Posted On: September 9, 2020

The History of National Food Safety Education Month

September is National Food Safety Education Month!

It's our annual reminder of the precautions we all need to take in the handling, preparation, and storage of food in order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

When Did National Food Safety Month Begin?

National Food Safety Month was created by the National Restaurant Association in 1994.

Specifically, it was created by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), which is an educational non-profit run by the business association.

Why Does National Safety Awareness Month Exist?

A lot of people can make or break food safety in the modern world: farmers, food processors, shipping companies, food service, and food retail businesses, lawmakers, regulatory agencies, and even consumers. Everyone has to be on board and work together to keep the public safe.

National Food Safety Awareness Month provides the opportunity to recognize and rethink all the work that goes into preventing foodborne illness. It's an annual event that encourages politicians and food industry professionals to assess progress, set new goals, and address new issues.

It also promotes awareness among consumers who may not think about food safety for most of the year.

What is the History of Food Safety in the U.S.?

Preventing foodborne illness has always been an important part of public health and safety.

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What Were the First Food Safety Laws in the U.S.?

Before the Industrial Revolution, the food supply chain was fairly simple and straightforward. People knew exactly where their food came from, so most laws focused on prohibiting "adulteration" – adding ingredients that reduced quality – to manually processed items like bread and wine.

American colonists brought the Assize of Bread, an English food law dating back to 1202, with them to the New World and made it law here in 1646.

After the American Revolution, the first food safety law in the new nation was passed in 1785, called the Massachusetts Act Against Selling Unwholesome Provisions. That means we had a food safety law before we'd even finalized the Constitution!

When Did Food Safety Regulations Go Federal?

Food safety law was dealt with by the states for our first hundred years. But once the Industrial Revolution introduced concepts of mass production to our food supply, ensuring food safety became increasingly complicated.

As early as 1880, the chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigated food adulteration throughout the U.S. and recommended a federal food and drug law. Over the next 25 years, more than 100 food and drug bills were introduced and defeated. States passed their own laws, but the differences complicated interstate business.

After Upton Sinclair's book "The Jungle" raised public awareness about unsanitary conditions in meat-packing plants, the U.S. Congress finally passed two federal food safety laws in 1906.

The Meat Inspection Act requires government inspection of all items in meat processing plants. The Pure Food and Drug Act – passed on the same day – prohibited interstate commerce in misbranded or adulterated food, drink, or drugs, enforced by periodic inspection. It was designed to address fraud in patent medicines, but also the use of poisonous preservatives and dyes in food.

When Did We Get Start Tracking Foodborne Illness Outbreaks?

The next food safety frontier involved tracking and reducing pathogens that cause foodborne illness.

In 1970, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began to keep records of deaths from foodborne illness. This allowed us to track the most dangerous infectious outbreaks, fix the problem, and issue major recalls of contaminated food.

In 1996, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a rule focused on the prevention and reduction of microbial pathogens in raw food products. This Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) rule modernized food safety protocols in slaughtering and processing facilities for meat and poultry across the nation.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 enabled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take similar preventative measures for the facilities and products under their jurisdiction.

Putting the Food Safety Education in National Food Safety Education Month

As you can see, food safety regulations have become increasingly complicated to keep us safe in a complex world. To keep up and protect your business from liability, you need training compliant with the regulatory requirements of your jurisdiction.

We have over 20 years of experience providing online food and beverage compliance education, and we can help you earn the credentials that you need. That includes HACCP Certification, ANSI-CFP Food Safety Manager Certification, and even Food Handler training.

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