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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 »

Local School Wellness Policy Toolkit Now Available

Nutrition education and promotion are part of a Local School Wellness Policy.

Nutrition education and promotion are part of a Local School Wellness Policy.

New resources are now available to help school districts engage parents and school staff in Local School Wellness Policy efforts.  A Local School Wellness Policy is a written document that guides school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being and ability to learn.  It’s important for parents and school staff to be a part of this process so the wellness policy is representative of both the community and student’s needs.  

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Team Nutrition initiative has developed a free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit that school districts and schools can customize to communicate information about their Local School Wellness Policy to parents and staff.  The kit includes: Read more »

NIFA, Agricultural Research Tackle Society’s ‘wicked’ problems

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle.  (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle. (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

Our charge in the food and agricultural sciences is to move from evolutionary discoveries, which contribute to marginal changes over long periods of time, to revolutionary thinking to deal with ‘wicked’ problems by deploying transdisciplinary approaches that solve complex societal challenges. Similar to how the Internet-driven disruptive technologies have transformed America and the rest of the world, advances in data science, information science, biotechnology and nanotechnology can transform agriculture and our capacity to address societal challenges.

Advances in the field of genomics have helped breeders produce desirable varieties of crops and livestock and overcome challenges that had previously been undertaken via conventional breeding. For example, in the dairy industry, most cattle are mechanically or chemically dehorned early in life to protect against injury to other cattle and their handlers. To eliminate this bloody and painful process, a team of NIFA-funded researchers at Recombinetics have successfully used gene editing to introduce the hornless gene into the cells of horned bulls. While the majority of hornless cattle generated via conventional breeding produce low quality milk, gene editing offers a simple and rapid solution of generating hornless cattle that produce high quality milk. 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 »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anita Roberson

U.S. Army Veteran and Virginia Farmer Anita Roberson

U.S. Army Veteran and Virginia Farmer Anita Roberson

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. In honor of Veterans Day, we hear from Anita Roberson, a U.S. Army Veteran who started a post service career in agriculture. She and her husband Thomas, also a U.S. Army veteran, both proudly own a ten-acre farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where they produce vegetables, fruit, flowers, and honey.

1. First off, thank you for your service. Tell us about your background and how you got into agriculture.

You are welcome!  I grew up in a military family, but some of my fondest memories were of life on the farm with my paternal grandparents. They had an amazing flower and vegetable garden, working dogs, laying chickens, and Jersey cattle. Those magnificent impressions helped me to realize that I was destined to work in the sciences.  As an undergraduate, I majored in biology and later joined the Army and served as a Medical Service Corps officer. Later I married a Physician Assistant who grew up on a farm. While serving in Germany, we purchased my aunt’s ten-acre farm so she could retire, thinking it would be an awesome opportunity to help us in our eventual retirement. It was one of the best decisions we made.  After we returned to Virginia, we met an Extension Agent who invited us to attend a Small Farm Outreach Program and the rest is history. Read more »