In Kindergarten, many teachers use simple rewards like giving out gold stars as a way to reward and acknowledge when students do the right thing or do a good job. This month, if we were giving out gold stars for doing a good job and for doing the right thing, our focus would be firmly fixed on food safety. Although media stories may seem to indicate otherwise, America’s food supply is getting safer. According to Dr. Richard Raymond, former Undersecretary for Food Safety at the USDA, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that there was a noticeable decrease in the number of food borne illness outbreaks during the period from 2009-2010 when compared to the preceding 5 years. This shows that efforts to promote food safety are working and there are many groups who deserve to get gold stars.
Through education and oversight, the federal agencies responsible for setting food safety guidelines, monitoring industry adherence, and promoting safe practices are helping to make the entire food system safer. The CDC along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) work together to help ensure our food makes it from the farms to our tables as safely as possible. These agencies also help monitor food borne illness outbreaks in order to limit the number of people affected and save lives.
With support and sometimes funding from the federal agencies, local and state agencies are also out there on the front lines working to keep our food system safe. Here in Arizona, programs like “Good Handling Practice and Good Agriculture Practices” are provided to local farms and businesses that process food by the Arizona Department of Agriculture. This program, which enables attendees to become certified, is offered free of charge and is just one of the ways local agencies are working to help keep the food we use to fill our plates safe.
Farmers and Food Purveyors
All the education and oversight in the world wouldn’t matter if we didn’t have such diligent hard working farmers, ranchers, and restaurant owners. These are the folks that have to implement best practices, follow all the guidelines, and whose actions have a direct impact on the safety of those who eat their products. If the men and women who grow and make our food weren’t as conscious about practicing good food safety, we wouldn’t be so shocked at an outbreak of E.Coli or Salmonella because they would be happening more often.
Even those of us whose only job is to purchase and prepare the food we eat are worthy of a gold star moment. The safety of our food is also in our hands and we are doing our part by following food safety guidelines provided by the agencies listed above. Every time we choose to swap cutting boards to limit contamination, wash fruits and vegetables when we get them home, and track how long the potato salad has been sitting in the sun, we are doing our part to keep the food we use to fill our plates safe enough to fill us up.