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Food Safety Guides for Groups Most Vulnerable to Foodborne Illness Now Available

USDA and FDA partner on food safety booklets to help those with compromised immune systems prevent foodborne illness

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have partnered to create six booklets with food safety advice for populations that are most susceptible to foodborne illness. The booklets in this “at-risk series” are tailored to help older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with cancer, diabetes or HIV/AIDS reduce their risk for foodborne illness.

“These booklets are a much needed resource for consumers who are at increased risk of getting sick from food,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “The clear, understandable information in these booklets will help at-risk individuals feel confident about the safety of foods they prepare and eat. The booklets are also helpful to physicians and other health care providers for educating their at-risk patients about foodborne illnesses.”

Each of the booklets contains 24 pages of practical guidance on how to prevent foodborne illness. The information is presented in easy-to-read charts, illustrated how-tos, and straightforward descriptions of why each group is at higher risk for foodborne illness and symptoms that may mean trouble. The booklets contain three tear-out cards with quick-reference tips for grocery shopping, cooking to the right temperature, and eating at restaurants for times when taking along the entire booklet would be impractical.

“Everyone from farmers to food manufacturers to food preparers in the home has a role in food safety,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor.  “It is important that consumers, particularly those who are at higher risk of foodborne illness, have information they can use to do their part in preventing illness by properly selecting and preparing foods.”

While booklets on five of these topics were previously produced in 2006, the two agencies this year created a sixth booklet for pregnant women, who are at particular risk for the illness listeriosis. The six new booklets list food safety resources, such as www.foodsafety.gov, that have been made available since the earlier copies were printed.  They also include revised safe cooking temperatures for meat and poultry: 145 °F for whole cuts of meat, followed by a three-minute rest time; 160 °F for ground meats; and 165 °F for all poultry and leftovers.
 
FSIS and FDA have mailed copies of the booklets to physicians around the country who treat patients in any of these six categories, and the booklets are available to the public free of charge. Additionally, the booklets are downloadable in PDF format at www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/risk/index.html. To order booklets for your home, office, or organization, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, or email requests to fsis.outreach@usda.gov

Consumers with food safety questions are encouraged to “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at www.AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. “Ask Karen” live chat services are available in English and Spanish weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

As part of a multi-faceted approach to prevent foodborne illness, the USDA and the FDA joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ad Council to launch Food Safe Families, a consumer food safety education campaign. It is the first joint public service campaign to empower families to further reduce their risk of foodborne illness at home by checking their key food safety steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill. For more information, go to www.foodsafety.gov.

Today's action is in addition to other significant public health measures FSIS has put in place during President Barack Obama's Administration to date to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:
 

• Test-and-hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
 

• Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
 

• Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
 

• Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcingthe new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.
 

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
 

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