U.S. Department of Agriculture – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com Breaking news for everyone's consumption Sat, 22 Aug 2020 19:49:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.4&lxb_maple_bar_source=lxb_maple_bar_source https://www.storkxx.com/files/2018/05/cropped-siteicon-32x32.png U.S. Department of Agriculture – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com 32 32 Simple steps can prevent serious back-to-school food poisoning https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/simple-steps-can-prevent-serious-back-to-school-food-poisoning/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/simple-steps-can-prevent-serious-back-to-school-food-poisoning/#respond Sun, 23 Aug 2020 04:05:11 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=196831 Continue Reading]]> Contributed

A new school year is approaching and with it, changes to your usual routine.

“Parents are juggling many decisions as students may be returning to school for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and others may still be distance learning,” said Mindy Brashears, Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“You don’t want to add foodborne illness – commonly called food poisoning – to your list of concerns, so take time to plan and prepare your children’s lunch meals safely.”

The USDA encourages families to be prepared by adding a few essential items to back-to-school shopping lists. They can be used to avoid mistakes in the kitchen that can lead to illness.

“Having the whole family follow some simple food safety behaviors can help them avoid all kinds of illnesses this time of year, including foodborne illness,” said Paul Kiecker, Administrator for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

“This list of items can help you and your family make sure lunches and snacks are safely prepared, following the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.”

  1. Hand wipes, hand sanitizers, soap and towels — Now more than ever, it’s important to keep these items visible as a reminder to clean hands and surfaces. People tend to rush through the steps of washing when they are on-the-go. Recent USDA research conducted in test kitchens revealed participants were not washing their hands properly up to 99 percent of the time before and during meal preparation. Wash hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and soap for at least 20 seconds and dry them with a clean cloth or towel. Hand wipes and 60 percent alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used to clean hands and surfaces if water and soap are not available. Remember to wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with soap and hot water after preparing each food item and before proceeding to the next item. A bleach-based solution can be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils.
  2. Different colored cutting boards — If you’re preparing perishable foods that require cutting (for example, bacon and chicken for salad) make sure you separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods (such as fruits, vegetables, cheeses, etc.) to avoid cross-contamination. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, countertops and other ready-to-eat foods you’re preparing. Different colored cutting boards are a good reminder of this step. Use a green cutting board for fresh produce and another color for meat and poultry.
  3. Food thermometers — A food thermometer is the only way to know that foods are safely cooked to a temperature high enough to kill any harmful bacteria that might be present. Have a food thermometer easily accessible. It will be easier to remember the cook step if the thermometer is always reachable.
  4. Insulated soft-sided lunch boxes,
    gel packs, and appliance thermometers
  5. — If children have lunch outside of the home, make sure they have an insulated, soft-sided lunch box or bag to keep perishable items in their lunch cold. A frozen gel pack, combined with a frozen juice box or bottle of water, should keep lunches chilled and safe until lunchtime. Place them on top and bottom of perishable food items to keep them cold and avoid the “Danger Zone” (temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit where bacteria can multiply quickly and cause illness).
  6. Insulated containers — When children take a hot lunch outside of the home, insulated containers are important to keep food that should be served hot safe. Use an insulated container to keep soup, chili, and stew hot at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the contents hot.

Stop by the food preparation aisle at your grocery store to find many of these items on your back-to-school food safety list. By using them, you can keep your children — and the rest of your family — safe from foodborne illness.

Consumers can view some age-appropriate food safety lessons and learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter and by liking Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish, or email to mphotline@usda.gov. Consumers can also chat live at https://ask.usda.gov/.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Wind, rain, floods aren’t the only dangers that come with a hurricane https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/wind-rain-floods-arent-the-only-dangers-that-come-with-a-hurricane/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/08/wind-rain-floods-arent-the-only-dangers-that-come-with-a-hurricane/#respond Mon, 03 Aug 2020 04:01:33 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=196236 Continue Reading]]> The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for those who may be impacted by Hurricane Isaias.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that tropical storm conditions are expected, with hurricane conditions possible, along portions of the Florida east coast beginning Saturday and spreading northward along with the remainder of the U.S. east coast through early next week. This system may produce strong winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surge beginning this weekend resulting in power outages and flooding. Power outages and flooding can compromise the safety of stored food. Residents impacted by power outages and floods should pay close attention to the forecast. FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other emergency events.

Steps to follow in advance of losing power or flooding:

  • If possible, raise refrigerators and freezers off the floor, putting objects under their corners.
  • Move canned goods and other foods that are kept in the basement or low cabinets to higher locations for storage.
  • Keep appliance thermometers in refrigerators and the freezers to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40 degrees F or lower in the refrigerator, 0 degrees F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a hurricane. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes, so don’t overfill the containers.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer — this igloo effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worths of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross-contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

Steps to follow after a power outage:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40 degrees F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

Steps to follow after a flood:

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water—this would include raw fruits and vegetables, cartons of milk or eggs.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwater. Food containers that are not waterproof include those packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard or those with screw‐caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Floodwaters can enter into any of these containers and contaminate the food inside. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home-canned foods if they have come in contact with floodwater because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel‐type can opener.

FSIS will provide relevant food safety information as the storm progresses on Twitter @USDAFoodSafetyand Facebook.

FSIS’ YouTube video “Food Safety During Power Outages” has instructions for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe. The publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” can be downloaded and printed for reference during a power outage. FoodSafety.gov also has information about disasters and emergencies.

If you have questions about food safety during severe weather, or any other food safety topics, call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888MPHotline or chat live with a food safety specialist at Ask USDA. These services are available in English and Spanish from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. Answers to the frequently asked questions can also be found 24/7 at Ask USDA.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Proclaim your independence from food poisoning https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/proclaim-your-independence-from-food-poisoning/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/07/proclaim-your-independence-from-food-poisoning/#respond Sat, 04 Jul 2020 04:05:06 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=195396 Continue Reading]]> Many Americans will be celebrating the Fourth of July outdoors this year a little differently, with celebrations at home, including backyard barbecues and picnics perhaps with only your household. No matter how you’re celebrating the Fourth of July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) encourages you to make food safety and other public health recommendations a part of your celebration.

“Foodborne illness can increase during summer because of the warmer temperatures and extended time spent outside,” said Mindy Brashears, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety. “You may not be grilling at the park this year, but instead you may be grilling at home. As we celebrate this Fourth of July holiday, I encourage consumers to use food safety steps to reduce their risk of illness.”

Follow these tips from USDA to ensure a food safe Fourth of July:

Don’t cross-contaminate
Always keep raw meat and their juices from touching other foods. While grilling, avoid using the same utensils for cooked and ready-to-eat foods that were previously used with raw meat or poultry products. Wash and sanitize all surfaces and utensils after they touch raw items. A recent USDA survey showed that 34 percent of respondents do not follow an important step to use a different utensil to take food off the grill. Bring enough tools to keep your raw meat and poultry away from any cooked or ready-to-eat foods and have extra cleaning and sanitizing supplies ready for your surfaces, plates and utensils.

Use a food thermometer
Some grill masters may say they know their food is done just by looking at its color when it comes off the grill. That’s not possible and shouldn’t be relied upon. This is where a food thermometer comes in.

“More than 25 percent of burgers can turn brown inside before they are fully cooked,” says FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “Although your grilled foods may look done, foodborne illness causing germs are not killed until the safe internal temperature has been reached. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know your food is done and safe to eat.”

The USDA recommended safe minimum internal temperatures are:

  • Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts and chops): 145 degrees F then rest for three-minutes
  • Fish: 145 degrees F
  • Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb and veal): 160 degrees F
  • Whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry: 165 degrees F

Keep Foods at a Safe Temperature
Perishable food items should not be left outside for more than two hours, and only one hour if the temperature is at or above 90°F. Keep your food at or below 40°F, in coolers or containers with a cold source, such as ice or frozen gel packs. This includes any leftovers from the grill, cold salads and even cut fruits and vegetables. Leftovers should be refrigerated or placed back in the cooler within 2 hours of being placed outside (1 hour if temperatures are at or above 90°F). If you are not sure how long food has been sitting out, throw it out immediately.

If you have questions about these tips, or any other food safety topics, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Though Memorial Day activities different this year, food safety remains a priority https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/though-memorial-day-activities-different-this-year-food-safety-remains-a-priority/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/05/though-memorial-day-activities-different-this-year-food-safety-remains-a-priority/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 04:05:45 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=194512 Continue Reading]]> Every year, millions of Americans commemorate Memorial Day to honor the sacrifices so many have made to protect our country. This holiday weekend might not be like past years, so while we keep public health recommendations in mind, let’s not forget food safety practices to prevent foodborne illnesses.

“Memorial Day is the unofficial start of the summer season,” says Dr. Mindy Brashears, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Under Secretary for Food Safety. “This summer may look different than most, and you can protect your family from foodborne illness and other illnesses during your summer celebrations by avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands regularly.”

For those who choose to celebrate outdoors, USDA recommends the following food safety tips to keep your outdoor activities safe and fun this Memorial Day weekend.

Remember the summer season
Summer weather can be hot and humid, which means your food won’t stay safe as long as it could indoors. When the temperature outside is above 90°F, perishable food such as meat and poultry, dips and cold salads, or cut fruits and vegetables are only safe out on the table for one hour. According to a recent USDA survey, nearly 85 percent of participants said they don’t nest cold foods in ice when they serve it. Keeping cold foods cold is an important step to keep food safe and healthy, so store them on ice, in coolers, or in your fridge and freezer.

In the same survey, 66 percent of participants indicated they did not keep their cooked foods, like burgers and hot dogs, warm after cooking. Just like cold foods, hot perishable foods should be kept warm (above 140°F) until they’re eaten. You can easily do this by moving these items to the side of your grill away from the main heat source, rather than taking them off the grill entirely. Make sure your grilled meat and poultry reach a safe internal temperature first by using a food thermometer.

Know your outdoor environment
You may have everything you need in an indoor kitchen to be food safe, but the same may not be true for your outdoor grill or other food preparation space.

“Now that summer is finally here, many are choosing to move their meals outside,” says USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Administrator Paul Kiecker. “Prepare your outdoor spaces so they are food safe. If you won’t have running water, use hand sanitizer or moist towelettes to keep your hands clean before, during, and after food preparation.”

It’s most effective to use warm, soapy water to wash hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you have to use hand sanitizer, make sure to choose one that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Using moist towelettes and paper towels can help to clean and sanitize any cutting boards or utensils while you’re outside or away from your kitchen. Keeping hands and surfaces clean when handling food will help lessen the spread of germs and foodborne illness causing bacteria.

With these tips in mind, it’s easy to avoid foodborne illness and other illnesses during your summer celebrations. For any food safety questions this summer, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Remember food safety to have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

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USDA leaders call for industry cooperation amidst ‘uncertain times’ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/03/usda-leaders-call-for-industry-cooperation-amidst-uncertain-times/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/03/usda-leaders-call-for-industry-cooperation-amidst-uncertain-times/#respond Wed, 18 Mar 2020 04:01:41 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=193027 Continue Reading]]> Contributed

Editor’s note: Two of USDA’s top administrators have issued this statement to industry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is rising to meet the challenges associated with the new coronavirus disease, Covid-19. As leaders of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Marketing Service, we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork.

These agencies are prepared to utilize their authority and all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations. Field personnel will be working closely with establishment management and state and local health authorities to handle situations as they arise in your community. As always, communication between industry and government will be key. We are all relying on early and frequent communication with one another to overcome challenges as they arise.

In this time of much uncertainty, we know that many of you have questions about how the department will continue to ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available. We have all seen how consumers have reacted to the evolving coronavirus situation and how important access to food is to a sense of safety and wellbeing. It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products.

As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health.

About the authors: Mindy Brashears is USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. Greg Ibach is USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Wash your hands, not your poultry https://www.storkxx.com/2020/02/wash-your-hands-not-your-poultry/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/02/wash-your-hands-not-your-poultry/#respond Fri, 28 Feb 2020 05:01:30 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=192656 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

I oversee the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the public health regulatory agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FSIS’ mission is clear: to ensure that the nation’s meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.

FSIS inspection personnel ensured public health requirements were met in establishments that slaughter or process 164 million heads of livestock and 9.83 billion poultry carcasses. They also conducted 7.1 million food safety and food defense procedures to verify that systems at all federal facilities continue to maintain food safety requirements. FSIS is a science-based agency and science drives our policy decisions, all with a goal of reducing foodborne illness. In fact, science is our greatest defense against foodborne pathogens that constantly adapt to their environment.

Foodborne illness is a serious threat to the nation’s public health and many people put themselves at risk for illness by not adequately washing their hands, or by washing their poultry. Many people continue to wash their poultry because that’s what they grew up doing or seeing in their homes. But this is dangerous and can spread bacteria around the kitchen. Juices from raw poultry can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, utensils, and other food. Once bacteria lands on a surface it can remain active for up to 36 hours, unless the surface is sanitized.

Recent USDA research conducted in a test kitchen revealed some startling results: 60 percent of the test kitchen participants contaminated the inner sink after washing or rinsing raw chicken. Participants also frequently placed raw vegetables and lettuce in the same sink, which ultimately led to cross-contamination.

Researchers also observed that 99 percent of participants either didn’t wash their hands or didn’t accomplish all steps of correct handwashing. Inadequate handwashing has been identified as a contributing factor to foodborne illness, especially when preparing raw meat and poultry. Hands can become vectors that move potential pathogens found in raw meat and poultry around the kitchen, which can contribute to foodborne illnesses.

I understand that old habits may die hard, but I encourage you to wash your hands, not your poultry. If you are brining or marinating your poultry and must rinse or wash it, be sure to thoroughly clean and then sanitize all kitchen surfaces to eliminate the risk of cross- contamination. Also remember that proper hand washing after handling raw meat, poultry and eggs can greatly reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination.

I realize it might seem ridiculous for me to explain how to properly wash your hands, but research shows that we all need reminders to achieve basic public health prevention. Here are the five handwashing steps that everyone needs to remember:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

You can find additional food safety tips by visiting www.foodsafety.gov, or by calling the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1.888.MPHotline (1.888.674.6854).

Mindy Brashears

About the author: Mindy M. Brashears is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy under secretary for food safety. She previously was a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech. She earned her doctorate in food science from Oklahoma State University.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Faces of Food Safety: Meet Christina Hastings of the FSIS https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/faces-of-food-safety-meet-christina-hastings-of-the-fsis/ https://www.storkxx.com/2020/01/faces-of-food-safety-meet-christina-hastings-of-the-fsis/#respond Mon, 20 Jan 2020 05:03:22 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=191782 Continue Reading]]> Christina Hastings, a relief consumer safety inspector (CSI) in the Raleigh district, exemplifies all of FSIS’ core values — Accountable, Collaborative, Empowered and Solutions-Oriented, and she puts them into practice each day she performs her duties. Hastings explains that CSIs must possess and practice all the values because they are the standards that the Agency sets for all its employees.

Hastings is acutely aware that, as an inspector in the field, she is the “face” of the Agency, especially when she must protect the nation’s food supply. “I am accountable to the millions of strangers that I will never meet but must make sure they stay safe when consuming FSIS-regulated products. Verifying that establishments’ meat and poultry Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans and labeling requirements comply with regulatory statutes is key.”

Christina Hastings

She communicates with her colleagues as they determine the best way to explain and clarify regulatory requirements to plant management, especially when barriers, like different languages, exist. “I may be the only inspector physically assigned at an establishment, but my fellow inspectors are only a phone call or a text away. I just received some good advice a few weeks ago from another inspector on a great way to explain the three parts of HACCP verification — which consist of identifying potential hazards; implementing control measures at specific points in the process; and monitoring and verifying that the control measures are working as intended — to the owner at a new very small plant.” This collaboration among peers is critical to Hastings in her role as a CSI.

Hastings often must determine whether or not something is a non-compliance. “My supervisor supports my decisions. However, if I’m off-base on something, he will explain things to me in a way that I don’t feel belittled or embarrassed. I have always felt that way with all my supervisors in FSIS. I have the freedom to ask questions and to ask, ‘But why?’ I don’t always agree with the answers I receive, but just the freedom to ask the question is so very empowering.”

On a daily basis, Hastings finds herself trying to find solutions to prevent potential future problems. She describes her solutions-oriented approach as, “More than once I’ve made recommendations about combating condensation in coolers to plant managers. I would say, ‘I’m not sure if this will work here, but here are some things I’ve seen at other establishments that have dealt with condensation in coolers.’ It is still up to the plant to come up with a solution that works for their situation, but sometimes I may be able to mention an idea they haven’t thought of yet,” she said.

Hastings will celebrate 18 years with FSIS in July 2019, and says she can’t think of another profession she would have chosen besides being an inspector at FSIS.

“My job is satisfying, fulfilling and mentally stimulating. I enjoy breaking down a HACCP plan or using the GAD process — Gather the facts and any previous supporting documentation, Assess and verify all information, and Define the associations between the noncompliance and specific relevant regulations and other documentation — as a foundation when drafting accurate and reliable reports, to determine if there is a food safety hazard or other non-compliance. And, it is especially rewarding to be able to work in partnership with the establishments to achieve food safety and to know that my efforts made a difference,” she said.

Hastings recalls a time many years ago that had a lasting impact on food safety. “Nine years ago, I noticed that a 180-degree hot water utensil sanitizer was needed closer to plant workers in a cutting area. I brought up my concerns with plant management stating that I hadn’t observed employees using contaminated knives, but it would only be a matter of time before one of them did not walk all the way across the room to use the sanitizer. Plant management must have thought it was a good idea that would likely prevent a potential hazard because they installed another sanitizer sink closer in proximity to the workers. I am amazed that my observation still affects food safety in a plant that I haven’t stepped foot in almost a decade.”

Hastings, in need of a job that paid enough money to cover the rent and offered health benefits for her growing family reluctantly applied for a job in a turkey plant on the evisceration line, drawing turkey viscera out by hand. She recalls how that job led her to FSIS.

“It was not a glamorous job, but my coworkers were great, and it turned out that I actually loved the company and what I was doing,” Hastings said. “I was promoted to the quality assurance department and had daily interactions with the FSIS consumer safety inspector who was assigned to our establishment. We would chat every day and the inspector encouraged me to apply to FSIS because ‘It would be great career.’” She’s glad she did.

Hastings earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science and Industry from Kansas State University in 2018 — a notable milestone after attending college part-time for years.

Hastings, a St. Charles, Missouri native, currently resides in Leesburg, Virginia. She has two adult children, 10 grandchildren, and is engaged to Eilana, her partner of eight years.

Hastings loves to hike, bike, play foosball and binge-watch scary, creepy TV shows on a cold Sunday afternoon. One of her favorites is AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” She is also an avid marathoner and was part of Team FSIS, which consists of Agency employees who compete in various marathons around the country.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Faces of Food Safety: Meet Ryan Bradborn of the FSIS https://www.storkxx.com/2019/12/faces-of-food-safety-meet-ryan-bradborn-of-the-fsis/ https://www.storkxx.com/2019/12/faces-of-food-safety-meet-ryan-bradborn-of-the-fsis/#respond Mon, 16 Dec 2019 05:05:58 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=190553 Continue Reading]]> Contributed

Ryan Bradburn, an enforcement, investigations and analysis officer (EIAO) in the Springdale district and a 10-year FSIS employee, believes collaboration between the industry and the Agency is important to achieving lasting food safety. As an EIAO, Bradburn sees his role as one of the people who keeps both entities on the same page.

He says, “There have been times when I’ve been able to connect the dots with a plant’s owner. My job is a vital link to improving consistency in the application of regulatory enforcement and analyzing establishments’ scientific support of their food safety decisions. Both are necessary as FSIS learns more about food safety and strives to implement programs that better manage the potential hazards associated with the production of food products.”

Ryan Bradburn

Bradburn ensures that meat and poultry slaughter and processing establishments’ Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans are adequately supported, validated and implemented.

He also performs food safety assessments at these facilities and occasionally finds himself at retail locations where he conducts food safety effectiveness checks to ensure recalled products have been disposed of properly. He says, “I have to be very meticulous and pay close attention to details when performing my duties, but my job is very satisfying when unsafe products are prevented from entering commerce.”

A relatively new FSIS initiative that Bradburn and his fellow EIAOs will be performing consists of providing enhanced customer service to small and very small establishments through outreach visits. This initiative is a proactive approach to enhance the current partnership between FSIS-regulated establishments and the Agency. EIAOs will communicate with plant owners and answer their questions about changes in FSIS policies and offer scientific support for food safety systems, which will help them be better informed, so they can maintain regulatory compliance. Bradburn notes that the program will positively impact everyone in the food safety chain.

“Small and very small plants will benefit greatly from the new outreach initiative as they often don’t have the personnel to assist them in keeping up with changes in policy. We, here at FSIS, will ensure they have access to and receive the information they need,” Bradburn said. “The program is voluntary on the establishment’s part, but if they request the outreach service, we’ll be there to help them improve their food safety systems. This will ultimately be good for FSIS and for the country, overall.”

Perseverance led to FSIS
Bradburn’s road to FSIS was not an easy one. In 1997, by his own admission, he was struggling at Kansas State University (KSU) as a music major. A year later, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and obtained what he needed — structure, perspective and team dynamics. Of the latter, he says, “The Marines taught me how to effectively be a part of a team that works toward accomplishing a common mission and being more flexible to change. Both are essential skills needed as an EIAO.”

In 2003, Bradburn was discharged from the military and tried his hand at academics again. He re-enrolled in KSU and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH). While in his master’s program, Bradburn joined FSIS as a student intern under the Agency’s career internship program. This eventually led to a full-time EIAO position in 2008 upon his graduation from KSU.

A Natural explorer
The Emporia, KS, native is an avid juggler, canoer and cross continental motorcyclist. He recently completed a 17,000 mile trek from Alaska to Argentina on his 2007 Suzuki V-Strom 1000. His four-legged friend is Biei, a 13-year old stray, mixed-breed dog named after a town in northern Japan that Bradburn visited during his time in the Marine Corps.

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Why we are modernizing swine slaughter inspection https://www.storkxx.com/2019/09/why-we-are-modernizing-swine-slaughter-inspection/ https://www.storkxx.com/2019/09/why-we-are-modernizing-swine-slaughter-inspection/#respond Thu, 19 Sep 2019 04:05:29 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=188072 Continue Reading]]> Opinion

USDA’s Mindy Brashears submitted this column to Food Safety Website this week.

In the world of food safety, 1993 was a watershed moment. Early that year, hundreds of people became ill and four children died from an E. coli outbreak linked to fast food burgers. At the time, I was studying food safety at Oklahoma State University. Their deaths shocked me in a transformative way. I was pregnant with my first child and the outbreak ingrained in me a passion for ensuring the safety of our children’s food. And it made me realize that government and industry need to take a scientific approach in protecting the food supply.

In my role at USDA, I oversee the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and its team of scientists, veterinarians, inspection personnel, and policy experts. These dedicated career civil servants have been working to modernize meat and poultry slaughter inspection and bring it into the 21st century. In fact, FSIS just announced its final rule called the Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection. This rule has been in the works for four presidential administrations. It has key provisions based on science to improve food safety that are getting overlooked by those that oppose modernization efforts.

The final rule has new requirements that all swine slaughter establishments must conduct additional microbial testing to ensure that they are controlling for pathogens throughout the slaughter system. Who can argue with that? Who doesn’t want slaughterhouses to conduct more testing with the resulting data helping to drive food safety?

Additionally, there is another part to the final rule that establishments can decide whether they wish to participate in – a new slaughter inspection process for market hogs. If establishments do not wish to participate in the new process, they will continue to operate under the traditional slaughter inspection system. This new system is based on a pilot program that FSIS initiated in 1997 in market hog slaughter establishments to determine whether new slaughter inspection procedures, along with new plant responsibilities, could improve food safety. After 20 years, FSIS determined, based on scientific data, that the five swine slaughter establishments that participated in the pilot performed as well as those under traditional slaughter inspection. This wasn’t a surprise because FSIS successfully modernized the poultry inspection system in 2014 during the Obama administration.

The modernization of swine slaughter inspection ensures a safe product on your dinner table because every hog and carcass are inspected by USDA inspection personnel, as mandated by Congress. The valued USDA mark of inspection is applied by federal inspectors only on meat that is safe to eat.

FSIS’ mission is to ensure that meat, poultry and egg product are safe. I take that mission seriously and modernizing outdated regulations is a critical step to protecting the food supply as science and technology continue to advance. This rule is a science and data-based approach to modernization that will improve our food safety mission. I’ve spent my career bringing evidence-based methods to food production and I will continue to do so to keep my family and yours safe from foodborne illness.

Mindy Brashears

About the author: Mindy M. Brashears is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy under secretary for food safety. She previously was a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech. She earned her doctorate in food science from Oklahoma State University.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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Faces of Food Safety: Meet Nicole Suggs of FSIS https://www.storkxx.com/2019/08/faces-of-food-safety-meet-nicole-suggs-of-fsis/ https://www.storkxx.com/2019/08/faces-of-food-safety-meet-nicole-suggs-of-fsis/#respond Mon, 26 Aug 2019 04:05:11 +0000 https://www.storkxx.com/?p=187460 Continue Reading]]> Contributed

Editor’s note: This is a recent installment in a series of employee profiles published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, republished here with permission.

Nicole Suggs is an import inspector and a consumer safety inspector (CSI) in the Philadelphia district. Suggs began her FSIS career 15 years ago, but says it happened by accident. She was attending Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the hopes of one day pursuing a career as a health inspector. When she saw an opening with FSIS for a food inspector, she reasoned that the job seemed comparable to a health inspector, so she applied. She was surprised to learn the jobs were very different.

Nicole Suggs

Suggs’ first stop on her FSIS journey was at establishment M-969 in Greely, Colorado. Once there, she decided to stay, even though it was a long way from Philadelphia. Suggs noted, “In the beginning, I didn’t know the impact the Agency had on the lives of those in America and around the world. I had been an assistant and general manager in food service, but that in no way compared to working in FSIS. I quickly learned that food inspectors are the first line of defense against diseased or adulterated meat and poultry. Now, I feel like a super woman!”

Today, Suggs is aware that both of her roles are vital to fulfilling the Agency’s mission of preventing foodborne illness and of protecting the public’s health. She feels empowered in her position through the training and mentoring she has received over the years and believes it better equips her to perform her job functions. 

“The more I know and understand, the better I can do my job,” Suggs said. “With the exception of slaughter inspection, I’m doing a little bit of everything. Functioning in both roles gives me more of a purpose in the Agency.”

Suggs’ import duties consist of inspecting imported products from other countries at various points of entry to the United States, ensuring those products are safe. She does this by verifying certificates, pulling samples and performing product exams.

As a CSI, Suggs inspects small and large plants to make sure they are operating within written sanitation, processing and Hazzard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans. She also ensures the integrity of the USDA mark of inspection on all meat, poultry and processed egg products. “This is the most fulfilling part of my job,” she said. “When you see your family, friends and strangers eating meat products and you are confident they will not get sick because you know you did your job well.”

Suggs feels that it is imperative to remain knowledgeable about the Agency’s directives and notices so she can relay regulations to the plants she serves. With help from frontline supervisors, coworkers or the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk, Suggs equips herself with the most current information.

Suggs’ husband, Courtland, is a veteran of both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. Their 10-year-old twins, Sabian and Saelyn, who she affectionately refers to as “the twin terrors,” help keep the family food safe at home.

“The boys check the temperatures of our meat and poultry dishes,” Suggs said. “Sabian oversees the freezer and Saelyn organizes the pantry when we bring home groceries. They both do a good job of keeping everything in order and properly separated.”

Suggs is vocal about the importance of proper food handling, and she often shares facts and tips with friends and family. Whether it is checking to make sure that meat products are cooked to safe temperatures, hot foods stay hot, and cold foods stay cold, she knows that food safety is crucial. 

“Foodborne illness does not discriminate,” Suggs said.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety Website, click here.)

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