Just last year, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a mass recall on romaine lettuce. The lettuce was contaminated with E. coli. A national advisory warning consumers to avoid romaine lettuce lasted from November 19 to January 15, 2020. Thankfully, no one died from the outbreak, but it did result in 85 hospitalizations and 167 others infected with the E. coli strain.
When these outbreaks happen, they raise important questions about safety and what we can do to make sure they do not happen again. Don’t worry. Food safety is a top concern–and one that is constantly being reassessed and researched. Here are a few ways the government and manufacturers across the U.S. are working together to promote greater food safety:
The first safety measure is detection. Researchers are continually monitoring cultures for foodborne illnesses. U.S. households can keep track of findings using FOOD (Foodborne Outbreak Online Database). Similarly, there are laws in place, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Signed into law on January 4, 2011, the legislation grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greater freedom to require more mandatory inspects, assess records, swab environments for bacteria and cultures, and issue FDA certifications to enforce quality standards.
Another area of opportunity is processing. Contamination during processing can happen in many ways, and sources of contamination usually seem relatively inconsequential or benign. For example, even washing fruits and vegetables with contaminated water prior to packaging can contaminate that produce.
Further along in the process, properly labeling foods is paramount as well. Doing that helps food remain at the proper temperature and in proper conditions during all stages of the process, from packaging and transport to its eventual sale in stores.
3. Transportation And Refrigeration
All over the world, there is a rising demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, and fish and meat. That means that trailer resources, like reefer units and used refeer trailers, are going to play an increasingly large role in safely transporting and maintaining the temperature of the perishables we eat.
Reefer units are required for international shipping and may even be wise for shorter, national trips. Leaving perishable foods unrefrigerated for even short amounts of time can lead to contamination.
What’s more, technologies, safety measures, and trailer resources are continually improving. For that reason, a carrier reefer comes with a relatively short shelf life. Typically, used reefer units are used for just three to five years on average. At that time, logistics and shipping companies discard these units and purchase new reefer trailers for sale.
How do reefers work? Trade Global Finance explains, “The control unit on the container allows for the setting and adjustment of parameters such as temperature, humidity, ventilation, and atmosphere.” Containers can be programmed to maintain temperatures ranging from -20 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In some circumstances, fruit and vegetables can be kept fresh or ripe longer, just by adjusting for factors like humidity and ventilation. Consumers can also safely break up larger reefer containers into smaller sections, stipulating the temperature and humidity for each segment.
Food safety is a top priority. Follow regulations, package productions carefully, and use all available resources, like trailer resources and reefer compartments, to keep food safe.