Should I be concerned about food safety?
Everyone should be concerned about food safety and that includes farmers and ranchers. Programs like Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) are widely used to help ensure safe production, processing and transportation in handling food. In 2012, the USDA Audit Program performed over 3,000 Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & Good Handling Practices (GHP) audits in 46 states, Canada, and Chile, covering over 90 commodities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a surveillance and documentation system for foodborne illnesses, and the PulseNet USA system they use allows them to identify and track DNA fingerprints of bacteria and then alert the public in a timely fashion of any illnesses patterns related to food. The U.S. sources food both domestically and internationally from more than 150 countries, and all food is inspected and monitored.
Who monitors food safety?
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitor food production through inspections and regulations. The FDA is responsible for protecting public health and safety and oversees our nation’s food supply by regulating food manufacturing and processing facilities. The EPA monitors toxics and chemical safety, as well as the environmental impact of food production.
What steps are taken by farmers and ranchers to make sure my food is safe?
The women and men who grow your food participate in many different programs to make sure food is safe. Two examples of these programs include Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and Pork Quality Assurance (PQA).
Beef Quality Assurance is a national program that provides guidelines for beef cattle production. The program recommends proper management techniques designed to show a commitment to quality within every segment of the beef industry.
Farmers/ranchers have embraced BQA because it is the right thing
to do; but they have also gained through increased profitability. As an educational program, BQA helps farmers/ranchers improve management processes.
PQA Plus is a farmer-driven program they can use to ensure U.S. pork products are of the highest quality and safe, and animals raised for food are cared for in a way ensuring their well-being. It was designed to identify food safety hazards and minimize the risks before they occur. This program works to ensure the U.S. pork products are safe and of the highest quality, as well and the well-being of the animals raised for food is a top priority.
Is one production method safer than another?
Consumers have a wide variety of production methods they can choose to purchase food from. Organic and other niche-market products have increased in popularity in recent years and some people believe they are safer to the consumer. However, there is limited scientific data that refutes or supports these claims.
There have been some studies that show pathogen prevalence can be higher in non-traditional forms of food production such as organic or other niche market systems. Food purchased at farmer’s markets or directly off the farm may not be regulated or inspected, so consumers should be extra careful to follow food safety guidelines when handling and preparing food from this type of production system.
What do I need to do to make sure my food is safe?
The Center for Disease Control suggests consumers avoid consumption of raw or undercooked foods of animal origin to reduce the risk of E.coli. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suggests four steps be taken with every food to help keep food safe. In every step of food preparation, follow the four steps of the Food Safe Families campaign to keep food safe:
- Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often
- Separate — Don't cross-contaminate
- Cook — Cook to the right temperature
- Chill — Refrigerate promptly
Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential to prevent foodborne illness. You can't see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. To learn more about how you can keep your food safe, please visit Basics for Handling Food Safely.