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By: Vanora Davila
It is that time of year! The holiday season is here and if your family is anything like mine, you are probably already thinking about all the delicious meals you will be making to celebrate and share with your loved ones!
The end-of-the-year holidays can be some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments one can experience, but inappropriate food-handling behaviors can turn the most exciting of times into despair.
From baking those perfectly crispy but chewy on the inside cookies, to cooking that scrumptious main course meal, there are unfortunately many opportunities for foodborne illness to make an unexpected appearance.
To make sure you and your family stay safe and avoid foodborne illness this holiday season, there are some simple guidelines you can follow, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after preparing food.
- Wash all utensils, cutting boards, before and immediately after use.
- Clean all produce with running water before use.
- Do not wash raw meat and poultry! This could increase your risk of food poisoning by spreading bacteria onto your hands, and onto nearby high-touch surfaces (USDA, 2020).
- Separate! - Avoid cross-contamination.
- Keep raw foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and fish separated when buying them at the grocery store and when storing them at home. You do not want their juices to get onto other foods!
- Always keep fruits and vegetables away from raw meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood.
- Cook! - Fully cook all food that is not ready-to-eat.
- Make sure to use a food thermometer to ensure the thickest part of all meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Minimum cooking temperatures for varied foods can be found at: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature.
- Turkey stuffing and dressing must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. If cooked inside the turkey, the stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it is placed in the oven. Any extra stuffing should be baked before use.
- Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a rolling boil when reheating.
- Do not eat raw dough or batter. Raw doughs contain uncooked eggs and flour, which can contain bacteria that is only killed when the dough is fully cooked.
- When making eggnog, tiramisu, or any dish that uses raw eggs, make sure to use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.
- Chill! - Refrigerate and thaw foods appropriately.
- Refrigerate any leftovers that should be refrigerated within two hours to avoid unwanted bacteria growth. Leftovers should be used within four days.
- Do not thaw food at room temperature. Foods like meats and turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave, to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
- Your refrigerator’s temperature should be set at or below 40°F and the freezer should be set to 0°F or lower.
So, there you have it! Whether you are making a dish for the first time ever or you are using your family’s generational recipes, keep these tips in mind to make sure you and your family safely enjoy the festivities.
Affairs (ASPA), A. S. for P. (2019, April 12). Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Charts. FoodSafety.Gov. https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature
CDC. (2020, October 14). Holiday Food Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/holidays.html
FDA. (2020). Food Safety Tips for Healthy Holidays. FDA. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/food-safety-tips-healthy-holidays
Washing Food: Does it Promote Food Safety? (n.d.). Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/washing-food-does-it-promote-food-safety/washing-food
Graduate Practicum Student
By: Allison Howell
Federal regulations are complicated, technical, and often difficult for consumers to understand. But everyone eats produce. A basic understanding of what types of produce or produce commodities are included or not included in federal regulations and what those regulations mean can help consumers make informed decisions about buying, preparing, and consuming produce safely.
Background on FSMA
First introduced in the House of Representatives in 2009, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA) underwent several revisions and amendments before being signed into law by President Obama in early 2011. It was the first piece of federal legislation to address food safety since The Federal Food Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 . FSMA greatly expanded the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory authority. FSMA is a great accomplishment in terms of shifting the goal of federal oversight to preventing foodborne illness instead of reacting to it.
FSMA did not outline specific regulations for food safety, but instead expanded FDA’s regulatory authority so they could develop additional rules aimed at implementing the goals of FSMA.
Since FSMA was signed into law, the FDA has developed several final rules that provide specific guidance to industry and detail the FDA’s role in enforcing these rules. A full list of the proposed and final rules related to FSMA can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-rules-guidance-industry#rules.
One of the FSMA final rules is the “Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” also known as the Produce Safety Rule . The rule went into effect in January of 2016, and covered farms were required to comply by early 2020. Full details of the Produce Safety Rule can be found at: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-rule-produce-safety#requirements.
But what does FSMA mean for consumers?
Most types of produce that you can buy at a grocery store are covered by the Produce Safety Rule and producers are held accountable for adhering to the FDA’s Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. That means, when you buy an apple from the grocery store, you can reasonably assume that federal regulations designed to reduce the presence of foodborne pathogens on or in apples have been followed. After giving it a quick wash with some water (you should always wash fresh produce before consuming), you can slice it up or bite right in and enjoy. It is important to remember that the Produce Safety Rule sets standards for growers that sell the produce, but poor handling or cross contamination by consumers can still lead to foodborne illness. Read more about the FDA’s recommendation for safely selecting and serving produce here: https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/selecting-and-serving-produce-safely.
There are several important regulations outlined in the Produce Safety Rule, but there are also certain criteria that can lead to commodities being exempt from compliance with the rule. One of those criteria is produce that is not considered a raw agricultural commodity; that is, the produce is identified as rarely consumed raw (RCR). Recently, FDA issued an Request for Information in the Federal Register Notice for commodities that they are considering characterizing as RCR and therefore exempt from the Produce Safety Rule :
black beans, great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and pinto beans
garden beets (roots and tops) and sugar beets
dill (seeds and weed); eggplants
Cranberries, which are considered rarely consumed raw, can be seen displayed here on a grocery store shelf among pomegranates and berries, fresh produce commodities.
When it comes to purchasing commodities on the RCR list, consumers should be cautious, and treat these products accordingly. In other words, to reduce the chance of foodborne illness, all RCR commodities should be cooked thoroughly before consuming. Produce on this list – such as asparagus, potatoes, or cranberries – should also be stored separately from produce that is consumed raw—from the moment it is placed a shopping cart or bag to the moment it is prepared for eating. Separating these commodities can help prevent cross-contamination with other produce – such as berries, carrots, or leafy greens – that might be eaten raw.
Produce from farms that are valued at less than $25,000/ year and produce that is used for personal or on-farm consumption are also exempt from the Produce Safety Rule. Because of this exemption, fresh fruits and vegetables purchased from a local farmer’s market or small-scale producer may not adhere to the standards set by the Produce Safety Rule. For tips on safely purchasing from farmer’s markets see CFI’s previous blog post at: https://foodsafety.osu.edu/blog/april-6-2020-1125am/fresher-doesn%E2%80%99t-equal-safer.
Fresh produce is an important part of a healthy diet and understanding how produce is regulated can help consumer’s incorporate healthy fruits and vegetables into their diet without increasing their risk of foodborne illness.
There are several resources available to consumers wanting to stay up to date on food safety issues, and most of these services allow you to customize the alerts you receive!
- Sign up for CDC updates on food safety here.
- Sign up to receive FDA notices on recalls, market withdrawals, and safety alerts here.
- Sign up for USDA updates here.
- Browse recent articles or subscribe to Food Safety News here.
Lastly, check out the “Resources” page on our website for links to additional organizations and websites informing consumers about food safety basics and ongoing work to improve food safety for all!
 Office of the Commissioner, “Milestones in U.S. Food and Drug Law History,” FDA, Dec. 2019, Accessed: Dec. 02, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fdas-evolving-regulatory-powers/milestones....
 Center for Food Safety and And Nutrition, “Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA),” FDA, Sep. 21, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-regulation-food-and-dietary-supplement... (accessed Nov. 02, 2020).
 Center For Food Safety And Nutrition, “FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety,” FDA, Sep. 2020, Accessed: Oct. 22, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma/fsma-final-r....
 “Request for Information and Comments on Consumption of Certain Uncommon Produce Commodities in the United States; Establishment of a Public Docket,” Federal Register, Aug. 10, 2020. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/10/2020-16800/request-... (accessed Nov. 09, 2020).