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Category: Science

When it Comes to Cotton, Texas Rules

NASS interviewers conducting objective yield measurements

NASS interviewers conducting objective yield measurements in a field near Lubbock, Texas.

Lone Star state growers are responsible for 56 percent of the U.S. acres planted to cotton and about 45 percent of the total cotton production. But how do we measure this crop accurately enough to make dependable forecasts for cotton yield and production? That’s where our measurement process, known as the objective yield kicks in.

All of the objective yield measurements are done by a well-prepared team of National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) enumerators. For this growing season, we spent the week of July 12-14 training 43 enumerators with a combination of classroom and hands-on field practice. Since approximately 63 percent of the Texas crop, which represents 30 percent of the U.S. total cotton crop, comes from the High Plains of Texas, this group has the bulk of the samples in Texas. Read more »

Using Science to Help Keep Food Safe: A Day in the Life of a USDA Laboratory Auditor

Isaac Gene Sterling

A fascinating part of Gene Sterling’s job is learning the different uses for the products that are being tested by USDA audited laboratories across the country. Did you know that peanuts are used in sauces, gravy and soup mixes as well as snack foods?

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

From soup to nuts, we use science to help ensure the quality of agricultural products for consumers worldwide. As a Microbiologist for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I am one of a small group of highly-qualified auditors that travel across the country to certify over 70 private laboratories. These labs are consistently testing to verify the quality and wholesomeness of U.S. food and agricultural products.

Our Laboratory Approval Service approves, or accredits, labs that test agricultural products in support of domestic and international trade. Our programs cover a variety of products from aflatoxin testing in peanuts and tree nuts to export verification for meat and poultry products. Read more »

Making Sure Consumers Get What They Pay For

Honey on biscuits

When ARS researchers wrote the definitive report on the composition of honey in 1962, they made it possible to detect whether other substances might have been added, thus allowing consumers to have confidence when the label says “100 percent honey.” (USDA-ARS photo by Scott Bauer).

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.

When you buy packaged foods at the grocery store, who makes sure what it says on the outside is true on the inside—whether you are reading “100 percent sweet honey” or checking the calories in a serving of nuts?

It never says so on the label, but many times the surety rests on the science of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Read more »

Researchers Use NIFA Grant to Develop Rapid Food Safety Test

Measurement setup for direct pathogen detection on food

Measurement setup for direct pathogen detection on food. (Courtesy of Dr. Bryan Chin)

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a major priority at USDA, where we are constantly working to find innovative ways to stay a step ahead of bacteria and other dangerous contaminants that can cause illness. Thanks in part to a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a research team led by Dr. Bryan Chin, director of the Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center, has developed a cheap, portable and easy-to-use new screening tool to test fresh fruits and vegetables for the presence of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

Currently available screening methods for produce can be costly in terms of time, equipment, and expertise. The multidisciplinary research team of engineers, microbiologists, and genomicists based at Auburn University and the University of Georgia wanted to create a new method that could be used more broadly. Read more »

Three Ways USDA Helps Consumers Keep Foods Safe

A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker

It’s important for consumers to be concerned about food safety. From shopping to storing leftovers, USDA provides easily accessible information to help keep food safe every step of the way.

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.

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence

Have you ever wondered how to safely grill your burgers? How about determining the latest food safety recalls?  USDA provides a number of resources to ensure that you have access to the most up to date information on food safety.

Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a serious challenge and USDA is serious about helping families avoid dangerous bacteria and other contaminants that can lead to foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans are likely to become ill from foodborne illness each year, but most of these illnesses are thought to be preventable. That’s why USDA provides a number of tools consumers can use in order to prevent or reduce the risk of foodborne illness that would spoil the meal. Read more »

Simple, Inexpensive Camera System Detects Foodborne Toxins

A system used to detect active Shiga toxin

USDA-ARS scientists developed this low-cost yet effective system to detect active Shiga toxin. USDA-ARS photo by Reuven Rasooly.

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.

As the weather heats up this summer, many of us are firing up our grills and going on picnics. But one thing we all want to avoid is getting food poisoning from the food or beverages we consume.

Each year, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. An obstacle to extensive testing of foods for microbes, pathogens and toxins that cause food poisoning is equipment cost, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist. Read more »