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Category: Food Safety

Meet the Experts: USDA’s National Agricultural Library Launches New Online Food Safety Video Collection

USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) microbiologist Monifa Peterson demonstrates the addition of reagents for an E. coli non-O157:H7 analysis.

USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) microbiologist Monifa Peterson demonstrates the addition of reagents for an E. coli non-O157:H7 analysis.

Food is necessary and can be quite enjoyable, but it must also be safe to eat. Unfortunately, about one out of six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food at some point during the year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) work for one of the federal agencies that conducts research to help make the foods we eat safer. To help the public more easily access USDA food safety research information, the department’s National Agricultural Library’s Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO) has launched a new “Meet the Experts” online video collection available on the NAL website. Read more »

How to Safely Thaw a Turkey

While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. As soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing will begin to grow again. There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven.

3 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

3 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

Refrigerator Thawing (Recommended)

The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature. This method takes some time, so allow one day for each 4 – 5 pounds of weight. If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another two days, so you can start thawing it six days before thanksgiving (the Friday before Thanksgiving). Read more »

To Wash or Not Wash

Food Safety experts (including us at USDA) do not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Many bacteria are quite loosely attached and when you rinse these foods the bacteria will be spread around your kitchen.

In fact, research Exit disclaimer shows that washing meat or poultry in water spreads bacteria throughout the kitchen—onto countertops, other food, towels and you. Water can splash bacteria up to 3 feet surrounding your sink, which can lead to illnesses. We call this cross contamination. Researchers at Drexel University have shown that it is best to move meat and poultry straight from package to pan, since the heat required for cooking will kill any bacteria that may be present.

But what about a whole turkey? USDA does not recommend washing a whole turkey before you cook your Thanksgiving meal. You are likely to spread germs around your kitchen if you do so. The only reason a whole turkey (or any meat or poultry for that matter) should be washed is if it was brined. Thanksgiving cooks who are purchasing a brined turkey, or brining their turkeys at home, must rinse the brine off before the turkey goes into the oven. If you plan on serving a brined turkey this year, here is how to minimize the risk of cross contamination.

Brined Turkey

If you must rinse the turkey and clean out the cavity, first take the time to remove dishes, dish drainers, dish towels, sponges and other objects from around the sink area. Then cover the area around your sink with paper towels. Place the roasting pan next to the sink, ready to receive the turkey.

Clean the sink with hot soapy water, rinse well, and fill it with a few inches of cold water. Even if the cavity is partially frozen, use cold water to rinse the cavity. Cold water is still warmer than the frozen cavity. Run the water gently to prevent splashing. Make sure the water is coming out the other end of the cavity. If it isn’t, the neck or giblets may still be in there.

And that’s it! No need to scrub or rinse the rest of the turkey. Hold the turkey up to let it drain into the sink and gently place the turkey in the roasting pan. Remove the paper towels, clean the sink and the area around the sink with hot soapy water, and proceed with your preparations.

New Research from FDA and FSIS Shed Light on Food Handling Behaviors in the Home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (that’s 48 million people) suffer from foodborne illnesses each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Part of what may be contributing to these illnesses is misunderstanding of where food poisoning can come from. In fact, according to a new national telephone survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 53 percent of consumers think it is “not very common” to get food poisoning because of the way food is prepared in the home. This is not true, and promoting safe food handling in the home is one way CDC, FDA and FSIS are working to reduce the rates of food poisoning nationally.

The survey, conducted periodically by FDA and FSIS since 1988, explores the public’s understanding of food safety and their food handling behaviors at home. These findings show that while consumer understand of food safety is not universal, many are beginning to understand the source of food poisoning and how they can help reduce their risk. Read more »

Training Growers, Growing Trainers: Preparing for New Food Safety Requirements

A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

Are you preparing to meet the new Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety rule standards?  Have you heard about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)?  Maybe you’ve heard that they can get buyers to notice your products and improve your access to the market place – but you need more information to know if it can work for you.

USDA is hard at work connecting growers with training and resources to support GAP certification and expand their food safety know how. We’ve made big investments in food safety education for growers in recent years, supporting projects through AMS grant programs—the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Federal-State Market Improvement Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Local Food Promotion Program. Read more »

USDA’s Collaborative and Active Engagement in the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System is Twenty Years Old and Going Strong

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on January 26, 1998 that it was going to require meat and poultry processing plants to have a science-based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food inspection system put into place. HACCP is a food production, storage, and distribution monitoring system for identification and control of associated health hazards using definitive scientific tests. Its purpose is to prevent contamination of food products during processing. USDA photo.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on January 26, 1998 that it was going to require meat and poultry processing plants to have a science-based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food inspection system put into place. HACCP is a food production, storage, and distribution monitoring system for identification and control of associated health hazards using definitive scientific tests. Its purpose is to prevent contamination of food products during processing. USDA photo.

Today kicked off “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week in the United States and the World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week in 2016. During this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its other federal partners want to remind families and communities about the importance of responsible antibiotic use in both humans and animals, to help reduce the development of resistant bacteria. This week, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).  Through NARMS, USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborate on everything relating to antimicrobial resistant bacteria.   Since 1996, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have been active participants in this combined federal surveillance program.

So, what is antimicrobial resistance?  As you might recall, in 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, a drug that revolutionized the treatment of bacterial infections. In the years following, penicillin and the discovery and therapeutic use of other antibiotics, we have relied on antibiotics to treat and cure a variety of illnesses – in both humans and animals, across the globe. The use of these drugs has aided in the development of resistant strains of bacteria. Unfortunately, this development means that some previously treatable forms of bacterial infections are now resistant to the antibiotics that were designed to treat them. It is estimated that the decrease in effectiveness of antibiotics, results in more than two million U.S. cases of antibiotic resistant infections, annually. Some of these types of infections might require longer hospital stays and are more costly to treat successfully.  Read more »