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New York State Recognizes World Food Safety Day
New York Ag Connection - 06/10/2019

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Health announced World Food Safety Day recognized Friday. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in late 2018, creating the first-ever World Food Safety Day to draw attention and direct educational efforts to reducing the approximately 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses that occur annually across the globe. The Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Health are at the forefront of food safety efforts in New York State with a vast network of food safety inspectors that inspect New York's retail food establishments, food manufacturing plants and restaurants, as well as state-of-the art laboratories committed to protecting and improving the health of New Yorkers through laboratory analysis, investigation and research, as well as laboratory certification.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "World Food Safety Day provides a great opportunity to educate consumers about the importance of food safety and protecting against foodborne illness. From on-farm visits to inspections of our retail food stores, the Department works hard every day to help keep New York State's food supply safe. We urge consumers and businesses throughout the State to handle, store, and prepare foods with care and help reduce foodborne illness."

Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Ensuring the safety of the food we prepare at home for our families or enjoy while dining out is a priority for the Department of Health. On National Food Safety Day and every day, we encourage New Yorkers to take simple steps to protect themselves, and we continue our robust food service inspection program in conjunction with local health departments across the state."

Ahead of World Food Safety Day, New York was working to highlight and increase awareness about the importance of food safety-- from farm to table --through education and food safety tips for consumers. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year in the U.S. alone, 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Norovirus and Salmonella are the number one and two germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the U.S. Additionally, CDC reports that food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 4% to 6% of children in the U.S. Mislabeled food products, mostly due to undeclared allergens, are one of the leading causes by incident of recalls in the U.S.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets' Division of Food Safety and Inspection (FSI) works to ensure that New York State's human and animal food supplies are safe to consume through a multi-faceted approach. Staff are responsible for inspecting New York's food establishments in every corner of the State, including grocery stores, food processing plants, and more. During inspections, trained food inspectors proactively look for issues that could lead to foodborne illness, such as those that involve the food source and condition, food processing and storage temperatures, sanitary practices of food workers, among others.

In 2018, the Division conducted more than 30,000 inspections, collected over 2,500 food products for analysis by the Department's Food Laboratory, investigated more than 2,700 consumer complaints, and verified product labeling on thousands of products, from fish to baked goods. Last year, the Division was involved in nearly 2,200 cases where food product needed to be seized due to undeclared ingredients, live pathogens or some other type of contamination. The Division received recognition by the FDA for its work in several investigations and recalls of food products contaminated with heavy metals and industrial dyes. The Division works closely with the Department's Food Laboratory, which is critical to the Department's food safety efforts. The scientists at the Food Laboratory analyzed and tested over 15,000 samples and performed approximately 52,000 analytical tests on food and beverage products in 2018. Many of these tests resulted in Class 1, 2 or 3 food recalls.

To ensure the safety of our State's dairy products, the Department also employs dozens of dairy products specialists who annually conduct approximately 8,000 inspections of farms and dairy processing plants for compliance with sanitation requirements and standards of identity. The specialists sample nearly 14,600 dairy products that are sent to the Department's Food Laboratory for analysis. In addition, almost 4,100 dairy farms are inspected by more than 88 certified milk inspectors (CMI's) who watch for sanitary conditions of the farm, the health of the cows, and the health of individuals working on the farm.

The New York State Department of Health's Bureau of Community Environmental Health works to protect public health by assuring that food service establishments are operated in a manner that eliminates hazards through design and management, resulting in a decreased incidence of foodborne illness in communities. The Bureau's Food Protection Program and Outbreak Investigation and Research Section also coordinates foodborne outbreak investigations, analyzes the findings and uses this information to develop regulations and guidance designed to prevent similar outbreaks in the future.

There are more than 90,000 food service establishments in New York State. The Food Protection Program provides guidance and assistance to county and city health departments and State District Offices, which, in turn, permit and inspect food service establishments, some institutional food services, temporary and mobile food service establishments, and food and beverage vending machines.

Food service inspection data is available for inspections of restaurants, caterers and food service at schools, children's camps, some institutions and other facilities. Most food service inspections in New York State can be accessed through the health.data.ny.gov webpage.

The Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health's public health laboratory, assists during outbreaks of foodborne diseases and in cases where rapid response food testing for chemicals, radioactivity and biologics is required. In these cases, the Bacteriology lab tests food samples to link them with patient samples to identify the source of illness. This allows for recalls of tainted foods, dramatically limiting the spread of disease and impact on New Yorkers.

Wadsworth has developed numerous cutting-edge tests for the detection of food-related pathogens and has been a member of the FDA and USDA Food Emergency Response Network since its inception over 15 years ago, providing testing capability and capacity for biothreat agents, including Bacillus anthracis and ricin and chemical warfare agents in food samples. The Wadsworth Center is also the regional antimicrobial resistance network site for the northeast U.S. and provides antimicrobial resistance identification and characterization for foodborne pathogens such as E. coli. Typically, Wadsworth receives approximately 10,000 samples a year for testing of foodborne organisms.

For more information, visit the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Division of Food Safety and Inspection and the New York State Department of Health websites, and the CDC's website: www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html.

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