September 10, 2019
September is National Food Safety Education Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every year an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (about 48 million people) get sick from foodborne diseases. Another 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 people die each year.
Sure, we all know how important it is to wash our hands before we handle food or after our hands come in contact with non-food surfaces, but do you know why it’s important? And do you know what other steps to take regarding food safety?
We know that globalization of food now creates new challenges for food safety. Germs can contaminate food at any point along the supply chain either directly or indirectly—while growing on the farm, during harvesting, during transport and distribution, in a grocery store and when preparing foods for consumption. If food becomes contaminated during any step in the process, people are at risk of getting sick even if months have passed between contamination and consumption.
The Food Safety Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serve important roles in ensuring food safety in the United States.
- Food Safety and Inspection Service: FSIS is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and processed egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: The FDA is charged with protecting the public health by assuring that foods (except for meat from livestock, poultry and some egg products which are regulated by FSIS) are safe, wholesome, sanitary and properly labeled; that cosmetics and dietary supplements are safe and properly labeled; that human and veterinary drugs, and vaccines and other biological products and medical devices intended for human use are safe and effective; regulating tobacco products; and protecting the public from electronic radiation.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC leads federal efforts to gather data on foodborne illnesses, investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks, and monitor the effectiveness of prevention and control efforts in reducing foodborne illnesses. CDC also plays a key role in building state and local health department epidemiology, laboratory, and environmental health capacity to support foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response.
Throughout the entire supply chain, washing your hands is one of the most important steps anyone can take to prevent contamination. At Batory, we don’t handle, prepare or serve food directly to others, but we do store, handle and distribute packaged ingredients that will eventually be processed into ready-to-eat foods. During the transition, food is just as likely to be contaminated if not stored or handled properly. Therefore, additional steps for us include things such as temperature control, allergen segregation, truck inspections and daily audits to monitor these procedures and more. At the restaurant and consumer level, safety practices also include washing fruits & vegetables, keeping raw meats segregated from other ingredients, and cooking foods to the proper temperature.
While it’s important to practice safe food handling habits all year (like washing your hands!), National Food Safety Education Month is the perfect time to revitalize our focus on food safety and make sure we’re all doing our part to protect our families and millions of others.
Contributed by Patricia Fernandez, Facility Manager at Batory Foods’ Wilmington facility.