(Family Features) From understanding the role of antibiotics in animal and food production to implementing a safety strategy within your own home, a background on food safety is beneficial for every family.
To increase public knowledge on the matters of food safety and antibiotics, registered dietitian and BestFoodFacts.org nutrition advisor, Carolyn O’Neil, teamed up with Dr. Michael Doyle, a leading researcher in the area of food microbiology and bacterial foodborne pathogens and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.
“Antibiotics are powerful medicines and as we know certainly save lives,” said O’Neil. “But they’re also used to keep animals healthy.”
Antibiotics and food production
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving forward with restrictions that would phase out the use of antibiotics in food production that also have important medical uses in human medicine. Although voluntary, the agency said it expects drug makers to fully adhere to the new guidelines.
Traditionally, some farmers have used antibiotics as a subtherapeutic treatment – to prevent illness from occurring. Some antibiotics can also help promote the growth of the animals.
“What we are finding is that if we continue to do this, we can develop antibiotic resistant bacteria, so let’s just reduce the use for growth promotion reasons and focus on treating these animals if they get sick,” explains Doyle. “By focusing on just treating animals when they are ill, the health community hopes to lessen the threat resistant strains may have on the public.”
Your family’s food sources
Though the matter of antibiotic resistance brings alarm to many families, Doyle believes the safety of the U.S. beef, poultry and pork supply should not be a cause for concern.
“There is no concern for the antibiotic residue. The antibiotics are typically not coming through the animal or the meat,” said Doyle. “That is something that can happen, but it’s monitored and typically does not happen, at least in food produced here in the United States. The concern is the development of antibiotic resistant microbes that are not going to be treatable long term.”
Simple food safety practices
According to Doyle and O’Neil, proper food handling practices go a long way to controlling harmful microbes.
“We, as consumers, should always think of foods from animal origins – even those labeled natural or organic -- as potentially having harmful microbes. We need to treat them with respect by following good food handling practices,” adds Doyle.
To help keep your family safe and healthy at home, O’Neil offers these tips:
- Clean: Wash your hands and kitchen surfaces often.
- Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Always separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods when preparing them in the kitchen.
- Cook: Cook all food to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked meats.
- Chill: Refrigerate leftover food promptly after eating to slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Make sure your fridge and freezer are cooled to the right temperature. Your fridge should be between 40 degrees F and 32 degrees F, and your freezer should be zero degrees F or below.
“Real nutrition wisdom comes from consuming evidence,” said O’Neil. “When equipped with this valuable knowledge, you can ensure you’re providing the very best to your family.”
For more information on food handling practices, visit www.foodsafety.gov.
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