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September is Food Safety Education Month
USAgNet - 09/10/2018

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation this month, naming September National Food Safety Education Month. This month is dedicated to educating consumers on safe food handling practices, including how to properly handle, cook and store food to avoid foodborne illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) foodborne illness will cause 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year.

While not all bacteria present in food products is harmful (in fact, bacterial species are essential in production of fermented sausage products), some have the potential to cause severe illness in certain individuals. Hand washing is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness and is a critical step to avoid getting sick. In fact, a recent observational study showed that 97 percent of the time people did not properly wash their hands, thereby contaminating other parts of their kitchen. FSIS recommends that you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

FSIS will begin reporting whole genome sequencing (WGS) results for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in the agency's quarterly establishment information letters. In the Dec. 15, 2017 Constituent Update (CU), FSIS announced that effective Jan. 15, 2018, the agency was suspending Pulse Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis for Lm and would be generating pathogen characterization through WGS only. In the May 11, 2018 CU, FSIS announced its intention to include WGS information generated for Lm isolates in quarterly establishment information letters in the future.

In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) codes also called the 'allele designations' available to FSIS and the PulseNet laboratories. These codes or allele designations allow for comparisons between isolates to be made. FSIS has decided to include the MLST codes in the quarterly establishment information letters. The first set of quarterly establishment information letters that will include WGS for Lm isolates and the CDC MLST codes will be available in September 2018.

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