Not a day goes by without the work of state programs protecting Oregonians, often unbeknownst to them. A part of Oregon Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) role is to prevent the spread of foodborne illness and ensure that scales weigh products accurately. Plus, the department verifies the gallons and contents of fuel sold at all levels throughout the state.
The ODA’s Internal Services and Consumer Protection Program and its counterpart in consumer protection, the Food Safety Program, protect Oregonian pocketbooks and health.
ODA Protects Consumer Health
“We ensure food safety in the state, provide consumer protection and work to prevent foodborne illnesses,” says John Burr, a manager in the ODA Food Safety Program. The program issues more than 12,000 food licenses to more than 9,000 Oregon companies, including canneries, bakeries, grocery stores and cannabis facilities.
The program’s routine, unannounced inspections work to attain a common goal: prevent foodborne illness.
Burr says, “As a consumer, I’m thankful to know that there are inspectors going to establishments on a routine basis to ensure what we consume is safe.”
The Food Safety Program protects and promotes food safety for consumers in all places outside of restaurants, where county agencies preside. They educate new food processors of safe food- handling practices. They inspect equipment and investigate consumer complaints of potential food contamination.
“At the end of the day, I feel like the state of Oregon is a little better because of our actions,” says Burr.
ODA Protects Pocketbooks
Meanwhile, the ODA Internal Services and Consumer Protection Program certifies every scale used for commerce in the state. In fact, staff certify all types of scales, from the luggage scale at the airport to scales weighing containers on the railroad. They test scales at more than 130 farmers markets.
“Most people do not realize our program exists,” says Jason Barber, director of the ODA Internal Services and Consumer Protection Program.
The Internal Services and Consumer Protection Program also ensures fairness in fish markets up and down the coast. It tests scales for heavy trucks and livestock. The program even checks meters at gas stations to ensure a gallon is a gallon. A key to certifying the scales and meters is the state’s metrology lab, which houses highly accurate weights and measures that match global standards.
“It’s not only consumer protection,” Barber says. “The business owner is happy to see us to make sure they are not giving away too much product.”
That’s because small inaccuracies can equate to big dollars. For example, Oregon’s 30,000 fuel meters sell $5.9 billion in fuel annually. Inspectors also sample fuel to ensure it meets national quality standards.
The program’s efforts intend to prevent consumer fraud and support consistent standards in the marketplace.
“We’re pretty diversified as far as this program is concerned,” Barber says. “For our first time, we’ve reached over 60,000 licensed devices in the state.”