On Jan. 14, 2014, nearly 400 people participated in the second annual “Safety Datapalooza” at USDA headquarters. The event, hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Transportation and USDA, recognized innovators from the private, nonprofit and academic sectors who have freely used available government data to build products, services and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways.
During a breakout session, Christopher Alvares, Director of FSIS’ Data Analysis and Integration Staff, explained the agency’s recently released Salmonella Action Plan and testing programs aimed at reducing the number of illnesses associated with FSIS-regulated products using new standards, strategies and innovation. “FSIS produces regular reports on Salmonella contamination in regulated product, but the data had never been available in machine-readable format or in a single place,” said Alvares. Up until now, this data had been available only from report to report spanning many years. Today, this data is available as one source and in one place. Read more »
Lou’s Gourmet Sausage, a small family business run by the Vinciguerra brothers of Cleveland, Ohio, takes sausage seriously. For over fifty years, the company has been supplying Cleveland restaurants and grocery stores with Sicilian, Andouille, Cajun, mild and hot chicken and veal sausages. But despite strong demand for its products, it took a USDA program to make Lou’s sausage available outside Ohio.
In 2012, Ohio was the first state to join USDA’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment program (CIS). The program, authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill, allows inspected and approved small state-inspected meat processors, like Lou’s Gourmet Sausage, to bear an official USDA Mark of Inspection and ship meat and poultry across state lines. Previously, only products from federally inspected plants could be sold in other states. To participate in the program, state certified plants like Lou’s Sausage work with USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to integrate their systems to meet federal inspection standards. Once inspected and approved for compliance, these smaller plants can ship across state lines and are poised for bigger market opportunities. Read more »
While most people have a mental image of research that involves scientists in lab coats, bubbling test tubes and beakers, and technical language that can seem complex, much of the groundbreaking research conducted by USDA scientists actually ends up on your plate, in your home, or on your back. Their discoveries in the lab truly translate into science you can see.
For example, many of us make a conscious effort to eat healthier and cut calories, but it can be tough when faced with a favorite snack, like French fries. USDA scientists have figured out a way to make French fries healthier. Before frying, scientists exposed potato strips to a few minutes of infrared heat. This forms a crispy outer shell on the outside of the fries, which helps to reduce their oil uptake and ultimately reduces calories per serving. If adopted commercially, this method is great news for both food processors and our waistlines. 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 »
The Produce Safety University is a collaborative effort between AMS, FNS, and local schools. The training teaches school foodservice personnel things like how to safely handle, prepare, and store fresh fruits and vegetables. USDA photo by Christopher Purdy.
Healthy eating plus physical fitness equals a positive lifestyle. It is a concept that has been talked about for years. Fruits and vegetables are an integral part of the equation and a corner stone for National Nutrition Month. Through a number of services, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) ensures that fresh, high-quality produce can reach each and every neighborhood.
USDA knows it is important to develop good eating habits early, so we work with schools to make sure our children fill their plates with quality, wholesome fruits and vegetables. For example, a Memorandum of Understanding between AMS, the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Service (FNCS) and local schools helps introduce fresh, locally-produced foods on school menus. To date, the Produce Safety University (PSU) has taught more than 400 school food service personnel how to safely handle and confidently purchase fresh produce. Read more »
US Department of Agriculture’s mobile Discovery Zone is a hands-on vehicle that travels the nation educating children and parents about the four main principals of home food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill. For more information see www.fsis.usda.gov/foodsafetymobile/
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that America’s meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe and wholesome. Educating the public on proper food handling practices is a core agency mission as well. It’s even more important when one considers the impact safe food handling practices have on children.
With a generation of children brought up relating the word “celebrity” to chefs just as readily as they do to athletes, food safety education has a more receptive audience among teens and young adults than ever before. With the help of parents and guardians, the current generation of children could have fewer preventable cases of foodborne illness than ever before. Read more »