Something to think about when you tuck into your Thanksgiving feast: food safety does not begin at home, it begins in the field and farm.
Responsible growers of produce fertilize, harvest, pack and ship in accordance with accepted standards of cleanliness. Those who raise and pack beef, pork and poultry closely manage their operations to assure healthy, wholesome meat is processed.
Unfortunately, USDA reports show that 1 in 6 Americans (48 million) will experience a food borne illness each year, resulting in as many as 3,000 deaths.
The Threat of Foodborne Illness
Pathogens, the microorganisms that cause disease, can find their way from food processing equipment to the shelves of our grocery stores. In the worst cases, these pathogens make it to our tables.
For our wonderful Thanksgiving turkeys and other poultry, food safety starts in the breeder operations. Live chickens must be monitored for illness and are swabbed to test for the presence of respiratory illness. Only healthy birds are deemed suitable for market, but because bacteria can be found virtually everywhere, it's impossible for even inspected meat to be sterile.
Dairy farmers have long been concerned with ensuring their products are wholesome. The theory that germs caused disease had gained wide acceptance by the 1880s and within five years, milk was being routinely tested. Even with computerized milking systems and other technological advancements, this industry still requires routine testing today.
Assuring the sanitation of fresh produce is even more involved. Food safety measures must be taken in the field before the crops are planted. Raw greens and vegetables can carry pathogens from fertilizers, field workers, and transportation vehicles.
If undetected and unchecked, pathogenic contamination can become well-established in food processing operations. The result? An outbreak that sickens countless people and loses money for growers and farmers.
How We Defend Against Foodborne Illness
Observing standards of cleanliness and handling is the first step to minimizing contamination.
To be sure this critical step is effective, processors develop strict specimen collection protocol, called Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure (SSOP), that's specific to their business. Trained technicians monitor every area of the operation—warehouses, conveyor systems, countertops, walls, scales, and even drains and vents.
Consistent monitoring can both confirm cleanliness or identify and control a contaminating pathogen. Puritan’s specimen collection devices for environmental sampling have been an answer for beverage bottlers. A nationally-recognized snack food producer also includes Puritan’s EnviroMax sampling kits as part of its testing protocol in multiple plants across the country.
“Farm-to-fork” is a phrase used to describe the steps in the food supply chain, stringing from production to your table. Right in the middle of this chain is the critical link: protection through environmental sampling. Before you pick up your fork this Thanksgiving, a holiday we celebrate by sharing a meal with loved ones, maybe give thanks for food sanitation!
To learn more about the proper food safety testing methods, download our environmental surface testing checklist below.