In case you were wondering, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to know that it ensures foods from animals are safe.
If you eat meat or drink milk, you want to know: Are there trace amounts of the veterinary drugs used in food-producing animals entering your diet? And if they are, are the amounts safe for human consumption?
Those questions—among others—are the concern of the Division of Residue Chemistry, which is part of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Sick food-producing animals such as pigs, cows, and chickens can be given antibiotics or other drugs to treat diseases. (Some farms also give animals antibiotics to help them grow faster, a practice FDA is working to eliminate by promoting the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.) Producers must then wait for the drug to leave the animal’s system before they can slaughter it for consumption. It’s important to ensure that any remaining trace amounts of the drugs are safe to eat by the time the food reaches our plates.
“Our job is twofold,” says Division Director Philip Kijak, Ph.D. “We validate the methods drug companies use to test for drug trace amounts in foods from animals, and we help develop newer and better methods for testing.”
On the first point, the sponsor—usually, the animal pharmaceuticals company—of a drug to be used in a food animal must complete required testing that establishes the drug’s tolerance (a measure of safety), and develop a method to show whether the trace amount in the animal food product is within that tolerance.
“Then we are responsible for validating that method—making sure not only that it works and is accurate, but that it’s a practical method any standard chemical laboratory can use,” Kijak says.
Making Sure Milk Is Safe
For example, the Division examines the methods used to test milk for trace amounts of veterinary drugs used in dairy cows.
Under the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance standards issued by the FDA and the U.S. Public Health Service, all milk must be tested for beta-lactam antibiotics, the most common drugs used by dairy farms. FDA’s role is to evaluate and approve the data and methods submitted by companies that manufacture rapid-screening tests for these drugs. Rapid screening is important because milk is perishable, and results are needed on the spot.
“Think of these as off-the-shelf kits, like those consumers buy for pregnancy testing,” Kijak says. It’s up to the individual dairies and state regulators to choose the approved kits they want to use. Since 1994, when FDA began evaluating test-kits, the amount of milk containing beta-lactam drugs has dropped from 0.15 percent to 0.014 percent—more than a tenfold decrease, Kijak adds.
Developing Methods to Test Meat
In addition, FDA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) and state regulators to monitor meat, poultry, eggs, and milk for trace amounts of unapproved or unsafe drugs. FSIS tests the foods for a variety of these medications and reports violations to FDA, which follows up with regulatory action when needed.
“To do this job, we had to focus on developing new methods to detect trace amounts of penicillin and other antibiotics,” Kijak says. “With the older method, we were able to tell if penicillin or penicillin and other drugs were present, but we were unable to measure the exact amount of the penicillin when the sample contained more than one drug.” Without this specific information, it was possible for products with unsafe amounts of penicillin to pass inspection. The newer method, which was developed in close cooperation with USDA, enables inspectors to determine if multiple drugs are present, and the amount of each.
Testing for Fungus in Animal Feeds
Recently, the division has become increasingly involved in developing methods to detect mycotoxins and other contaminants in animal feeds. Mycotoxins are toxic compounds made by fungi that grow on grains. Poor growing methods and improper storage conditions can promote the development of these compounds, which that can enter our diets in meat from animals that consumed the contaminated feed.
“While these fungi are almost always present in grain, it’s the amount of mycotoxins that can make the difference between safe and unsafe foods from animals,” Kijak explains. “The new methods enable us to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure the tested products are safe for consumers.”
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
November 3, 2014
Given that chicken can be prepared so many ways, and is very economical, it is not surprising that it is America’s most popular poultry.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following information about buying, storing, preparing and serving chicken:es
* It is not necessary to rinse or soak raw chicken to clean it before cooking. Any bacteria which might be present are destroyed by cooking. Rinsing chicken in the sink might cross-contaminate or spread bacteria throughout the kitchen.
*Fresh or raw chicken should be selected just before checking out of the grocery store. It should feel cold to the touch when purchased. Put chicken packages in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leaking juices which may cross-contaminate cooked foods or produce. Go right home after food shopping and immediately put the chicken in the refrigerator if you plan to use it within 1-2 days. If you won’t be using the chicken by day 2, freeze it.
*You don’t have to have to re-wrap chicken for freezing. It can be frozen in either its original wrapping or repackaged if you want. If freezing for longer than 2 months, for best quality, you may want to place in a freezer bag or over-wrap with heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper. Either way, once it’s frozen, chicken, and all other raw meats and poultry, are safe indefinitely in the freezer.
*When purchasing cooked chicken, make sure it’s hot upon purchase. Use it within 2 hours or cut it up into several pieces and refrigerate in shallow, covered containers. You can eat the leftovers within 3-4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F, or freeze it. Again, once frozen, the cooked chicken is safe indefinitely in the freezer. For best quality, use within 3-4 months.
*Color is not a good way to determine if cooked chicken is safe to eat. Only by using a food thermometer can you make sure chicken has reached the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. When cooking a whole chicken, you should check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh, the wing and the thickest part of the breast. And remember, all chicken should be put in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
The Partnership for Food Safety Education (http://fightbac.org) offers the following tips for preventing foodbourne bacteria this Halloween:
- Keep all perishable food chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, cut fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frosting. Cold temperatures help keep most bacteria from multiplying.
- To keep store-bought party trays cold, fill lids with ice and place trays on top. Similarly, keep salads and other perishable items in bowls cold by nesting them in larger bowls of ice.
- Arrange food on several small platters. Refrigerate platters of food until it is time to serve, and rotate food platters within two hours.
Bacteria will creep up on you if you let platters of food sit out for too long. Don’t leave perishable goodies out for more than two hours at room temperature (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).
- When whipping up Halloween treats, don’t taste dough and batters that contain uncooked eggs.
- Beware of unpasteurized juice or cider that can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Serve only pasteurized products at your Halloween party.
- Remind kids (and adults too!) to wash their hands before and after eating to help prevent foodborne illness.
- Bobbing for Apples – Try a new spin on bobbing for apples. Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper. Write activities for kids to do on each apple, such as “say ABCs” or “do 5 jumping jacks”. Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string or create a fishing pole with a dowel rod, magnet and yarn. Let the children take turn “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple.
Give children a fresh apple for participating in your food safe version of bobbing for apples.
The kitchen, for food, is often the first place children go when they get home from school, but it’s not always the safest place. Millions of children become ill from the food they eat.
Here are some food safety recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to share with children to help keep them safe after school. When coming home after school, kids can help prevent illnesses by following these recommendations:
- Place books, bags, and sporting equipment on the floor, not on eating counters or the kitchen table where germs could be transferred.
- Clean out lunch boxes and throw away perishable sandwiches or other “refrigerator type” foods, such as yogurt tubes or cheese sticks, left over from lunch.
- Wash your hands before you make or eat a snack. Hands carry lots of germs, and not washing hands is a top cause of foodborne illness.
- Always use clean spoons, forks, and plates.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with running tap water before you eat them.
- Do not eat bread, cheese, or soft fruits or vegetables that are bruised or have spots of mold.
- Do not eat unbaked cookie dough because it may contain raw eggs that can have Salmonella bacteria.
- Do not leave cold items, like milk, lunchmeat, hard cooked eggs, or yogurt, out on the counter at room temperature. Put these foods back in the refrigerator as soon as you’ve fixed your snack.
- Don’t eat any perishable food left out of the refrigerator, such as pizza — even if it isn’t topped with meat. Food should not be left in the temperature “Danger Zone” of 40 to 140 °F for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is 90 °F or higher).
Heating or cooking foods in microwave ovens can present food safety and personal safety challenges. Some foods do not heat evenly to destroy all bacteria that could be present. Keep these tips in mind:
- Read package directions carefully. An adult needs to tell children whether to use the minimum or maximum cooking time on food package directions.
- Use only microwave-safe cookware. Don’t put metal or foil-wrapped foods in the microwave. Never microwave food in cold storage containers, such as margarine tubs, cottage cheese cartons, or bowls from frozen whipped topping. The containers can melt and transfer harmful chemicals into the food.
- For more even cooking and to better destroy bacteria, cover a dish of food with a lid, plastic wrap, or wax paper. Turn up one corner to let excess steam escape while food is microwaving.
Halfway through cooking, rotate food packages and dishes or stir food during microwaving — even if the oven has a turntable. This helps the food cook more evenly and safely.