Food and Drug Safety: The Consumer Handbook

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The U.S. boasts one of the most heavily regulated markets for food and drugs in the world. Agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborate to ensure that our food and medicine is safe. However, many consumers are concerned about the growing number of product recalls and question the safeguards in the system. The following collection of resources can help you make informed decisions about the food and drugs your family consumes.

Medications

  • FDA Guide to Purchasing Medication Online: The advent of the Internet has made it possible to purchase medication from home. Without the guidance of a trusted pharmacist, you could be purchasing unsafe or even phony medicine. This FDA Guide offers safety tips.
  • Dietetic Supplements Consumer Protection: Once thought of as only a tenet of Eastern medicine, diet supplements have become mainstream in the U.S. The FDA offers guidelines for proper use and purchase of these unregulated supplements in this resource. Fact sheets, warnings and recommendations are included.
  • Consumer Reports: Prescription Medication: This article discusses the dangers of taking prescription medicine and in the approval process that gets them to market. Links to relevant Consumer Reports resources are also provided.
  • SafeMedication.com: Operated by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, this website offers a searchable database of drugs and their side effects in plain-English terminology.

Baby Food and Formula

  • FoodSafety.gov Guidelines on Baby Food: As part of a project maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this resource page delves into food and safety guidelines for infants. Safe handling and packaging as well as FDA nutritional recommendations are provided.
  • FDA Guidelines: Product safety regulation of infant formula is explained in detail. This page also contains links to product-specific information, recall alerts and breaking news about infant formula.
  • WHO Guidelines: The World Health Organization identifies safe preparation and handling methods for powdered infant formula. Information and instruction is available in seven languages.
  • NCCC Connections: The National Network for Child Care offers this article about how to safely feed infants and toddlers. Detailed recommendations are given for storage and handling of breast milk, formula and baby foods.
  • BabyCenter: This website targeted at new mothers provides a plain-English explanation of the hows and whys of baby formula storage. Information on how to report problems with baby formula is also included.

Meat

  • FoodSafety.gov Guidelines on Meat: The FDA provides this resource containing safe storage, handling and cooking tip for all kinds of meat. Individual pages for bison, game, goat, rabbit and veal are offered, among others. Historical information and recipes are also listed.
  • USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: What started as a toll-free telephone service now includes a website where you can ask USDA experts all your questions about correct meat and poultry preparation. Seasonal fact sheets and information on foodborne illness are also provided for consumers.
  • Keeping Your Meat Safe: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics hosts this resource for cooks. Proper food handling techniques are discussed, and storage tips and temperature indices for cooked meat are provided for reference.
  • Frontline: Is Your Meat Safe?: The website that accompanies the PBS television show is chock full of useful information. FDA statistics on foodborne illness, consumer advocate reports, meat grade classification and recall information can all be accessed from this resource.
  • WebMD: The popular medical information website offers this short video illustrating proper cooking and handling techniques for the safe consumption of meat.

Poultry

  • FoodSafety.gov Guidelines on Poultry: The FDA publishes this resource containing safe storage, handling and cooking tips for different types of poultry. Individual pages for duck, goose, emu and ostrich are offered, among others. Historical information and recipes are also provided.
  • Talking Turkey: Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is an American tradition, and every year some of us are sickened by salmonella from undercooked poultry. This resource offers tips on proper purchasing and storage technique for your bird.
  • Meat & Poultry Safety: A broad overview of the meat and poultry industry food safety practices is provided in this brochure. Federal meat inspection legislation and trends in meat and poultry safety are also covered.
  • Poultry Safety: Bon Appetit magazine takes its cooking tips online for handling, storing, defrosting and cooking poultry safely. Links to numerous recipes are included.

Eggs

  • CDC Guidelines: Containing the Center for Disease Control’s official recommendations of handling and storing shell eggs, this site also reviews the dangers of salmonella infection resulting from undercooked eggs.
  • FoodSafety.gov Guidelines on Eggs: Background information on the 2010 multistate salmonella outbreak provides context for the FDA’s official recommendations on the proper handling of eggs. Definitions and cooking tips are also included.
  • FDA on Eggs: Read about the industry regulations in place to protect consumers from salmonella poisoning. The Egg Safety Action Plan and the Egg Safety Final Rule are covered, along with their impact on egg producers.
  • EggSafety.org: The Egg Safety Center is operated as a resource for egg retailers and food service providers. Aiming to educate consumers on the dangers of foodborne illness from egg products, this website offers current industry news as well as proper handling techniques.
  • Eggs and Food Safety: In-depth discussions of salmonella risks and animal welfare are just a few of the resources on this industry-promoted website. The Egg Safety FAQs answers common questions about eggs and their safety.

Dairy Products

  • CDC Guideline on Raw Milk: In the wake of numerous product recalls, consumers have recently begun turning to more natural sources of food. The CDC offers this resource on the benefits of pasteurized milk and the illnesses that can be acquired from drinking raw milk.
  • FoodSafety.gov Guidelines on Raw Milk: The FDA also makes official recommendations against the consumption of raw milk. Common myths about raw milk and unpasteurized cheeses are debunked, and explanations of the illnesses that they can create are provided.
  • FDA Cheese and Dairy Guidelines: This government-sponsored resource lists date-marking and retail food safety regulations for producers in the dairy and cheese industry.
  • Milk Handling Guidelines: The Dairy Council of California maintains this web resource. Correct procedure on sell-by dates and storage and handling for retailers of dairy products is covered. Useful consumer information includes a discussion of freezing milk properly as well as the molding of cheese.
  • Whole Foods Dairy and Cheese Guide: The organic supermarket chain’s website offers a detailed temperature and time chart for the safe consumption and storage of dairy products.

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