Each year, one out of every six Americans gets sick from food-borne illnesses. About 128,000 will be hospitalized, and about 3,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed in 2011 to try to lower these numbers, and 2016 marked the first year that all of the rules and regulations were finalized. However, recalls and illnesses continue to plague groceries, restaurants and home kitchens.
The FSMA was the first major federal overhaul of food safety since the law that created the Food and Drug Administration in 1938. Congress directed federal agencies to create most of the specific rules and regulations. The FDA, CDC and other agencies spent five years working with the public to iron out the details and create the policies that must be followed at each step of the chain, from farm to plate.
“The rules will work in concert with other components of the FSMA by preventing food safety problems before they occur,” said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, a deputy commissioner at the FDA. The FDA created rules for preventive controls for human and animal food, produce safety, transportation sanitation and preventing what the agency calls “intentional adulteration” — the threat that criminals and terrorists could find weaknesses in the current food safety system to cause massive public harm.
The FDA is only one part of the food safety system in the United States. More than 3,000 state and local agencies have food safety responsibilities for retail food, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Food service companies in Falcon are monitored by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and El Paso County Public Health.
Both agencies worked on the November 2016 hepatitis A contamination of frozen strawberries that affected several states, including three El Paso County restaurants. About 120 food-producing companies had recalls in 2015, according to Stericycle Expert Solutions. “Third quarter set another record for recall activity, due in large part to advancements in contamination testing,” said Ryan Gooley of Stericycle. “At the same time, regulators are becoming increasingly vigilant and provisions of the FSMA are being implemented.”
Recalls, testing and paperwork needed to comply with the FSMA will add up to about $2.2 billion in costs for the FDA itself, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Food producers and processors will spend about another $1 billion per year in compliance costs, according to the Grocery Manufacturer's Association, with much of that from smaller producers who don't have some of the procedures already in place at larger facilities.
Some of the interpretations on final rules are still being ironed out at the federal level. Some of those may have significant impacts on the local food movement in places like El Paso County. The use of certain kinds of soil amendments, agricultural water quality, presence of domestic or wild animals near produce fields will be applied to farms large and small between 2017 and 2020, based on total annual sales, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report in November 2016 to the congressional committees overseeing the rule-making process.
Farms that sell more than $25,000 of produce will be partially covered by the “Produce Rule” and will have to meet the regulatory requirements no later than 2020, depending on the size of the farm. The “Tester-Hagan Amendments,” named after senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kay Hagen (D-NC), added exemptions for farms with less than $500,000 in sales that primarily sell to individuals and retail food establishments within 275 miles of the farm.
Once food gets to a home kitchen, it is up to the family to maintain safe food handling practices. About 90 percent of salmonella infections happen because of improper food handling in home kitchens, according to a study by the National Institute for Health. “About 80 percent of suspect hamburgers in e-coli outbreaks in the United States were prepared and eaten at home,” said Dr. Elizabeth Scott in the study.
Hosts and guests at home-based parties like Super Bowl can stay safe by following certain basic food safety principles, which can make or break food safety issues regardless of legislation on how food is treated before it reaches the home.
Cold foods need to stay cold, and hot foods need to stay hot — all the way from preparation to eating. “A temperature of 41 degrees or less is important because it slows the growth of bacteria, and the less likely you will get sick,” according to El Paso County Public Health in its “Home Kitchen Self Inspection” checklist available on their website.
If perishable food is kept at room temperature for two hours, it should be thrown out. Since half-time of the Super Bowl may be more than two hours from the time the host cooks the food, the USDA recommends reheating cooked food to at least 165 degrees, then using heated chafing dishes, warming trays or slow cookers to keep hot food above 140 degrees while being served.
More food safety tips and recall notices can be found at http://foodsafety.gov.
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On Dec. 13, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 against an access permit for construction of a “right-in” ingress from Woodmen Road to the proposed Falcon Marketplace shopping center. Commissioners Mark Waller and Dennis Hisey voted in favor of the request, with Sallie Clark, Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton opposed.
Commissioner Peggy Littleton said she voted against the access permit because there are alternative access points. The proposed access site would have been from Woodmen Road as a right-in only at the southwest corner of the parcel near the existing terminus of the Woodmen Road frontage road.
Steve Meier with Hummel Investments LLC submitted the request at the BOCC meeting, and said the marketplace will be anchored by a King Soopers grocery store, with a junior anchor of a University of Colorado Health Facility and a stand-alone urgent care facility. Other potential businesses in the shopping center include Panda Express, PetSmart, Ace Hardware, Starbucks, Arby’s, Firestone and a Kum & Go, Meier said.
Meier said his company purchased the property in July 2016, after several failed attempts were made to develop the land. The site poses a few unique challenges to developers, aside from the access points, including the need for drainage structures and a detention pond, he said.
“Development upstream from this property is causing increased run-off,” Meier said. “The 2014 Falcon Drainage Basin planning study dictates that this property must have a regional detention pond on it. We are willing to construct the badly-needed detention pond and associated drainage structures that will solve the drainage problem. We are willing to do this very expensive scope of work with our own money until such time as we can be reimbursed by the regional drainage fund.”
The commissioners who voted to deny the access permit said the site already has two ingress/egress sites as follows: from the intersection of Meridian Road and Eastonville Road, where Eastonville will eventually be extended west, and the frontage road north of Woodmen Road.
Meier said the right-in access point is paramount to King Soopers' plans to build at the Falcon Marketplace site, adding that he doubts the corporate offices will approve its grocery store plans without the access point.