Consumers eagerly acknowledge the importance of food being flavorful, nutritious and even abundant – but what about safe?
“Most companies, individuals, processors and distributors strive to offer safe products for sale,” says Lance Hester, director of the Food Safety Division at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). “However, through lack of knowledge or lack of willful compliance, this is not always the case.”
The ADAI Food Safety Division’s mission is to secure safe, quality food products for consumers via three units, with duties including anything from testing imported seafood for the presence of banned antibiotics to making sure food not kept at proper temperatures in disaster-hit areas is disposed of properly.
The Food Safety Inspection unit is dedicated to making sure food is safe, wholesome and accurately labeled for Alabama consumers, like confirming the quality of chicken and turkey products served in school lunches.
Under the Food and Drug Laboratory, the division focuses on food safety and public resources with activities like testing toxins in food, including aflatoxin, which may result in recalls.
“Each week, we analyze products such as the Alabama milk supply, corn products including corn meal and grits, and peanut products for the presence of aflatoxin – poisonous chemicals caused by certain molds,” Hester says. “If products are found to contain aflatoxin exceeding the level of concern established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they are pulled from the marketplace.”
The Pesticide Residue Laboratory unit protects public health, monitors agricultural commodities for harmful pesticide residues, protects and expands Alabama’s ag market, and protects the environment.