Keeping Food Safe Ahead Of Holidays


Nov 11 2009 - 9:50am

In November 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed the 2007 Food Protection Plan. Earlier in the same year, the United States had experienced an E. coli outbreak felt to be linked to spinach. The E. coli outbreak resulted in three deaths and an additional 205 illnesses.

The three main element of the FDA's integrated plan aim at prevention of food-borne contamination, intervention at critical points, and rapid response when problems are identified.

The FDA oversees 80 percent of food in America. This includes oversight of more than 136,000 registered domestic food facilities (including more than 44,000 U.S. food manufacturers and processors and approximately 113,000 U.S. food warehouses, including storage tanks and grain elevators) and approximately 189,000 registered foreign facilities which manufacture, process, pack, or hold food consumed by Americans.

The FDA or state and local authorities regulate more than 2 million farms, roughly 935,000 restaurants and institutional food service establishments, and 114,000 supermarkets, grocery stores, and other food outlets. FDA provides guidance, model codes, and other technical assistance to state and local partners.

Currently, FDA food inspectors visit food processors an average of once every decade, even though they carry out 7,000 inspections a year.

To keep food safe, the FDA relies also on the integrity of the producers, especially in the salad products. Many of the industry standard instituted since the E. coli outbreak three years ago are voluntary. Producers are encouraged to test salad products before sending them to market.

Some producers do test their products, but it is not always clear how robust those testing programs are. The new standards include audits, monthly water tests and a 400-foot barrier between cattle and salad fields.

Even with the work of the FDA and producers, it is important that individuals prepare the food in a safe manner. Eggs should be cooked. Cookie dough should not be eaten raw due to the uncooked eggs in the dough. Meat should be cooked to the proper temperature.

As the holidays approach, prepare your food in safe manners.

  • Clean – Wash and sanitize food-contact surfaces often. Bacteria can spread and thrive on cutting boards, knives and counter tops. Wash fruits and vegetables before preparing.
  • Thaw meats properly.
  • Take temperatures – For example, the internal temperature of the turkey should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit when completely cooked.
  • Remember the two-hour rule. Do not leave perishable food out at room temperature for more than two hours.

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