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Food Safety

A Farewell Message from Secretary Tom Vilsack to Employees

Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent the following message to all USDA employees:

I want to take this opportunity on my final day at USDA to express my profound gratitude to the people who work at USDA. Every day, nearly 90,000 people leave their families and the comfort of their home to do the people's work in the People's Department. What an amazing job you do each day for the country.

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.

Meet the Experts: USDA’s National Agricultural Library Launches New Online Food Safety Video Collection

Food is necessary and can be quite enjoyable, but it must also be safe to eat. Unfortunately, about one out of six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food at some point during the year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) work for one of the federal agencies that conducts research to help make the foods we eat safer. To help the public more easily access USDA food safety research information, the department’s National Agricultural Library’s Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO) has launched a new “Meet the Experts” online video collection available on the NAL website.

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.

Are You and Your Food Prepared for a Power Outage?

Every year, the month of September is recognized as National Preparedness Month.  It is a good time to think about emergency planning for any disaster or emergency.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

Weather can be extremely unpredictable, as many communities throughout Louisiana can attest with the recent devastating flooding.  These emergencies and disasters can happen anywhere. Even if you live in an area that doesn’t typically experience extreme weather, you still might experience occasional power outages. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service can help you plan and prepare for a power outage caused by a disaster or emergency with practical food safety guidance.  You can keep this information in a place where you can quickly pull it out should you need it.

September is National Food Safety Education Month

Can you believe that September is already here?  It may not feel like fall where you are, but, slowly, our focus has begun to shift from summer fun to returning to school and learning.

For more than twenty years, September has been recognized as National Food Safety Education Month.  The National Food Safety Education Month theme for 2016 is “Notorious Virus.”  So what better time to consider learning more about food safety and, in particular, learning more about food safety education in the school environment?

NoroCORE: A Comprehensive Approach to a Near 'Perfect' Human Pathogen

Today’s guest blog features the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative (NoroCORE- Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education), a food safety initiative with the ultimate goal to reduce the burden of foodborne disease associated with viruses, particularly noroviruses. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States accounting for around 5 million of the 21 million annual cases associated with contaminated foods. Cost of illness is estimated to be billions of dollars per year.

By Dr. Elizabeth Bradshaw, NoroCORE extension associate, and Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, NoroCORE scientific director

Even if you have not experienced a norovirus infection personally (consider yourself fortunate!), you probably know someone who has or have heard of an outbreak of the “stomach flu.”  Most people know norovirus by its symptoms: a couple of memorable days of vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with a fever and a headache.

How Did We Can? - New Online Exhibit Looks Back

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) recently launched its newest online exhibit, “How Did We Can?The Evolution of Home Canning Practices.” The exhibit follows the evolution of home canning in the United States and the progression of associated food safety guidelines. Canning aids in food preservation by removing microorganisms responsible for decay through heating and creating a seal to prevent recontamination. Home canning held an important role in 20th century food preservation, particularly through the two World Wars, and continues to be practiced today.

“How Did We Can?” highlights changes in home canning guidelines based on a growing understanding of bacteriology. Around the turn of the 20th century, the four most prominent canning techniques were oven, open-kettle, water bath, and pressure canning. By the end of World War II, the USDA recommended only two techniques: water bath for high-acid foods and pressure canning for low-acid foods. Those recommendations remain the same under the current USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.