FROM FARM TO TABLE
The role everyone plays helps assure that the food we eat is safe and wholesome:
- Growers, packers and distributors
- Wholesale Food Establishments
- Retail Food Establishments
- Regulatory and Inspection Agencies
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Food and Drug Administration, United States Department of Agriculture and other government agencies work hard to protect our food supply. Food safety is a big part of the job, but it is everyone's responsibility. Food producers, processors, sellers, and individual consumers, like you, also have an important part to play. The greatest threats to food safety - bacteria and viruses - are the hazards over which you as a consumer have the greatest control. Don't let yourself down. Accept your share of the responsibility for keeping your food supply safe.
What are the risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness?
These are the top 5 reasons:
- Food from unsafe sources
- Inadequate cooking
- Improper hot/cold holding temperatures
- Contaminated equipment
- Poor personal hygiene
The cost of foodborne illness to the nation, based on direct medical expenses, lost wages, and productivity, and industry loss of tainted food products, is estimated at $1 billion to $10 billion annually. The reported incidence of foodborne illness is on the rise.
Persons at high risk for foodborne disease are:
- Infants and very young children
- The elderly
- Pregnant Women
- Individuals with weakened immune systems like HIV, AIDS, liver disease or cancer.
If you become ill and suspect you may have a foodborne illness, what should you do?
First see your doctor and report your illness to the county health department.
If you suspect you became ill from food purchased at supermarket, grocery or convenience store, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Food Safety (850) 245-5520.
If you suspect you became ill from food consumed at a restaurant, contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. (850) 488-9263.
As a consumer what can I do to protect my family and myself?
- Never buy cracked eggs. On your shopping trip, pick up frozen and perishable foods last and get them into your refrigerator and freezer at home as soon as possible.
- Keep food out of the DANGER ZONE. This means hot foods should be kept at 135°F or above and cold foods at 41°F or below.
- Don't let cooked or refrigerated foods, such as salads, sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Keep food free from organisms that cause food poisoning by keeping the food, the preparation equipment, and yourself clean.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water before you start preparing food, before you handle a different food (for example, if you just handled raw chicken, wash your hands before preparing a salad), and after using the bathroom. Don't sneeze or cough on food.
- Thoroughly rinse fruits and vegetables with water before eating or preparing.
- Organisms can "travel" from raw to cooked food, so never let raw food touch cooked food.
- Wash utensils, including the cutting board, with soap and warm water and rinse again in a sanitizing solution like bleach in between each preparation step.
- Cook food hot enough to sizzle. High food temperatures (165°F to 212°F) reached by boiling, baking, frying, and roasting kill most foodborne illness organisms.
Cook foods thoroughly to a high enough temperature to kill organisms. Never eat raw or undercooked eggs; they might contain harmful organisms. When cooking in the microwave, stir or turn the food and turn the dish several times. Once cooked, keep hot foods hot at 135°F or above until served. Be suspicious. If you notice mold, cut off a large section of the food around the mold and throw it out. If you're not absolutely certain about a food, throw it out!
What can you do, as a consumer, if you have a question or a food safety concern about a food product you have purchased?
- Become educated. Use the many resources available to you.
- Contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 1-800-HELP FLA or visit our web site: www.freshfromflorida.com/fs/
- Contact your local Agricultural Extension Office.
- Contact the Food Safety and Inspection Service of The United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
1-800-535-4555 or visit their web site: www.fsis.usda.gov.
- Contact the United State Food and Drug Administration. FDA Headquarters, Office of Consumer Affairs HFE-88, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857 1-800-332-4010 or visit their web site: www.cfsan.fda.gov.
- Contact your retailer where you bought the product. They are knowledgeable and want you to continue shopping with them.