Food Safety Comes to Twitter

By: Michael Engle

Do you find it difficult to keep track of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food recommendations?  Do you fail to remember whether it was cantaloupes or honeydews that were recently contaminated with listeria?  Do you wonder whether or not a Connecticut concern should be on New York's radar?  If so, then you might find some comfort, as the USDA will be using Twitter as a vehicle to effectively communicate such local and national information.

Although news releases will always be available, online and in full form, for those who care to know of specific details, the Associated Press reports on the USDA's further adoption of the 140-character platform.  In addition to the general feed, @USDAFoodSafety, each state will have its own Twitter feed, which will be used to re-Tweet national news and broadcast state alerts.  For further convenience, all "state-level" Twitter feeds have the same formula among their handles: the state's two-letter abbreviation (as standardized by the U.S. Postal Service), followed by an underscore and "FSISAlert" (for "Food Safety and Inspection Service").  Therefore, New Yorkers should follow @NY_FSISAlert, while those in Chicago might find @IL_FSISAlert more relevant, etc.

This is an exciting new development in food safety and news broadcasting.  (By "new," I am not exaggerating, for I am, personally, one of the first 100 followers of the New York feed.)  It remains to be seen how much back-and-forth communication the USDA will make available; as useful as it may be to consult an iPhone or Blackberry while shopping, it would be even better to Tweet a question to the state's Twitter account and receive a reply.  After all, there are undoubtedly many grocery store customers--novice foodies and professional chefs alike--who are struggling to remember which melon would result in a safer pairing with their prosciutto.

Photo: USDAgov

For more food news updates, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)