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USDA, California Department of Agriculture and Oakland Athletics Partner to Promote Food Safety Education Month

Alfred V. Almanza, Under Secretary for Food Safety; Secretary Karen Ross, CA Department of Agriculture; and Mark Canha, player for the Oakland A’s pose with Thermy, a character dressed like a food thermometer.Last week Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred V. Almanza, California Department of Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and Oakland A’s player Mark Canha visited a California elementary school to teach students about food safety. The visit is part of a USDA effort to promote public understanding of foodborne illness during Food Safety Education Month, which occurs every September.

An estimated 1 in 6 (48 million) Americans get sick from foodborne illness each year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children are among the most vulnerable to food poisoning because their immune systems are still developing, so caregivers need to take extra precautions when preparing and packing healthy, safe school lunches.

Canha, a self-proclaimed “foodie” who regularly posts photos of food on social media, lends his support to this important public health effort. He is a Bay Area native, and graduate of the University of California-Berkeley. Canha is a rookie outfielder and first baseman for the A’s.

Almanza, Ross and Canha visited Parker Elementary School in Oakland, California for this event. During their visit, they taught students about the four steps to food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill. “Farming is a big job, and there are lots of people who work between the farm and your table to make sure the foods you eat are healthy,” said Almanza. “Protecting children from foodborne illness and ensuring that they know how to protect themselves is a top priority for FSIS.”        

There are several easy steps parents and kids can take to help prevent foodborne illness during the back-to-school season, including:

  • Use an insulated bag or box: Pack lunches containing perishable food items, like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • Keep it cold: If possible, a perishable lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.
  • Use an ice pack: Make sure to pack lunch containing perishable food with at least two cold sources. A frozen juice boxes or water can be used as one of those cold sources. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack. By lunchtime, the liquid should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Do not reuse packaging: After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at, by ‘following’ @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by ‘liking’ Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

If you have questions about storage times of food or beverages, download USDA’s new FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices.

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Posted in: Events | Media | SchoolTagged: Food Safety