Food Safety Resources

Find out how to safely buy, store, and prepare food.

Baby Food and Infant Formula

Report Baby Food Problems

If a baby gets sick from baby food or infant formula, contact a medical professional for help immediately. Other babies may be in danger if they eat food from the same source. You can report the incident to the following government programs so they can investigate the problem and act if necessary:

  • Infant formula: Use the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form or call 1-800-332-1088. You can submit the form even if you don't know the answer to every question.
  • Baby food: Contact your nearest FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.
  • Meat or poultry: Call the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555.

Keep Baby Food Safe

Babies can get sick if their food or drink is handled incorrectly and it becomes contaminated with bacteria. 

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Food Inspection and Grading

Food inspection and grading are two separate programs conducted by government agencies to make sure food is safe, wholesome (intended for human consumption), and correctly labeled and packaged. Learn about the guidelines that the government follows in inspecting and grading food.

Inspection

Food inspections are mandatory, and are mainly divided between two federal agencies.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects and regulates:

  • Seafood
  • Dairy
  • Eggs in their shells
  • Fruits, vegetables and other non-meat food products
  • Pet and farm animal feed
  • Bottled water

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects and regulates:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Egg products (eggs that have been removed from the shell for further processing)

Grading

Food producers or processors request and pay for quality grading, which is voluntary. Grading for quality means that inspectors judge traits related to tenderness, juiciness, and flavor of meat. For poultry, quality  is judged by a normal shape that is fully fleshed, meaty, and free of defects. Grading services often operate cooperatively with state departments of agriculture.

Each food product has different standards that determine quality grading:

 

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Food Labels

The  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food labels on most prepared foods, such as breads, cereals, canned and frozen foods, snacks, desserts, and drinks. Nutrition labeling for raw produce (fruits and vegetables) and fish is voluntary.

To help you make better-informed food choices, the FDA is proposing Nutrition Facts label updates for most food packages in the U.S.

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Food Safety and Recalls

Food Safety

Food safety in the home revolves around food storage, food handling, and cooking food properly to avoid getting sick from contamination from bacteria.

Learn about the basics of food safety:

If you have a food safety question:

  • AskKaren.gov provides information for consumers about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products 24 hours a day.
  • The Meat and Poultry Hotline can answer your food safety questions. You may contact the hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or e-mail them at mphotline.fsis@usda.gov.
  • The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition provides information on seafood, bottled water, infant formulas, and more through their hotline at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366).

Food Recalls

A recall is a voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to protect the public from products that may cause health problems:

  • Visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website for food recalls, withdrawals, and alerts involving:
    • Seafood, fruits, vegetables and other non-meat food products
    • Pet and farm animal feed
  • Visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) website for food recalls and alerts involving:
    • Meat
    • Poultry products
    • Eggs

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Organic Food

The National Organic Program (NOP) governs all aspects of organic food production, processing, delivery, and retail sale. In general, the NOP allows all natural substances in organic production and prohibits all synthetic substances.

What is 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA organic standards and 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.

How to check if it's organic

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.

How to File Complaint

If you think their is an organic food that is not meeting USDA standards, you can:

Who to Contact

If you need more information about organic food:

 

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Prevent and Respond to Food Poisoning

Prevent Food Borne Illness

Each year, about one in six Americans becomes sick from food poisoning. Although most will recover without any lasting problems, some types of food poisoning can lead to kidney failure, chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage, and even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the most common food borne illnesses.

By following four simple steps, you can help to avoid food poisoning at home:

  • Clean: wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate: don't cross-contaminate raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs with other ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook: use a food thermometer to ensure you've cooked to the right temperature.
  • Chill: refrigerate food within two hours of cooking and never thaw foods on the counter.

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 or below 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. 

FoodSafety.gov is a gateway to a wealth of food safety information provided by government agencies, including the latest information about food recalls.

Respond to Food Borne Illness

If you believe someone became sick while eating a certain food:

  • Call 911 if they are in immediate danger.
  • Contact your local health department to report the food poisoning.
  • Ask food safety questions about meat, poultry, and processed egg products by calling the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Or, e-mail them at MPHotline.fsis@usda.gov.
  • Get food safety information about fruits, vegetables, seafood, shelled eggs, and other non-meat food products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by calling 1-888-SAFE-FOOD (1-888-723-3366).

 

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