It has been said that the American consumer enjoys the safest, most wholesome and most affordable food supply in the world. In Missouri, consumers can also count on purchasing food, fuel and services in a marketplace that is fair to both buyers and sellers.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture works to ensure a level playing field among producers, processors and consumers through outreach, training and enforcement. The Department’s efforts include inspecting gasoline for quality, fuel dispensers for safety and scales for accuracy, and raising awareness about food safety for Missouri-grown and Missouri-made items, from fresh produce to pet food.
For the Department’s team, food safety means producing, processing and preparing all foods in ways to prevent food borne illness and disease. The team’s toolkit for ensuring Missouri consumers receive safe food includes public outreach and training activities, as well as inspections and regulations.
Missouri’s agricultural products, from raw ingredients to products ready for consumption, are key to food safety. Programs within the Department ensure that foods like meat, eggs and fresh produce are handled properly throughout every step of processing and distribution.
In meat processing facilities, inspectors from the Missouri Department of Agriculture review sanitation, record keeping and handling practices, and ensure that state-inspected facilities meet or exceed federal standards. In fact, an inspector from the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Program is on hand for each day of processing in Missouri’s 36 plants preparing meat for retail sale.
Officials also make sure that packaged meat is accurately labeled and securely sealed, as required by Missouri and federal laws, and keep producers informed about advancements in biosecurity, animal health and sanitation practices.
In Missouri’s nearly 150 custom exempt processing facilities, which are preparing meat for livestock owners’ personal use, inspectors perform unannounced inspections at least quarterly to ensure workers are using good sanitation and food handling practices.
Agriculture provides inspection services and oversees licensing for egg distributors. Inspections and licensing requirements include ensuring that eggs are properly packaged, stored and labeled, as well as kept at the appropriate temperature during transportation and while offered for sale. The Department also assists producers with determining the best practices to reduce the chances for food borne illnesses caused by bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can be present on the farm but are often harmful to humans.
Beyond programs to help ensure Missourians continue to enjoy safe, wholesome meat and eggs, the Department maintains a voluntary Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Inspection Program for producers and processors.
Missouri’s program began offering USDA Good Handling Practices and Good Agricultural Practices inspections in 2011, in addition to certifications for producers who meet or exceed both state and federal standards within their production, processing and distribution operations. Last year, Department staff inspected more than 150 fresh produce growers, processors and wholesale operations.
Fuel and Weights Inspections
The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s efforts to ensure a safe, fair marketplace for producers, processors, distributors and consumers extends beyond food to include inspection services and regulations for fuels, as well as for meters and scales of all sizes.
The Department’s Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection Division reaches more Missourians on a daily basis than many other state programs, in many cases, through drivers’ fuel tanks.
Team members are responsible for ensuring that Missouri drivers get every gallon shown during a trip to the gasoline pump. Inspectors measure the fuel dispensed, ensuring that pumps are properly calibrated to be both reliable and accurate. Pumps found to be within a 5 percent margin of error are marked with a ‘Tested and Approved’ label from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Inspectors visit stations throughout Missouri, testing stations’ equipment and fuels to ensure that the gasoline, diesel or ethanol shown on the pump, and paid for at the register, make their way into drivers’ tanks.
Ensuring the safety of Missouri’s agricultural products, from grains to milk to fresh produce to meat, will continue to be a top priority for the Department, as a healthy food system begins on the farm and ends with healthy communities.