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Category: Food Safety

Buckle Up for a #USDARoadTrip

The "Ask Karen" app on an iPhone

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 would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new #FoodKeeper app: Android and iOS

From barbecues to broadband, USDA’s broad portfolio impacts the lives of American families everywhere. This month, in celebration of our nation’s Independence Day, we’ll take a summer road trip across the U.S. Department of Agriculture and see some of the ways USDA is assisting rural communities to build a stronger America from sea to shining sea.

Our first stop will be USDA’s Consumer Food Safety portfolio to explore the ways USDA is working around the clock to ensure you and your families are protected from harmful foodborne illness. A big part of that is making sure you have the correct information at the time when you need it most. That’s why over the years, our Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has found increasingly innovative ways to bring our food safety information to you.

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Talking All Things Produce at the United Fresh Convention & Expo

A team of AMS employees staffing a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo

A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.

The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »

USDA Goes All in for Produce Safety Outreach

Small grower Warren Ford in a field

The Harmonized GAPs Food Safety audit provided by AMS has helped small grower Warren Ford expand his business from selling a couple hundred bushels of peas a summer to selling more than 3,000 cases a summer to Walmart. Photo courtesy Warren and Rosha Ford.

For the produce industry, the summer and fall of 2015 is more than a chance to share a new season of crops with customers. It’s when several of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws will become final. FSMA 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 foodborne illnesses. My colleagues at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have been working hard with our partners to expand our outreach efforts about food safety to help the produce industry prepare for compliance.

One of the ways that we help the industry prepare for compliance is through a successful partnership with Cornell University and the FDA via the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA).  We recently renewed this partnership through a Cooperative Agreement that enables the three entities to devote funds for training and outreach events. Since 2010, AMS has enjoyed working with our colleagues to engage with produce growers, industry members, regulators, and extension educators through working committees, public meetings, focus groups, and webinars. Read more »

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 »