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article imageWarnings issued for U.S. food safety month

By Tim Sandle     Sep 16, 2015 in Health
Washington - September is National Food Safety month, although many of the issues raised are pertinent not only to the U.S. but also to most countries worldwide.
National Food Safety month has been running in the U.S. since 1994. The aim of the health promotion campaign is to help the restaurant and food service industry to improve standards and educate their staff. The initiative is backed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department for Agriculture. This year’s theme is “Let It Flow,” focusing on the flow of food through restaurants. Each week of September has a different theme: receiving, storage, thawing, preparation and service.
Part of the campaign is based around myths and facts. Here is an example:
Myth 1: I know my refrigerator is cold enough – I can feel it when I open it! Anyway, I have a dial to adjust the temperature.
Fact: Unless you have thermometers built into your fingers, you need to use a thermometer to ensure your refrigerator is at or below 40 °F. And that dial? Important, but it is not a thermometer.
Despite 21 years of food health promotion activities, the rate of food poisoning in the U.S. remains high. The CDC estimates that one in six U.S. citizens becomes ill from consuming contaminated food or drinks each year. The death rate can be as high as 3,000 deaths across 12 months.
Of the different types of causative agents, Salmonella is apparently the most frequent trigger for illness and this bacterial species accounts for more hospitalizations and deaths.
A case in point this year has been with Blue Bell ice cream, which was contaminated with Listeria. Listeria bacteria present a risk to products like ice cream due to the organisms ability to grow in low temperature conditions. This issue was covered in great detail for Digital Journal by Karen Graham. The case of contaminated ice cream is related to three deaths. The issue led to a major nationwide recall.
In response to the case, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration produced a critical report about Blue Bell’s hygiene status. Troublingly, the concerns date back some time. Controlled Environments magazine reports on a number of hygiene concerns, which were reported by workers in the Blue Bell factory going back to 2013. This included a dirty air vent dripping into product; inadequate equipment sanitization; and safety issues.
Recently, The Dallas Morning News interviewed a Blue Bell spokesman. Stated here, the company’s response about the series of contamination findings and why these were not reported to U.S. health agencies was simply: “Because we weren’t required to.”
Digital Journal covered the 2014 food safety month. For details on the previous initiatives, please see Digital Journal food safety.
More about Food safety, Food poisoning, Listeria, Bacteria
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