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Using Science to Help Keep Food Safe: A Day in the Life of a USDA Laboratory Auditor

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.

From soup to nuts, we use science to help ensure the quality of agricultural products for consumers worldwide. As a Microbiologist for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I am one of a small group of highly-qualified auditors that travel across the country to certify over 70 private laboratories. These labs are consistently testing to verify the quality and wholesomeness of U.S. food and agricultural products.

Our Laboratory Approval Service approves, or accredits, labs that test agricultural products in support of domestic and international trade. Our programs cover a variety of products from aflatoxin testing in peanuts and tree nuts to export verification for meat and poultry products.

USDA Provides Nutritious U.S. Peanuts in Humanitarian Effort for Haiti

“Working for peanuts” is a phrase typically used when someone is toiling for little reward. But when describing the activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a far better phrase is “working with peanuts,” especially when referring to the agreement recently reached by USDA to provide this nutritional commodity to a neighboring nation in great need, the Republic of Haiti.

USDA crafted a deal that will result in 500 metric tons of packaged, dry-roasted peanuts grown in the United States to be shipped later this year to school children in Haiti who have little access to food.  This effort stems from the “Stocks for Food” program that first started in late 2007, a joint project between the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) that transfers surplus farm commodities in government inventory to feeding programs and food banks both domestically and overseas.

USDA Wants YOU to Serve on a Board, Committee or Council

Why does someone choose to serve on a USDA board?  To find out, we asked several members of one important board that very question.

The Peanut Standards Board, which is overseen by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), was created by Congress to establish quality and handling standards for peanuts sold in the marketplace. Peanuts are an important agricultural commodity. According to the American Peanut Council, U.S. peanut farmers produce around 1.9 million tons of peanuts annually on approximately 1.44 million acres. In 2014 American peanut production generated an estimated $1.1 billion in revenue (NASS).   Peanut quality affects the entire industry and the Peanut Standards Board is comprised of a mix of producers and industry representatives covering the entire supply chain. This means peanut farmers, manufacturers, shellers, importers, and their representatives are all welcome to serve.

Second Morrill Act Redux: America's 1890s Land Grant Universities Academic Excellence

Booker T. Washington.  George Washington Carver.  Educators par excellence.  Pioneers in food and agricultural scientific research. Dedicated their lives to helping "lift the veil of ignorance" by bringing knowledge to African-Americans and others with limited resources.

For 125 years, since passage of the Second Morrill Act on Aug. 30, 1890, which created a "broader education for the American people in the arts of peace, and especially in agriculture and mechanics arts," the legacy of innovations has been sustained.

4 Innovations You Must Read to Believe from USDA's Tech Transfer Report

The release of the USDA’s 2014 Technology Transfer Report highlights the groundbreaking discoveries made by USDA researchers, who continue to push the envelope and come up with new and exciting innovations. The scientific advancements in knowledge and the creation of new technologies directly impact Americans in that they create safer environments and provide efficient solutions for a wide range of issues. Here are just four of the transformative innovations that can be found in the USDA Tech Transfer Report:

Event in the Big Apple is No Small Peanuts

You may not see the natural connection between peanut farmers and New York City. However, I recently had the chance to see both worlds collide during a National Peanut Board meeting in the big apple. In addition to the normal items of business, the board also planned some unique peanut-inspired events for New Yorkers.

The National Peanut Board is one of the more than 20 industry Research and Promotion Programs that my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees. These self-help programs that are requested for and completely funded by the industry are charged with developing cutting edge marketing campaigns and supporting nutrition research that benefits all of the industry’s members. The Peanut Board recently invaded the streets of New York to connect the city to the more than 7,000 peanut farming families the board represents. This proved to be very successful as everyone soon learned that our peanut farmers have a strong connection to New Yorkers and to people all over the world.

Back to School, Back to Healthy After-School Snacking

Kids love to snack.  But snacking—if done right—doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are plenty of tasty and healthy options available that will help satisfy the snack-attack of even the pickiest eaters.

Incorporating fresh fruit, like watermelon, into after-school snacks is a great choice for kids who have a bit of a sweet tooth.  And, as an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C, a two-cup serving of watermelon packs a good nutritional punch that any parent can appreciate.  Watermelon Sandwich Wraps can be a perfect after-school snack.  For more creative ideas on how to serve this healthy treat, take a look at the top ten ways to enjoy watermelon

Allergy Sufferers May Soon be Able to Find a Peanut and Eat it Too

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.

Researchers at North Carolina A&T University (NC A&T) are on the verge of leveling the playing field for millions who suffer allergies from peanuts and wheat.  Now, in addition to being able to nosh on some of America’s favorite foods, allergy sufferers may also take advantage of the valuable nutrients these staples provide.

Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of food-related anaphylaxis and affects about 2.8 million Americans, including 400,000 school-aged children.  Wheat is one of the top eight food allergens in the United States.