Just before Christmas, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which President Obama signed into law on January 4, 2011. Here’s a quick look at some of the provisions in the new law:
- Issuing recalls: For the first time, FDA will have the authority to order a recall of food products. Up to now, with the exception of infant formula, the FDA has had to rely on food manufacturers and distributors to recall food voluntarily.
- Conducting inspections: The law calls for more frequent inspections and for those inspections to be based on risk. Foods and facilities that pose a greater risk to food safety will get the most attention
- Importing food: The law provides significant enhancements to FDA's ability to oversee food produced in foreign countries and imported into the United States. Also, FDA has the authority to prevent a food from entering this country if the facility has refused U.S. inspection.
- Preventing problems: Food facilities must have a written plan that spells out the possible problems that could affect the safety of their products. The plan would outline steps that the facility would take to help prevent those problems from occurring.
- Focusing on science and risk: The law establishes science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. This is an important step forward. These standards will consider both natural and man-made risks to the safety of fresh produce.
- Respecting the role of small businesses and farms: The law also provides some flexibility, such as exemptions from the produce safety standards for small farms that sell directly to consumers at a roadside stand or farmer’s market as well as through a community supported agriculture program (CSA).
Questions About the Law
Given the importance of this legislation, it is not surprising that people have many questions. Some are asking if the roles of USDA and FDA are changing. The answer is simple: the U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to have primary responsibility for regulating meat, poultry, and egg products.
Another question people have been asking is “when will the changes happen?” There’s no easy answer to that question. Some of the changes from the law will go into effect immediately, such as the new mandatory recall authority. Other changes will require more time. And some of this simply comes down to budgeting.
The funding we get each year, which affects our staffing and our vital and far-ranging operations, will also affect how this legislation is implemented. For example, the inspection schedule in the legislation would increase the burden on FDA’s inspection functions. Without more funding, we will be challenged to implement the law fully without compromising other key functions. We look forward to working with Congress and our partners to ensure that FDA is funded sufficiently to achieve our food safety and food defense goals.
For more information about the new law, check out these resources:
- FDA Consumer Update: Food Bill Aims to Improve Safety
- From the Commissioner: Food Safety Modernization Act: Putting the Focus on Prevention
- Questions and Answers on the Food Safety Modernization Act
For some people, chitterlings are a reminder of home, family, culture, and holidays -- and either you really love them or you don’t. Chitterlings are the small intestines of a hog and are especially popular in the southern United States.
If you’ve never eaten chitterlings (more commonly called “chitlins”), they have a texture similar to calimari (squid) and a pungent odor while being boiled. After lengthy boiling, chitterlings sometimes are battered and fried and commonly are served with cider vinegar and hot sauce as condiments.
Care must be taken when preparing chitterlings because they can be contaminated with the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica and other foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli. Yersinia is a bacterium found in intestine of the pigs and that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. Infections caused by these bacteria are called yersiniosis.
When raw pig intestines are cleaned and cooked in household kitchens, it creates a messy environment in which cross contamination with Yersinia can occur. This harmful bacteria can be spread to kitchen counters, tables, utensils, and even baby bottles and pacifiers. After chitterlings are thoroughly boiled and carefully prepared, the final product is not likely to be a risk for foodborne illness. The risk comes from the preparation process.
Follow these steps to reduce the risk of food illnesses from chitterlings:
- Thaw chitterlings in the refrigerator. Wrap the container of raw chitterlings in plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator or set it on a plate or tray.
- You can buy precooked chitterlings, but if you prefer using raw chitterlings, preboil them for 5 minutes before cleaning and cooking. This will kill any harmful bacteria without changing the flavor.
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water for a full 20 seconds before and after the preparation of chitterlings.
- Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.
- Sanitize countertops, equipment, utensils, and cutting boards with a freshly prepared solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Keep children out of the kitchen when chitterlings are being prepared.
- Boil and simmer chitterlings until are well cooked and tender.
Symptoms from yersiniosis can include watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, fever, and vomiting. Call your doctor if you think you have a foodborne illness.
For more information, check out these resources:
- Fact sheet: Yersiniosis and Chitterlings: Tips to Protect You and Those You Care For From Foodborne Illness
- Podcast: Chitterlings and Yersiniosis
If you have questions about preparing chitterlings or any other holiday food, feel free to contact us at the Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov.
Homemade eggnog is a tradition in many families during the holiday season. But each year this creamy drink causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Usually raw or undercooked eggs.
Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture. To prevent this ingredient from causing harmful infections, just follow these guidelines for safe handling.
Cooking the Egg Base
At the FDA, we advise consumers to start with a cooked egg base for eggnog. This is especially important if you are serving people at high risk for foodborne infections: young children and pregnant women (non-alcoholic eggnog), older adults, and those with weakened immune systems.
To make a cooked egg base:
- Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.)
- Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 °F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon (but please don’t lick the spoon if the custard is not fully cooked!).
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
Don't Count on Alcohol to Kill Bacteria
Some people think that adding rum, whiskey, or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But, if contaminated unpasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, you can't count on the alcohol in the drink to kill all of the bacteria – that’s not likely to happen
Other Options for Safe Eggnog
You can also use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs in your eggnog, or you can find a recipe without eggs.
- With the egg substitute products, you might have to experiment a bit with the recipe to figure out the right amount to add for the best flavor.
- Pasteurized eggs can also be used in place of raw eggs. Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys Salmonella that might be present, without having a noticeable effect on flavor or nutritional content. These are available at some supermarkets for a slightly higher cost per dozen. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.
So, by following these safe handling and proper cooking practices, you can enjoy delicious, creamy homemade eggnog without worrying about making anyone sick!