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National Food Safety Starts on the Farm

by 5m Editor
25 February 2008, at 2:04pm

TENNESSEE - It's right to be disturbed by any suggestion that our food supply could be compromised, says Ken Givens, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. However, such incidents, should not be blown out of proportion as the livestock industry and food manufacturing sectors are otherwise healthy and safe

In an article for the Tennessean.com, Givens champions Tennessee's livestock producers, saying that they are most proficient and conscientious in the US. The state is top-ranked in the Southeast in the number of producers who have voluntarily registered for the National Animal Identification System, a new tool to trace livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.

However, he says that food safety is a vast partnership among consumers, the industry, and federal, state and local agencies.

"While USDA has primary responsibility for meat-processing inspections, in Tennessee our department licenses and inspects nearly 9,000 retail food stores, 800 food manufacturers, 475 food warehouses, 25 dairy processing plants and 570 dairy farms to ensure sanitation and proper food handling at every level," he adds.

Reminded Assurance

While the recent beef recall serves as a reminder for everyone - consumers, processors and producers alike - to be vigilant in all areas of food safety, the pubic must retain confidence in the food supply and the systems that help keep it safe, says Mr Givens.

He says that Food safety is everyone's responsibility, and it starts on the farm.

"In Tennessee, through the Ag Enhancement Program established by Gov. Phil Bredesen and supported by the General Assembly, we are helping livestock producers improve animal health through best-management practices. We're expanding animal diagnostic services statewide to better detect and identify animal diseases that can affect human health and food safety," he explains.

And government agencies have a responsibility to continually update practices to meet changing technology and increasing demand for food products of all types, too. Consumers also have a vital responsibility, with regard to proper food storage, preparation and handling techniques used in the home - they are essential food safety practices.

The recall on beef product has toughened Tennessee's stance on food safety. Its agencies have been working with school systems across the state since January to ensure that any product affected by the incident was promptly identified and removed from food service.

School food administrators were quick to respond and there have been no illnesses associated with this recall. The US Department of Agriculture described this action as precautionary.

The state Agriculture Department distributes millions of pounds of USDA surplus commodities valued at more than $21 million annually to Tennessee's school lunch program and to charitable institutions. We continue to believe in the safety of and are committed to distributing only quality, wholesome products.

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