef sources. Because the samples taken for E. coli testing are much larger than those we have taken in the past for Salmonella, there is higher likelihood that we will be able to detect the bacteria if it is present. Read more »

Experience Earth Day with USDA

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches 2,175 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hikers who choose to explore the entire stretch will go through 14 states and on eight national forests. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches 2,175 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hikers who choose to explore the entire stretch will go through 14 states and on eight national forests. (U.S. Forest Service)

Earth Day is a reminder that some of our best moments can be spent in the great outdoors.

Getting outside is one of the best ways to feel re-invigorated, whether on a short hike to the Crags Trail on Pike National Forest or on a longer exploration of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, which winds through 14 states and across eight national forests.

The range of outdoor activities run the gamut from hiking, camping, boating, bird watching, and experiencing wildlife to photographing nature, hunting and fishing. Read more »

Microwave Pasteurization: A New Industrial Process Producing High Quality and Safe Food

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit.  MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit. MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, like innovative ways to make food safer.

More than 90 percent of American households have microwave ovens where people heat their food, yet this same technology is seldom used for large-scale production in the food industry.

As home cooks know, microwave ovens do not excel at heating food evenly.  The lack of commercial-scale microwave processing technology is, in part, due to the challenge of designing equipment that is capable of pasteurization – heating all of the food evenly to a predetermined temperature for a certain length of time.  Pasteurization makes food safe to eat, by inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens that can make people sick. Read more »

New Frontiers of Food Safety

Over the last few decades, food safety has been marked by profound social, economic and political evolutions and technological breakthroughs such as 3D printing of food and the adoption of laboratory testing for pathogens. Laboratory testing for pathogens continues to evolve with the advancement of genome sequencing. However, there is always more to do.  There is a potential for advancing existing and promoting greater gains in the future.

What if there were more apps that could allow farmers, producers, consumers and stakeholders access to USDA data? The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posts a variety of reports using data collected while inspecting and testing meat and poultry products, but more and more, people want direct access to the information.  For instance, what if a consumer could walk into a grocery store, scan a product, and instantly know where it was produced or where it was farmed? What if a farmer had an app that directly informed them about crop forecasting or crop variations? What if people and organizations who would never have had the opportunity before could individually and collectively mash up data in unique and exciting ways, leading to new opportunities to solve complex problems? The potential is endless as more tools are becoming available. Read more »