As the days get shorter and the month of August winds down with the appearance of back-to-school sales, we recognize the telltale signs that signal the “official” end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. For USDA professionals interested in food safety, nutrition and health, thoughts of safe food preparation and school lunches packed at home, come to mind.
It is estimated that each year in the U.S., there are more than 48 million cases of foodborne illness, with 128,000 people hospitalized from these illnesses and nearly 3,000 deaths. It is startling that one in six Americans will become ill from foodborne illness each year since most are preventable. The most vulnerable members of our population are pregnant women, children, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised by other diseases and illnesses. That’s why care must be taken to assure that the foods consumed are safe.