September 24, 2016

FDA, USDA Offer Tips to Use Your Microwave Safely

The FDA and USDA are offering tips about using your microwave oven safely. That agency regulates microwave ovens. Consumers have experienced burns and other injuries from microwave radiation, especially if the ovens are not used or maintained properly. There is another issue with microwave safety: food safety. Microwave ovens can "cook" food unevenly, leading to areas, especially in solid meats such as chicken, where the temperature is not raised high enough to kill pathogenic bacteria. In fact, some outbreaks in the past may have occurred because microwaves were used to cook the food in question, such as the Farm Rich E. coli outbreak. Mandatory label changes in 2008 omitted the microwave cooking instructions on many raw foods The magnetron inside your microwave converts … [Read more...]

USDA Says Deli Listeria Pilot Project Working Well

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released their second quarter report of a year-long pilot program that assesses whether retailers are using the government's recommendations to address Listeria monocytogenes contamination in their deli departments. The program started in January 2016. The report states that more retail delis are following recommendations. Listeria monocytogenes contamination is a serious issue with deli products, especially sliced meats and cheeses. There have been several outbreaks in the past few years linked to these products, particularly soft cheeses. There is zero tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in ready to eat foods. The government surveyed 503 retail delis in the second quarter, up from 334 surveyed in the first … [Read more...]

USDA’s Catfish Inspection Program Stops Unsafe Shipment

A press release from Food & Water Watch states that last week, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) stopped more than 40,000 pounds of unsafe catfish products from being imported into the United States from Vietnam. The shipment tested positive for malachite green, a drug that is banned for use in food animals in this country because it is potentially carcinogenic. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch said in a statement, "since FSIS took over inspection of both domestic and imported siluriformes and catfish in April 2016, the agency has taken actions to protect consumers." In May 2016, a shipper from China refused to let FSIS inspect his shipment of catfish and was stopped from offloading the cargo. In June 2016, an importer was forced to … [Read more...]

Two E. coli Outbreaks in NH and CO and Two Recalls: Coincidence?

Something unusual happened this week. The USDA posted two recalls for beef products on the same day, recalled for E. coli O157:H7. And in those recall notices there was information that the products had been linked, or possibly linked, to two E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks; one in New Hampshire and one in Colorado. The first recall was for more than 8,000 pounds of PT Farm raw beef products that were produced in June 2016. The illness cluster associated with this recall has sickened at least 14 people in New Hampshire. Traceback for 8 case-patients who were interviewed as a result of their illnesses "led back to a single day of production at PT Farm," according to the USDA release. There is a link between beef products from PT Farm and this illness cluster. The second recall was for … [Read more...]

USDA’s FoodKeeper App Says Hola and Olá

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) FoodKeeper app, which helps consumers reduce food waste, now includes information in Spanish and Portuguese. The app covers food storage recommendations for more than 400 foods including   baby food, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, produce and seafood, and more. Developed through a partnership of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, FoodKeeper's goal is to reduce food waste by sharing food storage methods that extend the shelf life of the foods and beverages.  Since its April 2015 launch, it has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, according to the USDA. "The FoodKeeper app is a very handy and easy tool to use, and it reflects USDA's commitment to provide … [Read more...]

USDA Will Begin Posting Location-Specific Food Safety Data

The USdA is going to begin sharing food safety data specific to slaughter and processing facilities on Data.gov. The FSIS Establishment-Specific Data Release Strategic Plan will let consumers make more informed choices. It may also motivate these establishments to improve their performance, and uncover the strengths and weaknesses of different food safety and processing practices. USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza said, "FSIS' food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food processing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness. Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better … [Read more...]

Stay Food Safe This Fourth of July

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  and USDA are offering tips to Americans to stay food safe this Fourth of July holiday weekend. Outdoor cooking can include special hazards that can make you and your guests sick. First, grill like a PRO. Whenever you are cooking meats on the grill, whether they are burgers, chicken, steaks or ribs, use a food thermometer. First, PLACE the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. If you are cooking a thinner piece of meat such as hamburgers, insert the thermometer from the side. Then, READ the temperature. Wait about 10 to 20 seconds for an accurate reading. For beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, roasts and chops, meat should reach a temperature of 145°F with a three minute rest time to be safe. Ground meats should be … [Read more...]

Consumer Reports Decodes Labels on Meat Packages

Consumer Reports is helping consumers decode the labels on their meat packages. Information on the label can tell you if the meat is organic, if the animal was raised without synthetic hormones or antibiotics, if it was grass fed, and more. Here are some label terms and what they mean. "Grass fed" means that meat must come from an animal that has never been fed grain and can graze in a pasture during the grazing season. The animal can be fed antibiotics and hormones. "Partial grass-fed" as a label term is meaningless, since all cattle eat grass or hay when they are young. Grain is given to some of these animals so they get bigger before slaughter. The American Grassfed Association and Animal Welfare Approved Grassfed labels have stricter standards than the USDA. "Humanely raised" … [Read more...]

Summer Food Safety Tips From the USDA

Planning a summer picnic or barbecue? Bacteria multiplies rapidly at warm temperatures, so the U. S. Food and Drug Administration has compiled some food safety tips to help people avoid food poisoning during the summer months. Consumers need to be aware of the food "Danger Zone" when temperatures are between 40 and 140 ˚F and perishable food spoils rapidly, said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza.  "Foods that should be served hot or cold should not spend more than one hour in the Danger Zone when temperatures are above 90 ˚F, and two hours when temperatures are below 90 ˚F.” Bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes when perishable food is kept at temperatures in the Danger Zone. To reduce risk, keep cold food, at or below 40 °F, in the refrigerator, in … [Read more...]

Catfish Inspection Program Nullified by the U.S. Senate

Last November, the USDA released its final rule on catfish inspection. The rule became effective in March 2016. But last week, the U.S. Senate voted to shut the program down by passing a resolution of Congressional disapproval and nullification. The program had been finding antibiotics and carcinogens from Siluriformes fish imported from Asia. Catfish used to be inspected by the FDA, but the inspection process was transferred to USDA in the 2008 Farm Bill. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors would conduct inspections during all hours of operation at domestic facilities that slaughter and processes these fish, similar to the inspections they conduct at poultry and meat slaughter facilities. In 2011, the FDA tested less than 0.1% of all imported seafood for drug … [Read more...]

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