SBIR grant recipients Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger with SBIR program coordinator Charles Cleland
For hundreds of years, agriculture has fostered a community of “makers” – people who have engineered the tools that ensure a steady, abundant supply of food and fiber under a wide variety of conditions. From the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, Mason jars in 1858, the gasoline tractor in 1892, to the current use of “big data” and genetic tools, the agriculture industry has made huge leaps and bounds in technology and engineering.
On June 12th and 13th, USDA joined other Federal agencies and a wide variety of public and private-sector organizations to celebrate the culture of “making” at the first-ever National Maker Faire. Held on the University of District Columbia campus in Washington, D.C., the National Maker Faire is part of a broad network of Maker Faires across the country that celebrate the spirit of curiosity, invention, and do-it-yourself determination. Read more »
On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of 1890 Universities, reaffirming USDA’s partnership with all 19 1890’s Universities across the country. Through this memorandum the USDA is able to put forth a collaborative effort to encourage more opportunities for students and graduates to work at the USDA or in careers related to food, agricultural science and natural resources. In partnering with 1890 Universities we are able to set up an equitable exchange of expertise and resources that will help strengthen the overall capacity of each institution of learning, as well as the USDA. The following story demonstrates how one USDA 1890’s scholarship recipient has made rewarding career in public health.
Nisha Antoine, a USDA microbiologist and Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, has always understood the relationship between personal health and public health. As a child with asthma, she spent a lot of time in the emergency room, and she was inspired by her doctors and nurses to want to take care of other children as an adult. From elementary school through college at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Nisha enjoyed studying biology, a path she knew would eventually lead to a career of caring for others. When she was a senior in high school, an application for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program came in the mail, and her mother encouraged her to apply. Today, she says receiving the scholarship and going to an 1890’s institution afforded her opportunities that she may not have experienced otherwise. Read more »
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 »
Have questions about items in your refrigerator or pantry? USDA has a new app that can help.
How many times have you gone into your pantry or refrigerator, only to find that what you were going to use in your meal was spoiled? The USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new application, the FoodKeeper.
Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because home cooks are not sure of the quality or safety of items. USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels! Read more »
Reduction of E. coli O157 illnesses since the mid-1990’s has been one of the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s greatest public health successes, with illnesses having dropped by over 50% since 1998. While overall illnesses are down significantly, the most recently available outbreak data shows a slight increase in illnesses from this dangerous pathogen. FSIS’ Strategic Performance Working Group (SPWG) has released a six-point strategy to turn the trend back in the right direction.
The Strategic Performance Working Group includes professionals from across FSIS, including field personnel, microbiologists, and policymakers who come together periodically to tackle serious and stubborn challenges that limit the Agency’s successful performance of its mission. The SPWG previously developed the Salmonella Action Plan, which has been the agency’s blueprint for tackling Salmonella since December 2013. Now the SPWG is also recommending a multipronged approach to address pathogenic E. coli in beef slaughterhouses. Read more »
Each year, America imports over 3.5 billion pounds of meat, poultry, and egg products. As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, it is important to continually strengthen our regulatory programs to ensure that the food on your family’s table is safe. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency that verifies these products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, whether they are produced in the U.S. or abroad.
Over time, we have taken a number of steps to ensure that domestic and international facilities are delivering only the safest possible product to store shelves. In the past year, FSIS created the Office of International Coordination (OIC) as part of our effort to strengthen our agency’s focus on international issues. This is the office I oversee. This week, to facilitate determinations of initial and ongoing equivalence, we launched our improved and web-based Self-Reporting Tool (SRT) to allow foreign countries to submit their equivalence responses and documentation through an efficient and secure online portal. This new tool saves time previously spent sifting through paperwork and allows us to focus our efforts on upholding FSIS’ strong food safety standards. This consolidated web-based version is yet another advance made possible by the Public Health Information System (PHIS) that helps us collect, consolidate, and analyze equivalence and import data more efficiently. Read more »