Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Food Safety in the US

What is Food Safety?

Food safety involves the safe handling of food from the time it is grown, packaged, distributed, and prepared to prevent foodborne illnesses. Food safety is the responsibility of those who handle and prepare food commercially for delivery to consumers and of consumers who prepare and eat food in their homes.

Foodborne illness, or food poisoning, may be caused by bacteria that grow on food or by viruses that are spread because food is not cleaned, stored, or handled properly. These illnesses may cause minor.

symptoms or serious symptoms and even death in some people. Contaminated foods also can carry harmful parasites, toxins, chemicals, and physical contaminants. It is estimated that about 76 million people in the United States become ill from foodborne pathogens each year and that about 5,000 of these people die.

What is the Purpose of Food Safety?

Avoiding foods that that are contaminated can help prevent illness, especially in certain people. Consumers can take simple steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in their homes. Government and the food and restaurant industries can work together to prevent foodborne illness from occurring in the American population.

Foodborne illnesses
The following are some of the foodborne illnesses that can occur as a result of food contamination:.

  • Campylobacter, which is the most common bacterial cause of diarrhea, and can be caused by undercooked chicken or other foods contaminated with juices that drip from raw chicken
  • Salmonella, a bacterium that can spread from food of animal origin. Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps and can become serious in some individuals
  • E. coli0157:H7 is a bacteria that resides in cattle and similar animals. Humans usually get the illness from consuming food or water that has been contaminated with small amounts of cow feces
  • Calcivirus, or Norwalk-like virus, is common but rarely diagnosed because no laboratory test can diagnose it. It causes more vomiting than diarrhea
The farmer who grows produce, the packager, the produce department employee, the fast food worker, and the parent in the kitchen preparing a family’s meal, each have to work to keep food as safe as possible. Although there are several measures to take, they are not complicated or time-consuming. Yet food safety came into increasing public light in 2006 and 2007.

In September, 2006, Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, California, issued a nationwide recall of all of its fresh spinach and ready-made salads with spinach. Sold under 31 brand names, the company’s product was found to be source of E. coli contamination. E. coli is a rare but dangerous organism usually found in undercooked meat products. But in this case, the organism had gotten into packages of the fresh spinach and sickened more than 200 people in 26 states and Canada, resulting in three deaths. Within months, news spread of E.coli from lettuce at Taco Bell restaurants in the Northeastern United States. In early 2007, several peanut butter brands were recalled after salmonella was found in a manufacturer’s batch of peanut butter. These cases brought renewed attention to food safety.

In light of these outbreaks, the food and restaurant industries were working with United States government agencies to improve oversight and inspection of food sources in the country. Increased federal regulation may produce safety standards that are consistent and that apply to all produce grown in the United States or imported into the United States from other countries. New standards may be specific to particular foods. Many public education programs aim to keep the general public informed about home food safety, which is the part of food safety that individuals can monitor and control.

Families should take particular note of food safety for certain family members. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning.

Summer picnics and cookouts, including barbecues and outdoor buffets, can create opportunities for food poisoning in young children and is a key source of food poisoning for others. And parents need to be particularly careful in handling breast milk and infant formulas, which can harbor bacteria. Pregnant women, older family members, and anyone who is immunocompromised also may be more susceptible to food poisoning.

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