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August Cartoon: How to Identify Safe Food Sources

Food supplier cartoon with alien and UFO
Finding approved food suppliers is crucial to food safety. To be an approved supplier, manufacturers must prove that they are keeping food safe. This could include testing for certain microbes, storing food in a safe, secure place, and checking the temperature of TCS foods. Following these guidelines can help reduce risk factors for foodborne illness and help aid in recalls if the need arises. 

What are the CDC’s 5 main risk factors for illness?

The CDC has identified 5 main risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness: 

  1. Holding TCS foods at wrong temperatures 
  1. Cooking foods to the wrong temperature 
  1. Using contaminated utensils and equipment 
  1. Failing to follow personal hygiene rules 
  1. Purchasing food from unsafe food sources 

Food facilities should be registered with the FDA and follow good manufacturing practices to prevent these major risks in their establishments. Doing so will ensure that the food you receive is safe. It’s up to you to keep it safe once it’s delivered; follow the guidelines given by the FDA Food Code to keep it from getting contaminated.  

What does the CDC mean by “unsafe sources”?

It may seem appealing to save extra money by buying cheaper options, but if suppliers are not approved by your local regulatory authority or FDA, you could have a major foodborne illness outbreak. Unsafe sources can include a variety of suppliers that do not take proper precautions and keep the right records when receiving, storing, or preparing food or ingredients.  

Any supplier that has not been approved by your local regulatory authority may be unsafe. This could include food made in a home kitchen as well as produce or animals grown or caught in a home environment. In addition, you should be cautious when purchasing food from roadside vendors, farmer’s markets, and local farmers. Although these sources can be good for those who cook in their home, they are not ideal for a restaurant or food facility unless they are approved by your local authority prior to purchasing food.

The FDA and USDA work with suppliers to ensure they are following steps to mitigate the risk of foodborne illness. In addition, approved suppliers are required to maintain documentation that can help aid in traceback if a problem does occur.  

How can you identify safe sources for food/make sure food comes from a safe source?

When identifying if a food supplier is approved, you should check on a few qualifiers, like what their food safety standards are, how food is transported (i.e. do they use a refrigerated or freezer truck for foods that need it, where is food stored if traveling a long way, etc.), and what would happen if there was a problem or recall. They may also meet certain standards or have other credentials to prove they are a reputable supplier.  

If a manufacturer will be using a certain amount of meat or animal products, they must work with the USDA and perform certain inspections, as well as keep records. Many unapproved sources may not perform these tests or keep records, so it’s important that you know your meat supplier is approved. 

If a food recall is made, your records, along with the supplier’s records, can help you determine if you have the contaminated food in your facility. Most recalls occur because of undeclared allergens or contamination from physical, biological, or chemical hazards. Going through the correct supply chains will help you know if you need to store or take special precautions when using ingredients. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you are ever involved in a recall. 

Follow these guidelines to ensure you and your customer say safe. If you want to become a Certified Food Safety Manager or would like to request any resources, visit 

— Janilyn Hutchings

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