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Health and Safety

A Holiday Get Together: Cooking for Friends and Family

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends. Office parties, holiday buffets and potluck dinners offer great opportunities to exchange gifts and goodwill. But if food is not properly handled, they can also be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses. Following the recommendations below will help keep foodborne bacteria off of your menu.

Family Farm Co-op in Missouri Shows Commitment to Food Safety

For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet:  farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations.  Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.

Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits.

USDA's FoodKeeper App Uses Open Data to Keep Consumers Safe and Food Fresh

The FSIS FoodKeeper app is an easy way for consumers to keep their food safe by providing valuable advice on storing foods and beverages to maximize freshness and minimize food waste. By helping users understand food storage, the app empowers consumers to select methods that extend shelf life and keep items fresh longer than if they were not properly stored.  The app is available for Android and Apple devices.

To Wash or Not Wash

Food Safety experts (including us at USDA) do not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Many bacteria are quite loosely attached and when you rinse these foods the bacteria will be spread around your kitchen.

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.

Training Growers, Growing Trainers: Preparing for New Food Safety Requirements

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.

Flooding: A Checklist for Small and Very Small Meat, Poultry and Egg Inspection Processing Plants

Rivers rise. The ground is saturated. Levees fail. Floods happen, and they happen beside rivers, along the coasts, in deserts and in city streets. Flooding might be a fact of nature but that does not mean you have to lose your business and possessions to flood waters. 

It is never too early to prepare.  Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

New Allowances for Including a “Non-GMO” Statement on Certified Organic Meat and Poultry Products

Organic meat and poultry producers can now use a streamlined process to get approval for labels verifying that their products do not include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.  These products may also now use a “Non-GMO” label claim.  Because of this, we’re updating a previous blog from our “Organic 101” series.

In 2014, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) streamlined procedures for including a “non-genetically engineered” statement on the label of organic meat and poultry products.  This continues to be consistent with organic regulations, which have always prohibited the use of GE in all organic products.  Today, FSIS is adding further process improvements and labeling flexibilities, in light of recently passed legislation.  Many organic stakeholders have expressed an interest in using “Non-GMO” label claims to clearly communicate to consumers that organic products do not contain genetically engineered ingredients, and that organic animals were not fed genetically engineered feed. 

Beef Retailers Now Labeling Mechanically Tenderized Beef

This summer and grilling season – which unofficially kicks off in less than two weeks with Memorial Day weekend – American shoppers will see an important new label on some steak packages. Beginning May 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service started requiring meat processors to disclose a common practice known as mechanical tenderization and provide safe cooking instructions so their customers know to handle these products carefully.

Product tenderness is a key selling point for beef products. To increase tenderness, some cuts of beef are tenderized mechanically by piercing them with needles or small blades in order to break up tissue. This process takes place before the beef is packaged but can also occur at the grocery store’s butcher counter, at a restaurant, or in the home. The blades or needles can introduce pathogens from the surface of the beef to the interior, making proper cooking very important. However, mechanically tenderized products look no different than product that has not been treated this way, so without disclosure on the label, consumers may not know about this higher food safety risk.