Everyone involved in the farm to table continuum has an interest in making our food safe to eat. Because safe food is important to consumers around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has picked Food Safety as the theme of World Health Day 2015. Today, April 7th, as we observe World Health Day, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what a safe food supply means globally and domestically. WHO estimates that unsafe food causes 2 million deaths each year, with 1,000 of those deaths occurring in the United States. Here at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), we focus on food safety day in and day out, working around the clock to prevent foodborne illness and protect public health.
In the United States, we are fortunate to have one of the safest food supplies in the world. In the last eight years, the U.S. has seen a decrease in the number of foodborne illnesses with 50,000 fewer reported illnesses since 2007. This decrease is the result of our work to develop innovative ways of educating consumers about safe food handling, our efforts to modernize how we inspect food, and the work we have done with establishments to prevent bacteria from contaminating food. We are committed to using an inspection system based in science—science that derives from the work of researchers and public health experts. It is important to remember how far we’ve come, but our work is not done. Read more »
The graphic above illustrates how proposed new federal standards could help reduce poultry-related Salmonella illnesses by an estimated 50,000 each year. Click to enlarge.
It’s no secret that Americans eat a lot of chicken and turkey. In fact, USDA estimates that a single American will eat 102 pounds of poultry in 2015. It is USDA’s job to ensure the meat and poultry products we enjoy are also safe to eat, and that means adapting federal food safety regulations to meet changes in production technology, scientific understanding of foodborne illness, and consumer demand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1 million Americans contract foodborne Salmonella poisoning each year, and 200,000 of those illnesses can be attributed to poultry. Today, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed new food safety standards that would reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter, another common cause of foodborne illness, on ground chicken and turkey, as well as chicken legs, breasts and wings, which represent the majority of poultry items that Americans purchase and feed their families. Read more »
While rates of Salmonella illnesses remain stubbornly high in this country, the United States is continuing to rely on a 60-year-old poultry inspection system developed under the Eisenhower Administration. Our knowledge of foodborne illness and poultry processing has improved significantly since then, and our food safety measures should too. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has examined new approaches to poultry safety through an extensive multi-year pilot project. In January 2012, FSIS put forward a modernization proposal based on this project because the data showed modernizing our procedures to combat invisible pathogens, rather than relying extensively on visual inspection, could prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses per year. As a public health agency, it is crucial that we make use of 21st century science to reduce pathogens and save lives.
Some of the changes being proposed in the modernization plan concern some groups who misunderstand what FSIS is putting forward. In particular, some have claimed that the allowed speed increase for evisceration lines would lead to higher injury rates among poultry plant workers. But a newly released report provides evidence that this isn’t the case. Read more »
In response to a recent report about chicken served in the National School Lunch Program, I wanted to provide some clarification. Food safety is one of our highest priorities, and USDA is committed to ensuring that food served through the National School Lunch Program is both healthy and safe.
Schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program receive some of their foods through the USDA, and the rest is purchased on the commercial market. USDA is only involved in the purchases that are made through our program, and all of the food provided through USDA is 100 percent domestically grown and produced. Read more »
Cross posted from Food Safety News:
For the past 15 years, USDA conducted a pilot project to inform how we modernize our inspection process – all to ensure that meat and poultry is safe to eat. Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), released a report on the project, known as the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), and how FSIS has relied on it to propose a modernized approach to inspecting poultry.
While an initial scan of the press coverage may lead you to believe that GAO discredits this proposal, that is not the case. GAO gave HIMP a thorough review and made just two recommendations, both of which FSIS is already working to fulfill.
GAO chose not to include some facts that also deserve public disclosure. FSIS put forward this proposal because data shows that a system like HIMP will prevent at least 5,000 more foodborne illnesses annually. The study that FSIS has conducted of HIMP provides an appropriate basis on which to judge the merits of this system. Approximately 10 years ago, FSIS asked an independent group of experts in poultry microbiology, statistical evaluation, poultry food safety and public health to evaluate our study. Read more »
FSIS Consumer Safety Inspectors (CSIs) Anthony Carson, Rick Toot, and Rosalinda Curb are just a few of the exemplary FSIS employees who work hard every day to protect public health and ensure the humane treatment of livestock presented for slaughter.
Anthony Carson, a CSI in the Dallas district, contributes greatly to enforcing humane handling policy at the cull cattle plant where he works.
The oldest son of a small-town veterinarian, Carson has worked with cattle for as long as he can remember. Carson’s father has been his greatest influence. “Dad gave me that love of animal husbandry, instilled in me a strong work ethic, and showed me the importance of constant self-improvement.” Read more »