Food Safety

Food safety involves many facets of our meat supply – from animal production to the appropriate processing, to method of transport and sale, to the safe preparation and finally consumption of the meat at a restaurant or at home. This library section provides scientific answers in Factsheets, more in-depth information in Backgrounders and additional Resources regarding the food safety topics below.

Foodborne Illness

The United States has one of the world’s safest food supplies, thanks to the combined efforts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. food industry to prevent introduction of bacteria. The risk of foodborne illness is relatively small when food is prepared and handled using appropriate food safety techniques. This section provides information about potential microbial illnesses and their warning signs.

Safe Food Handling Techniques

The majority of foodborne illnesses could be prevented by improving food handling practices, including proper cooking and storage of food and appropriate personal hygiene practices of those preparing the food. There are specific steps that can minimize the risk of contracting a foodborne illness, particularly when preparing food at home the home.


Many U.S. beef producers utilize implanted hormones to help provide consumers with a wholesome and affordable beef supply. The use of these hormones is backed by an overwhelming body of scientific evidence proving its safety and effectiveness. The U.S. regulatory control system’s safety standards are based on internationally recognized scientific criteria to assure consumers of a safe food product.


Animals avoid needless suffering thanks to judicious use of antibiotics, which have been used to prevent and treat disease in livestock for more than 40 years. The U.S. meat industry discourages the indiscriminate use of antibiotics on the farm and supports research on possible increases of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics that are deemed critical in human medicine are only used for animal life-saving measures.

Irradiation to Control Bacteria

Irradiation and its effects on food, animals and people eating irradiated foods have been studied extensively for more than 40 years. Irradiated wheat flour, potatoes and spices have been available to consumers for more than 15 years. It has proven to be a safe and effective method of reducing the threat of microbial pathogens in food.


Biotechnology is a fiercely debated topic worldwide. Producing what are sometimes called genetically modified organisms (GMO), the field of transgenic biotechnology has come under media scrutiny and attracted much uninformed criticism. These substances, however, have become important to many people, and could be of tremendous benefit to human cultures in many countries.


HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product. For successful implementation of a HACCP plan, management must be strongly committed to the HACCP concept. A firm commitment to HACCP by top management provides company employees with a sense of the importance of producing safe food.


About 8,500 U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors are on duty continually at approximately 6,200 meat plants in the U.S. These inspectors are involved in every aspect of the harvesting and processing of U.S. meat products, enforcing inspection laws and keeping close scrutiny of meat and meat production to assure wholesomeness of product for both domestic and international consumers.