NCL comments on Proposed Rule – Fish and Shellfish; Canned Tuna Standard of Identity and Standard of Fill of Container

November 21, 2023

Media contact: National Consumers League – Melody Merin, melodym@nclnet.org, 202-207-2831

The National Consumers League recently submitted comments regarding the Proposed Rule, “Fish and Shellfish; Canned Tuna Standard of Identity and Standard of Fill of Container.” We believe that the Proposed Rule, when implemented, will modernize the standard of identity for “canned tuna,” 21 C.F.R. § 161.190 (“canned tuna SOI”), to require an accurate measure and declaration of weight, and to allow for “safe and suitable” ingredients to provide manufacturers with the flexibility to keep up with changing consumer tastes.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization.  Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad.  For more information, visit nclnet.org.

Food safety tips this holiday season

By Ryan Barhoush, Food and Nutrition Program Associate

As we are gearing up for this upcoming holiday season, food safety  is something important to keep in mind. If this is your first time or even your 20th being the Thanksgiving head chef, it is always good to review some simple safety tips in the kitchen. There is nothing worse than getting your relatives sick…unless that is the only way to get your uncle to stop talking about politics at the table. Just kidding, of course. Here are some food safety recommendations from National Consumers League for Turkey Day tomorrow. Happy Holidays!

Roasting a Turkey this year? Don’t be intimidated but keep these ideas in mind.

  • Keep poultry separated from other items in the fridge.
  • If brining a turkey, make sure it is properly secured or in a cooler away from your other food items. Be careful of spillage or drippings from contaminating other items.
  • If thawing a frozen turkey in the fridge, allow about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of Turkey
  • Never thaw a turkey by just laying it out on the counter, this could lead to bacteria growth, even if it is frozen.
  • You can thaw in cold water, keep it in a bag to prevent contamination, and change the water every 30 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes per pound to defrost a frozen turkey.
  • Remember to wash your hands before and after handling the turkey. Every time!
  • Use separate cutting boards and scrub with warm, soapy water after use.
  • Use a thermometer and make sure your turkey has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Frying a turkey? Don’t be scared but be aware of the risks!

  • Never leave oil unattended, even a small amount of oil reaching a lit flame can cause a large fire.
  • Make sure your turkey is dry and completely thawed! Pat dry the inside and the outside of the turkey. Any kind of moisture can cause combustion when in contact with oil.
  • Do not overfill the fryer with oil. Pre-test the oil levels with something in the same weight range as your turkey.
  • Always fry a turkey outside, away from the house, and on level surfaces.
  • Keep children and animals away from the fryer, even after use, as oil can remain hot for hours.
  • Remember that the sides and handles will be dangerously hot.
  • Have an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby.

Besides the turkey, here are few more things to keep your eye on in the kitchen.

  • Be mindful of the “danger zone”. Bacteria and germs can grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees.
  • Keep warm food with warm food and cold food with cold food!
  • Don’t leave out any food past two hours
  • Don’t put warm leftovers away in the fridge
  • Follow these steps and enjoy a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

NCL Director of Health Policy testifies at Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights on how consolidation in the marketplace harms consumers

June 16, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, the National Consumers League’s Director of Health Policy Jeanette Contreras provided oral testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights on how consolidation in the marketplace harms consumers.

In her testimony, Ms. Contreras discussed the importance of consumers having choices for safe goods and services at a fair price, a core principle of NCL’s advocacy work. Touching on several issues impacting consumers in the U.S. – such as the infant formula shortage, consolidation of the airline industry, primary ticketing market for live events, and the unfair business practices of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) – Ms. Contreras reiterated the need for competition in the marketplace and enacting stronger antitrust laws, all of which help protect U.S. consumers.

Her testimony appears below.

June 15, 2022

Good afternoon Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Lee, and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Jeanette Contreras. I am the Director of Health Policy at the National Consumers League. I appreciate the opportunity to testify remotely today- due to COVID.

Founded in 1899, NCL is America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization. A core principle of our advocacy is that the marketplace should encourage competition to guarantee that consumers have choices for safe goods and services at a fair price. Monopolies harm competition, leaving consumers with fewer options at higher prices. Monopolistic practices are especially harmful when they occur in the health care arena, where they can exacerbate health disparities.

We share the concerns of new parents regarding the recent shortage of infant formula. Our hearts go out to those parents who have lost babies or whose infants suffered devastating health consequences from contaminated formula. At NCL, we believe all goods and services sold to consumers should be safe and meet all legal requirements- including regulatory guidelines set forth by the FDA.

NCL applauds the FDA and the Administration for adopting a multifaceted approach to increase the supply of infant formula, including temporarily allowing foreign manufacturers to sell their products in the U.S. Additionally, we believe invoking the Defense Production Act to prioritize getting needed inputs to infant formula manufacturers was sound policy. These measures are helping to solve the immediate logistical problem of getting formula onto store shelves across the country.

While addressing the immediate formula shortage is most urgent, we are also troubled that it took the FDA almost four months to act on a whistleblower complaint sent to the agency. This complaint should have received immediate attention given the gravity of the allegations against the Abbott facility. We support a full investigation and, if warranted, bringing criminal and civil charges against those who falsified data. NCL also recommends that the U.S. create a single food safety agency and dedicate an office to overseeing the safety and supply of infant formula.

It should concern every American that one manufacturer controls 40% of the U.S. infant formula market. Only three companies — Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestle — control 98% of the industry.

Consolidation in the infant formula industry is a major contributor to the current crisis, but it is only one of many cases where market concentration in recent decades has limited competition and harmed consumers.

For example, NCL continues to raise concerns about the consolidation of the airline industry. Due to weak enforcement of existing antitrust laws, from 2005 to 2015, the number of major U.S. airlines declined from nine to four. And today they control more than 80 percent of the domestic U.S. market.

Our antitrust laws have also failed to protect consumers who attend live events. After merging with Ticketmaster in 2010, Live Nation Entertainment controls roughly 80% of the primary ticketing market in the U.S. As anyone who has purchased tickets recently can attest, this has led to an increase in add-fees and the basic price of tickets.

Stronger antitrust enforcement would be especially beneficial for curtailing anti-competitive conduct in the health care industry, where we’ve seen consolidation lead to higher costs for consumers without an increase in quality or access to care. We are pleased that the Biden administration is looking into how hospital prices increase after acquisitions. We are also hopeful that the ongoing review of DOJ & FTC merger enforcement guidelines will result in more action by those agencies.

NCL also applauds the recent FTC decision to open an investigation into the unfair business practices of pharmacy benefit managers or PBMs. NCL works tirelessly to raise awareness of the outsized role that PBMs play in driving up prescription drug prices for consumers. According to a recent report, the three biggest PBMs controlled roughly 77% of all U.S. prescription drug claims in 2020. And a recent Senate Finance Committee report found some PBMs are getting a 70% rebate on insulin, while out-of-pocket costs for this life-saving medication continue to rise.

These cases are just a few examples of how monopolies and anti-competitive practices have become a problem for consumers. To ensure crises like today’s formula shortage do not happen again, market consolidation must be addressed so that the temporary shutdown of a single factory does not result in the collapse of an entire supply chain.

Whether it is baby formula, airline travel, live event tickets, or pharmaceutical sales, the lack of competition is having increasingly negative impacts on consumer welfare and requires urgent action.

Chairwoman Klobuchar, Ranking Member Lee, thank you for holding today’s hearing and inviting NCL to speak about this important issue. I look forward to answering your questions.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

NCL issues recommendations to avoid another baby formula shortage

May 19, 2022

Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, katie@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, D.C. – The National Consumers League shares the very real concerns of new parents regarding the recent shortage of infant formula. Our hearts also go out to parents who have lost babies due to contaminated powdered formula and those whose infants suffered devastating health consequences from the contaminated product.

We appreciate the FDA’s multifaceted approach to increase infant formula supply, including allowing foreign manufacturers of baby formula to sell their products in the U.S. Additionally, the Biden Administration has implemented the Defense Production Act, which will be important in increasing production by requiring suppliers to prioritize getting needed inputs to the infant formula manufacturers. Initiating the DPA also allows the Administration to use Department of Defense contracts with commercial cargo lines to speed the transport of foreign products into the U.S. and onto store shelves across the country. These actions are critical steps in combatting this formula shortage issue.  We applaud Congress for supporting emergency legislation to address the formula shortage.

However, while addressing the shortage is the most pressing issue, first and foremost, the responsibility lies with the Abbott facility in Michigan whose reckless actions set events into motion. Abbott failed to follow safety protocols, falsified documents to the FDA and then shipped contaminated formula exposing our most vulnerable little consumers to foodborne illnesses. Those actions triggered an FDA investigation and subsequent recall, leading to the current shortage.

We are also troubled that the FDA, for its part, took almost two months to act on the whistleblower complaint sent to the agency in October 2021. That report cited unsanitary conditions, contamination of formula, and serious allegations against company officials at the Abbott Facility in Michigan. This complaint should have received immediate attention given the vulnerability of infants, whose immune systems are just developing. This plant is also responsible for producing a great deal of the formula sold to federal WIC program. (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). We think both civil and criminal charges are in order. The shortage demands that the FDA source infant formula from countries already approved for importing formula. It’s also time to create a single food safety agency and create an office to oversee the safety and supply of infant formula.

A summary of NCL’s recommendations include:

  1. Immediate sourcing of infant formula from countries that are already approved to import the product
  2. Opening the Abbott plant once the FDA can reach an agreement with the company to ensure production of infant formula will be under strictest safety and quality control.
  3. A full investigation of the Abbott facility, and criminal and civil charges brought against those who falsified data or knowingly allowed the shipment of contaminated formula
  4. Expansion of the number of companies making infant formula
  5. Creation of a single food safety agency and appointment of a baby formula safety and supply chain expert

Infants are our most vulnerable and precious consumers and they rely on us to protect them. We have let them down and safety provisions must be put in place to ensure that this never happens again. NCL stands ready to work with Congress, consumers, businesses, and the FDA to ensure the safety of infant formula is never compromised again.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL) 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

Meatpacking workers, consumers safeguarded by House measure to overhaul pork line speed rule

June 5, 2019

Amendment blocks the USDA from issuing final rule on swine inspection, pending OIG study to support food safety rules

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC The National Consumers League (NCL) is commending Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and David Price (D-NC) for teaming up to offer an amendment to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s misguided and hazardous proposed rule to strip all speed limits at pig slaughterhouses and to force transparency around its flawed process. The removal of limits could allow slaughterhouses to handle a mind-boggling 1,300 or more pigs per hour and risk improper stun-gunning of livestock in the rush to process them quickly, endangering workers’ safety, public health, and animal welfare.

“Even at current line speeds, pork slaughter and processing workers face many job risks that can lead to severe injury, illness, and death. Meatpacking workers in hog slaughter plants work in cold, wet, noisy, and slippery conditions, making tens of thousands of forceful repetitive motions on each shift. Meatpacking workers are injured at 2.4 times the rate of other industries and they face illness rates at 17 times the rate of other industries,” wrote members of Congress in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The proposed rule would also turn over inspection responsibilities to company employees, allow slaughterhouses to define their own microbiological criteria for food safety performance, and usher in comprehensive reforms to longstanding inspection practices without a reliable means of evaluating their efficacy.

The “modernization” of the Swine Slaughter Inspection System will not lead to safer food. Eliminating line speed limits makes it harder for federal meat inspectors and workers in plants to do their jobs. Ultimately, this means it will be less safe for consumers to eat pork.

The amendment blocks funding for implementation of the rule until the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts an investigation of all data used by the USDA to develop the proposal. Previously, this data, including worker-safety data was not publicly disclosed until after the closure of the public review and comment period for the proposed rule. The Amendment mandates that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service fully address and resolve the issues raised by the OIG before the funding hold can be lifted.

NCL is deeply grateful for the leadership of Reps. DeLauro and Price and wishes for the Senate to sustain this vital amendment.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL statement on FDA’s draft rule to publicize the identity of food retail consignees following Class I recall

September 26, 2018

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League commends Commissioner Scott Gottleib, MD, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for releasing a draft rule on September 26, 2018, that would publicize the names and locations of food retail consignee (i.e., establishment) that have issued a recall due to a food safety risk or the confirmed presence of a food contaminant. Previously, FDA has worked with companies to identify the specific contaminated product or brand, but has refrained from publicizing food distribution or retail information such as store names and locations due to commercial confidentiality concerns. Today’s move represents a step forward for consumers, removing the information burden previously placed onto consumers wishing to protect themselves and their families from contaminated food.

While the rule represents a good first step, NCL believes the FDA could go further in what the rule will cover. For instance, FDA should publicize the retail establishments for all recalls, not only Class I (serious injury or death), as the rule is currently written. The other two classes of recalls, Class II (serious injury or temporary illness), and Class III (unlikely to cause illness or injury but violate federal rules), should also be included in this rule. Further, FDA should include restaurants in the types of retail consignees covered in the draft rule. Currently, it covers grocery stores, pet food stores, and convenience stores that can receive orders in store or online, as well as direct delivery or third-party delivery service.

NCL commends FDA for this effort. The draft rule is open to public comments for 60 days, after which the Administration will evaluate consumer and retailer feedback, issuing proposed guidance.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Chipotle’s misdirected food safety efforts – National Consumers League

92_chipotle_stock_photo.jpgBy Ali Schklair, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow 

Back in August, Chipotle launched its ‘G-M-Over it’ campaign. In the name of food safety, it pledged to eliminate all genetically modified ingredients from its food supply. But the hype didn’t last long. By September, Chipotle was facing a class-action lawsuit challenging the validity of their GMO ban. Plaintiffs argued that the meat and dairy products served at the chain come from animals that feed on GMO corn and soy, not to mention the corn syrup used in Chipotle’s juices and soft drinks.

Fast-forward to December, and Chipotle was being linked to numerous foodborne illness outbreaks. Over a six-month period, 500 people were sickened and 20 were hospitalized from norovirus, salmonella, or one of two different strains of E. coli. 2016 isn’t looking much better for Chipotle. A federal grand jury has served the company with a subpoena asking for documents relating to the norovirus outbreak at a Simi Valley, CA location. At this point, it is safe to say that Chipotle has greatly misdirected its food safety efforts.

Outbreaks at restaurants are serious. In 1993 an E. Coli outbreak at the fast food restaurant Jack In The Box infected 732 people. The bacterium originated from undercooked beef patties in hamburgers. The outbreak involved 73 Jack In The Box restaurants in CaliforniaIdahoWashington, and Nevada and has been described as “far and away the most infamous food poison outbreak in contemporary history.” Four children died, and 178 other victims were left with permanent injury, including kidney and brain damage. The FDA implemented new guidelines and regulations after the Jack In The Box tragedy, including setting temperatures for cooking beef to destroy pathogens.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 48 million Americans are infected by foodborne diseases each year. Consumers are twice as likely to get sick from food prepared at a restaurant. Since pathogens can grow and spread anywhere throughout the supply chain, it’s often hard to track the source of an outbreak. When restaurants have multiple supply sources, as does Chipotle, it is even harder to identify the origin. As discussed in a recent New Yorker article, “while Chipotle has said that it is introducing more stringent testing and reassessing its food-handling practices, its reliance on local suppliers means that the task of insuring the integrity of its supply chain will be harder.” Not only will Chipotle have to revamp its food safety protocols, but it may also need to reconsider its entire local sourcing model—something that is a draw for many devoted Chipotle customers.

Where does that leave consumers who eat out? The CDC suggests taking these four precautionary steps when picking a restaurant or dining out:

  1. Check inspection scores. Search online to see how the restaurant scored on their state health department health inspection.
  2. Make sure the restaurant is clean. Look around to see how used plates and utensils are handled. If you can see it, notice how food is being prepared and how cooking spaces are cleaned.
  3. Check that your food is cooked properly. Look at your meat to determine whether it is cooked thoroughly, and send it back if it appears too pink or raw in texture.
  4. Handle your leftovers properly. Refrigerate leftovers no more than an hour after leaving the restaurant. Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days, and discard if you see signs of deterioration – like mold or a bad smell or texture – on leftovers.

The CDC and Food Safety News offer plenty more helpful information about avoiding food borne illness.

NCL’s visit to Corto Olive: An examination of true EVOO production – National Consumers League

corto.jpgBy Ali Schklair, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow 

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a fairly recent addition to the American kitchen. Due to the popularity of the Mediterranean diet and the promotion of “healthy fats,” many consumers are now opting for EVOO as their primary cooking oil. Over the past few decades, olive oil producers worldwide have scrambled to keep up with increasing consumer demand. Unfortunately, the majority of “extra virgin olive oil” available to consumers is not truly EVOO.

Results of a 2010 UC Davis EVOO study found that approximately 69 percent of imported oil labeled “extra virgin olive oil” is mislabeled. An emphasis on imported oils is important for two reasons: one, imported extra virgin olive oil dominates 97 percent of the EVOO market in the United States; two, there are no federally mandated quality standards for imported products in the United States. As a result, we are left with an unregulated EVOO market that is inundated with low quality olive oil.

In this industry, fraud starts in the fields. This fall, NCL’s Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow Ali Schklair visited Corto Olive, a family-run olive oil company based in Lodi, California. There was something distinctly different about the olive trees at Corto. Instead of large and looming, these trees were trim, contained, and steadied by lean trunks. Schklair later learned that the shape and positioning of these trees is the reason Corto is able produce such high quality oil.

Traditionally, olives were picked by hand, making the harvesting process tedious and time consuming. As imported EVOO gained popularity in the U.S., many of the companies abroad did not have enough labor to satisfy demand. Without time to inspect each olive, oil producers started waiting for olives to rot and fall to the ground. The fruit (and the dirt, sticks, and leaves along with it) could then be easily raked up and sent to the mill. To mask the rancidity, oil is often refined, mixed with small amounts of good oil, and even altered in color and consistency. Rotting fruit, refining, and the mixing of oils mean that this oil is no longer high quality EVOO. Still, the manipulated product is shipped off to the U.S., too often falsely stamped with the “extra virgin olive oil” label.

In 1990, farmers in Spain developed an alternative harvesting system that allows olives to be picked at peak freshness. The “super high-density method” has olive trees planted and pruned close together so a special harvesting machine-not able to fit around traditional trees-can easily fit between rows.  The best producers in the U.S., like Corto, have adopted this method in order to provide higher quality oil than their international counterparts.

Once olives are harvested, they are brought to the mill for sorting and washing. Unlike most mills, Corto uses a special sorting machine called the “optical sorter” to remove only undesirable materials from the batch. This technology is used in other aspects of food processing, but Corto is the first to use it for olive oil. Corto’s use of the high-density method and an optical sorter is unique and ensures their oil is fresh and authentically extra virgin.

Extra virgin olive oil has gained popularity in the U.S. because of its many health benefits, which are real and important. But with such high instances of adulteration, it’s safe to assume that most consumers aren’t really getting what they pay for. So, how can consumers know if the oil they buy is truly extra virgin? Unfortunately, it’s hard to know for certain because most of our palates are not trained to recognize the real thing.

Throughout Europe, especially in the Mediterranean, olive oil is used as commonly as salt and pepper in the U.S. Understandably, taste is very important. In the U.S., products labeled “extra virgin olive oil” are mostly used in cooking, making it easier for lower quality oil to fly under the radar. Tom Mueller, author of the book Extra Virginity, offers information and tips on his website to help consumers make more informed choices. Using resources like this, and by putting a higher value on taste, consumers can learn to shop for higher quality oil and actually reap the benefits they seek. There are a number of honest, high quality EVOO brands on the market, including Corto. Please see NCL’s EVOO testing results here.

Turkey day safety tips – National Consumers League

Untitled-1.jpgThe holidays are fast approaching and whatever your family’s traditions, they are sure in involve large quantities of food. With all that food comes food safety risks. Here are a few tips to make sure your family has a safe holiday season. From NCL to your table, we hope you have a great holiday season!

 

Turkey Tips

Defrost: Don’t leave your bird out overnight! Plan to defrost in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird.  If you don’t have time for that, defrost your bird in a cold water bath changing the water every 30 minutes. This method should take about 30 minutes per pound to defrost. 

Preparation: Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t wash the bird before cooking it. Doing so only spreads germs to other foods, utensils and surfaces. If you plan on stuffing the turkey, don’t do so until right before cooking as harmful bacteria can being to grow in stuffing left to sit inside the turkey for long periods.  

Cooking: Turkeys, especially large ones, can take a long time to cook so make sure you allow plenty of time for your bird to be completely cooked. The internal temperature should be 165⁰F. Check the temperature of the bird at multiple locations; you want to make sure the coldest part has reached the appropriate temperature. If you have stuffed your bird, check it to make sure the stuffing has reached 165⁰F as well. Even if your turkey comes with a pop up thermometer, double check the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it’s done.

Bacteria Free Buffets

The first step to serving safe food throughout the holidays, or any time, is to ensure you thoroughly wash your hands before and after handling food. Always use clean plates, not those that previously held raw meat or poultry as they can cross contaminate the food you are serving with bacteria. The same is true for cutting boards and other surfaces prepared foods touch, like counters. 

Ensure that all food is cooked thoroughly reaching safe minimum internal temperatures.  All poultry needs to be cooked to at least 165⁰F.   Beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to 145⁰F if they are intact and 160⁰F if they are ground.  Storing foods in shallow containers allows them to cool or freeze quickly and evenly.  When reheating hot foods for a buffet keep them in the oven with the temperature set around 200-250⁰F until they are ready to be served. 

If possible when food is put out for the buffet, keep hot foods at 140⁰F or warmer and cool foods at 40⁰F or cooler.  For hot foods, this can be done with slow cookers, warming trays and chafing dishes.  Cold foods can be nested in dishes over ice. 

Leftovers

Put all leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.  For most efficient cooling, store large amounts of leftovers in several smaller containers.  Leftovers should be stored at 40⁰F or 4.4⁰C or frozen at 0⁰F or -17.7⁰C.  Make sure containers are sealed and keep refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen if you plan on keeping them longer.  Reheat hot foods to 165⁰F.

Stay Active

As we all know, the holidays can be a difficult time to maintain a healthy diet.  Studies have shown that while holiday weight gain isn’t as dramatic as we think, it can contribute to weight gain over a lifetime.  Most people gain about one pound over the holiday season which is a rather manageable amount.  That doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself some of the best food you’ll have all year, instead make sure you stay active and eat everything in moderation.  It might be cold but there are plenty of fun winter activities such as ice skating, skiing, sledding or even taking a brisk walk that can help you stay active throughout the holidays. 

More Questions?

For Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season you can download The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) free app called “Ask Karen” that has answers in both English and Spanish for any food safety question you might have.  As always, the USDA will have its bilingual Meat and Poultry Hotline available Monday through Friday, 10a.m. to 4 p.m.  You can call in toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

From everyone here at NCL, we hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season!

After 80 years, the FDA updates food-safety regulations – National Consumers League

food.jpgBy Ali Schklair, Linda Golodner Food Safety & Nutrition Fellow 

In 1938, Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C). Regulated by the FDA, the law set safety standards for the manufacturing and distribution of food, drugs, and cosmetics. But, our food (drug and cosmetic) system has changed dramatically since the 1930s. 

Today, most of our raw and processed foods come from industrial farms. The popularity of frozen and prepackaged foods has skyrocketed. And imported foods account for 15 percent of the US food supply, including almost 50 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of fresh vegetables. While everything from farming practices to eating habits has evolved since the 1930s, the FDA has followed the same safety standards implemented almost a century ago.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was first enacted in 2011, is a breakthrough for food safety in the US.  On Thursday, September 10th, 2015, the final preventive control rules for human and animal food were released. These rules are a critical piece of FSMA’s prevention-based approach to improving food safety. Additional rules addressing produce safety and food imports are expected to be finalized and released by the end of October. Once all rules are in effect, the US will have a food safety oversight system that requires producers and processors to take preemptive action against the growth and spread of pathogens.

A focus on prevention reflects how food policy and public health frameworks have shifted in America. Instead of relying on reactive interventions, today, health initiatives focus on identifying and preventing hazards before they reach the public. Prevention strategies are used to address public health problems like the flu, obesity, lung cancer, and now foodborne illness.

But, FSMA will only be successful in carrying out these preventive measures if the FDA has access to adequate funding. Currently, the House and Senate appropriations bills for the 2016 fiscal year do not meet funding needs. The Food Safety Modernization Act has the potential to overhaul our current food safety regulatory system, which will hopefully lead to less food contamination and less foodborne illnesses. However, without sufficient funding, we could be stuck with the same antiquated system for another eighty years.