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Category: Food Safety

Closing the Gap on Food Safety

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos led the panel discussion that talked about the success of the GroupGAP Pilot Program and looked ahead to the full program’s official launch later this spring.

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos led the panel discussion that talked about the success of the GroupGAP Pilot Program and looked ahead to the full program’s official launch later this spring.

From small, family farms to large food production companies, food safety is a top priority for the folks who feed our nation and put food on tables around the globe. Participating in programs like USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), is one way that farmers and producers of all sizes can demonstrate to buyers that they are adhering to industry food safety standards.  By making this program more accessible to businesses of all sizes, USDA is creating opportunities for our nation’s small and mid-sized farmers

Last week I traveled to Atlanta, Ga., for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit to discuss the expansion of our GroupGAP Program this coming spring. The program is an expansion of our Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Audit Program, which provides third-party certification services to verify that operations are following industry-recognized food safety practices as well as recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).The pilot was supported by funding and technical expertise from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International. Read more »

GroupGAP: Food Safety Assurance for Growers and Buyers Big and Small

Two women inside a high tunnel talking

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs GAP audits, which are voluntary, third-party services that verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the FDA. Photo courtesy of Iowa Food Hub.

In the produce industry, food safety is front and center on everyone’s mind. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released some of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final rules, and retailers are looking to buy from FSMA-compliant suppliers. If you’re a retailer or large produce buyer, there is exciting news about a program that verifies that suppliers are meeting your food safety requirements. After three years of successful trials, USDA recently previewed our plans to expand the GroupGap Pilot Program.

Many producers are aware of “Good Agricultural Practices,” or GAP audits. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs GAP audits, which are voluntary, third-party services that verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Read more »

USDA, California Department of Agriculture and Oakland Athletics Partner to Promote Food Safety Education Month

Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred V. Almanza, California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and Oakland A’s player Mark Canha visited a California elementary school to teach students about food safety.

Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred V. Almanza, California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and Oakland A’s player Mark Canha visited a California elementary school to teach students about food safety.

This week Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred V. Almanza, California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and Oakland A’s player Mark Canha visited a California elementary school to teach students about food safety. The visit is part of a USDA effort to promote public understanding of foodborne illness during Food Safety Education Month, which occurs every September.

An estimated 1 in 6 (48 million) Americans get sick from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children are among the most vulnerable to food poisoning because their immune systems are still developing, so caregivers need to take extra precautions when preparing and packing healthy, safe school lunches Read more »

Do YOU Have a Plan to Keep Food Safe during Severe Weather?

 

Food Safety Before, During and After a Power Outage

Graphic - Food Safety Before, During and After a Power Outage

Disaster can strike at anytime and any place.  You might live in a region of the country that already has experienced some form of extreme weather event, such as wildfires, extreme cold and snow, or obstructive tornadoes, to name a few.

All of these events result in power outages for hundreds of thousands of households and communities, and as you know, no power can compromise food safety. The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this.  Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »

Keeping Foods Safe For a Successful School Year

As the days get shorter and the month of August winds down with the appearance of back-to-school sales, we recognize the telltale signs that signal the “official” end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.  For USDA professionals interested in food safety, nutrition and health, thoughts of safe food preparation and school lunches packed at home, come to mind. 

It is estimated that each year in the U.S., there are more than 48 million cases of foodborne illness, with 128,000 people hospitalized from these illnesses and nearly 3,000 deaths.  It is startling that one in six Americans will become ill from foodborne illness each year since most are preventable.  The most vulnerable members of our population are pregnant women, children, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised by other diseases and illnesses.  That’s why care must be taken to assure that the foods consumed are safe. Read more »

Improving the Safety of Leafy Greens

Sadhana Ravishankar with a bag of leafy greens

Sadhana Ravishankar, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, led a team of researchers at the University of Arizona that discovered natural methods to sanitize leafy vegetables.

Food safety is a top priority for consumers, especially when it comes to the leafy greens in salads. Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered natural methods to sanitize these vegetables using ingredients commonly found in the kitchen, such as oregano, cinnamon, and vinegar.

Plant extracts, essential oils, and organic sanitizers have all proved effective in killing bacteria on leafy greens and extending their shelf life. When emulsified in the water used to wash these leaves, the approach compares to (and sometimes even works better than) bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Read more »