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Everything you need to know about Food Safety
When someone says “food”, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Unless you are a food safety officer, your answer will be a food item that you love. Irrespective of our eating preferences, there is one thing in common among all living beings on earth. We all need food for nourishment. But the question is – how serious are we about the food safety issues?
A data published by Statista shows that there is a lot of work to do in order to improve the current state of food safety worldwide. According to Statista, there was an estimated 921 foodborne disease outbreaks in the US in 2015. In fact, California was the state with the highest number of foodborne disease outbreaks (119) that year. If this is the condition of safety in the US, just imagine how critical the situation must be in the underdeveloped nations.
It is really unfortunate that foodborne illnesses still affect millions of people every year, even though efforts have been made by governments and non-governmental entities to establish premier food safety standards worldwide. The best food safety news, which had an impact on the society, came out in 2011 in the form of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Food safety modernization act
Even though the US is considered to be one of the safest food suppliers in the world, foodborne illnesses continue to affect almost 48 million Americans every year, as mentioned in the CDC food safety progress report. In fact, foodborne illnesses account for nearly 3000 deaths in the US. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by Congress in 2011, is considered to be the first major reform to happen to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in over 70 years. Needless to say, the act witnessed greater awareness in the center for food safety in the US.
FSMA called for an improved regulation of production from farm to sale, and other FDA regulated food, while introducing food defense requirements. FSMA improved the role of Food and Drug Administration in food safety through five major changes.
- A shift in focus from reaction to prevention, including the prevention of intentional contamination.
- Increased authority to inspect and assure compliance with inspection frequencies based on risk.
- More authorities to strengthen import safety to ensure the US food safety standards are met.
- Mandatory recall authority.
- Stronger partnerships with other government agencies and private entities to facilitate better food safety.
Interestingly, the FDA food safety department has finalized seven major rules to implement FSMA, by acknowledging the fact that food safety is a shared responsibility among many different points in the global food supply chain. With these FSMA rules, specific actions can be taken to prevent contamination.
What is the best way to prevent poor food safety?
Food safety rules state that foodborne illness can be caused by food containing a variety of bacteria, viruses, parasites and even chemicals. Here are some crucial food safety tips that everyone should keep in mind while handling their food.
To ensure food safety, one should always wash their hands, food contact surfaces and the utensils before handling food. Also, remember to clean these things in between tasks if they have become contaminated. Use hot soapy water for washing. As they say, food safety and sanitation go hand in hand.
Separate uncooked food products (raw meat/poultry/fish) from ready-to-eat food (fruits, vegetables, cooked foods) to prevent cross-contamination. You can physically separate these items by using designated reusable bags while grocery shopping and by using different compartments to store them in the refrigerator.
Cook the food items thoroughly to a safe minimum internal temperature. USDA FSIS has a chart for safe minimum internal temperature, which can give you a thorough understanding of the issue of food safety temperatures. Use food thermometers to check if the food is being cooked properly. You can also check the color of the food to know if your food is properly cooked.
Cold temperatures slow down the growth of harmful bacteria. Make sure there is enough room in the refrigerator for the cold air to circulate. It helps to keep the food safe. Ideally, you should keep the temperature at 40°F or below. Refrigerate the perishable food items (raw meat/poultry/fish/eggs) immediately after purchase.
Using hand sanitizer only helps with food safety after you have washed your hands thoroughly. If you have touched raw meat or garbage, hand sanitizer cannot offer 100 percent cleansing of the germs. Also, if there are any doubts about the safety of a food product, you should discard the food.
Food safety guidelines
A food handler’s duties regarding food safety include all of the following practices except no. 6 and 9, as they are more applicable to the consumer than the handler. However, it will be better if everyone followed these food safety regulations irrespective of their roles in the preparation of food:
- Use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep the food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F).
- Defrost the food in the microwave, the refrigerator or in cold water, but never on the counter.
- Always use separate chopping/cutting board for raw meat/fish/poultry and cooked/produced foods.
- Cook meat to proper temperatures while using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to check.
- Always avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese made from unpasteurized milk which was aged less than 60 days.
- Don’t eat “runny” eggs or food that contains raw eggs.
- Always wash hands in warm soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat/poultry or eggs.
- Always heat leftover food to 165°F.
- Don’t eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and veggies that have been left out in the open for more than 2 hours.
- In case of food recall, check the products that are stored at home to ensure they are safe.
It is always better to know the food safety facts beforehand, even though you don’t prepare food very often. The 20th food safety summit is going to take place on May 6-9, 2019 at Rosemont, Illinois. Be sure to follow the summit if you really want to know the real deal that exceeds basis food safety definition.
What makes enforcing safety standards a challenge for the Food and Drug Administration?
As you might have realized by now, our society is not exactly well-informed about the concept of food safety. Yes, some do know “what is food safety” as a result of following food safety articles online. A few people might even know premier food safety answers and everything about the food safety danger zone. But, there are numerous people who are oblivious to the far reaching implications of neglecting food safety. The immediate challenges to the awareness of food safety are listed below:
- Food-related systems, certifications and compliance aren’t adequate to regulate food products.
- A rise in sedentary behaviors due to changing lifestyle changes.
- Having too many sources of voluntary food information that increase the chances of falsified data.
- Several safety challenges associated with processes and pre-packaged food.
- Lack of food safety and nutrition literacy. Also, increased exposure to unreliable sources of information.
- Evolving biological risks
- Risks of overconsumption of nutrients as well as other food ingredients.
- Growing consumer dependency on digital services.
Even though some of these challenges seem too complex to deal with, a global food safety initiative can help fix these food safety issues for good. It may be a long shot, but it is a start that can improve the quality of life by facilitating better food safety for all. As a matter of fact, several governments and non-governmental organizations have already introduced food safety training programs around the world that are believed to bring a radical change in the realm of food safety.
Food safety certification and training programs
You may have noticed that a lot of food, especially the packaged ones, comes with food safety certifications. If a food item is food safety certified, it implies that the item has passed the food safety certification test by meeting the food safety standards. Ideally, every country should have a center for food testing. The USA has FDA food safety organization, Europe has European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), India has Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Australia has Australian Institute of Food Safety, and likewise.
These aforementioned organizations conduct the food safety testing for the food items that go to the market and issue them food safety certificates if those items check off the premier food safety test answers. Also, there are companies like Ecolab, which contribute to the cause of food safety. Ecolab Food Safety is a leading manufacturer of food safety products worldwide.
While companies like Ecolab are promoting food safety by delivering food safety products, there are several organizations which are offering food safety training to individuals. Chipotle Mexican Grill, one of the leading fast food companies in the US, is focusing more on training their employees about food safety, after 647 reported cases of foodborne illnesses were linked to the company.
However, the Chipotle food safety training program is not an isolated initiative. USDA food safety and inspection service, NSF food safety training and Idaho food safety exam are facilitating some of the major food safety courses across the US, by putting individuals through food safety practice tests.
There are several training courses on food safety for managers, so that they can train their employees on food safety issues. The manager’s most important food safety responsibility is training you to handle the food as per the 123 premier food safety standards.
If you want, you can apply for the job of a food safety manager. However, you need to get the food safety manager certification and get enlisted in the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. There are some insightful food safety manager certification study guides available in the market which can help you to understand the basics of food safety jobs.
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