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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.

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.

Soils in the Classroom: Celebrating the Discovery and Donation of a Historic Soils Collection

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated science teacher from New Jersey, a valuable piece of soil science history is now available for viewing and research among the special collections at USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) in Beltsville, Maryland.

Jill Guenther, who has taught Earth and space science for 29 years, discovered the antique soils collection tucked away in a classroom cabinet. “I knew it was something special, and I wanted to use it as a display when teaching erosion and conservation issues,” she explained.

Genomics and Precision Agriculture: The Future of Farming

For nearly 400 years, Thanksgiving has been a time in North America when families come together to celebrate food and agriculture. As we reflect on yet another year, agricultural scientists at USDA continue to keep a wary eye on the future. At the end of what may be the hottest year on record, a period of drought has threatened the heart of one of the most important agricultural production zones in the United States. Water demands are increasing, and disease and pest pressures are continually evolving. This challenges our farmers’ ability to raise livestock and crops.  How are science and technology going to address the problems facing our food supply? 

To find answers, agricultural scientists turn to data—big data.  Genomics, the field of science responsible for cataloging billions of DNA base pairs that encode thousands of genes in an organism, is fundamentally changing our understanding of plants and animals.  USDA has already helped to fund and collect genomes for 25 crop plant species, important livestock and fish species, and numerous bacteria, fungi, and insect species related to agricultural production. Other USDA-supported research projects expanding these efforts are currently underway, including genome sequencing of 1,000 bulls and 5,000 insect species in the i5K initiative. But classifying and understanding DNA is only part of the story.

USDA's National Agricultural Library Launches New Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection

USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched a fascinating online collection of historical diet and nutrition publications issued by the U.S. Government. The Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection (HDGDC) combines more than 900 documents representing over 100 years of history. Through this digital collection, users can explore the evolution of American food, diet and nutrition, reflecting the most current science of the time. This unique resource is the first of its kind to offer comprehensive online access to historical government nutrition publications.

Food Safety is Everybody's Business

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

USDA’s summer road trip may have come to an end, but many folks are still firing up the grills as summer winds down. With that, consumers still need to be conscious of food safety—from checking temperatures of grilled meat to discarding perishables that have been sitting out too long. A quick U-turn on our road trip explores USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food safety research program, which addresses complex food safety challenges by developing scientific information and new technologies to control foodborne contaminants.

Frost on the Chickens

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA's rich science and research profile.

A phone call to USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) seeking the original magazines with Robert Frost’s first published prose has now given rise to the library’s newest online exhibit. But why did a Frost aficionado call an agricultural library looking for these?

Because, before Robert Frost became ROBERT FROST, he was a chicken farmer with 300 white Wyandotte hens from 1900 to 1909 in Derry, New Hampshire. However, Frost wasn't ever really a good fit for farming—he had serious hay fever, for one—and coops and eggs were a long way from four Pulitzer prizes for poetry.

Meet Your Wellness Goals in the New Year with the USDA DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals App

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The USDA National Agricultural Library’s (NAL) Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) today launched its mobile application, or “app,” which calculates Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  The “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations that are based on the DRI values in a more convenient and user-friendly format. Through this new app, healthcare professionals can save time in the nutrition care process for patients and clients, while having access to credible nutrition guidance.

The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine first developed the DRIs in the mid-1990s. DRIs are recommended amounts of each nutrient a healthy person should consume to prevent deficiency or harmful health effects. Initially presented in tables, this information allows healthcare professionals to use the DRIs to assess and plan diets for groups or individuals. For example, if you are a female between 19 and 50, your registered dietitian or doctor may recommend that you increase your dairy consumption to meet the 1,000mg/day calcium recommendation outlined in the DRIs. The DRIs are also used in policy-making such as setting calorie and sodium guidelines for healthy school lunches.

USDA Smokey Bear Paintings on Display for First Time

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If you hear a deep resonant voice and the words, “Only YOU…,” you probably could complete the iconic words, “…can prevent forest fires.” More than seven in ten adults in the United States would recognize Smokey Bear and know his message, according to a 2011 Ad Council survey.

Now some of the illustrations that helped create the image we most associate with Smokey, who celebrates his 70th anniversary as spokesbear for the U.S. Forest Service (FS) this year, are on display for the first time. Nineteen original paintings by Virginia artist Rudolph Wendelin from USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) Smokey Bear history collection are being featured in an exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia.

Supporting WIC Breastfeeding Moms and Improving Infants' Health

To highlight the importance of a healthy start in life, more than 170 countries celebrated World Breastfeeding Week earlier this month.  Themed “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life,” the recognition encourages the practice to improve the health of babies around the globe.  The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) takes it a step further, recognizing the entire month of August as “National Breastfeeding Month.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service shares this commitment.  In fact, its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (better known as WIC) promotes breastfeeding as the optimal infant feeding choice.  We support breastfeeding among WIC moms by providing counseling and educational materials, offering healthy food packages, and giving out breastfeeding aids, like breast pumps.