There are many laws and regulations in place to ensure good food safety standards in the Untied States. It is uncommon for foodborne illnesses to affect the population on a large scale, and any outbreaks are quickly controlled. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) play a large part in these procedures, and essentially set the guidelines for food safety standards. While they are often criticized for being inefficient government organizations, the basic standards are often good to keep in mind when looking for safe food products. Science can provide many of the answers when it comes to food safety standards. Food can often be contaminated with various pathogens, from bacteria and viruses, to environmental toxins. Careful farming and processing procedures make food much safer for human consumption. Controlling the growth of pathogens by proper sanitation procedures, complete cooking, and maintenance of cool storage temperatures all act to inhibit the growth of potentially harmful contaminants. There are also a number of steps you can take to maintain good food safety standards right in your own home. Just as it is important to have good storage and preparation methods in farms and processing plants, these are also important in your own kitchen.
Production Practices with the FDA and USDA
The FDA creates guidelines for the production and distribution of food based on scientific data. They attempt to create food safety standards for the processing and handling of foods that go to grocery stores, restaurants, and hospitals. They are responsible for food safety research, creation of laws and standards regarding food, and inspection procedures. The USDA has similar responsibilities, mostly centering on production of animal products for consumption. The FDA regulates all other foods, drugs, cosmetics, and animal feed. Some states also run their own programs that overlap or substitute the FDA and USDA processes. They inspect food that is distributed throughout the state to make sure it meets specific federal guidelines for safety.
Keeping Food Safe in Your Kitchen
The food that you get from your local grocery store goes through all of these inspections and food safety procedures before you bring it home, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfectly safe yet. The way that you manage food within your home also contributes to safety. Improper storage of perishable foods can lead to pathogen growth. Meats, in particular, must be kept cool until just prior to use. Fruits and vegetables may also be infected with various contaminants, which is why it is important to wash everything well. Proper cooking is a good way to ensure that food is as safe as possible. Once again, meats are at the top of the list for food safety concerns, and generally need to be well cooked before they are consumed. Finally, remember to always maintain a high level of hygiene. Washing your hands before you begin food preparation, and after handling any potentially infected foods, will significantly decrease transmission of foodborne illnesses. Following these guidelines will help you enjoy good food and good health.