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Food Safety and Labels

To help you make healthy food choices, the federal government posts dietary guidelines. Federal regulations also require many foods to identify fat content, fiber and nutrients on their labels.

Food safety in the home revolves around three main functions: food storage, food handling, and cooking. Most experts agree that practicing a few simple rules focused on cleaning, separating, and cooking can prevent most food-borne illness in the home. The storage and cooking temperatures of food are also important factors in keeping your food safe. Food needs to be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit to keep bacteria from growing. In addition, meats should be cooked to a safe temperature - 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry and 160 degrees Fahrenheit for beef. The website foodsafety.gov. is your gateway to government food safety information including publications you can download or request. You can also visit recalls.gov for the latest food safety alerts and recalls.

For more information, here are some additional resources:

Organic Food

Buying organic food is a way to eat in a healthy manner and protect the environment. These foods are grown and processed according to USDA regulations and follow specific rules concerning pest control, raising animals, and the use of additives. Keep in mind that organic and natural foods tend to be more expensive than conventionally grown foods, and that the USDA does not claim that organic food is safer or more nutritious than other foods.
To make sure a product is certified organic, look for the USDA organic seal. You can also tell whether produce was grown organically by checking the price look up code (PLU); if the first number starts with a 4, then the food was grown conventionally, if it starts with a 9, it was grown organically.
Other common labels that help you choose certain types of organic food products include:

  • Free-Range or Cage-Free. The flock was provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and the outdoors during its production cycle.
  • Natural. As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients.
  • Grass-Fed. Grass-fed animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life, while organic animals’ pasture diet may be supplemented with grain.

Contact the Agricultural Marketing Service for more information about organic foods.