Food & Drug Safety Program

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it safe to cook and eat pork and pork products because of Swine Flu?
     
  2. I want to sell my food product to other retail food establishments. What type of license do I need?

  3. I want to open up a retail food establishment. Who do I need to contact? Do I need a license?

  4. I operate a drug distribution company that is not located in New Jersey. Do I need a Department of Health license to ship product into New Jersey?

  5. What do the dates on food packages mean?

  6. What does the phrase "ultra-pasteurized" mean on the milk container?

  7. I hold a NJDEP license to harvest shellfish and want to sell my product directly to retail food establishments. Do I need a license from the Department of Health?

  8. My family and I had dinner at a local restaurant in our area. The next day, my wife and son became ill, what should I do?

  9. Are dietary supplements safe?

  10. What is a certificate of free sale?

  11. Why do other countries require a certificate of free sale before products can be imported?

  12. Where can I get instructions for requesting a certificate of free sale?

  13. What is foodborne disease?

  14. What are the most common foodborne diseases?

  15. How are foodborne diseases diagnosed?

  16. When should I consult my doctor about a diarrheal illness?

  17. What can consumers do to protect themselves from foodborne illness?

  18. Where can I learn more about food safety and foodborne diseases?

  19. Is it safe to cook and eat chicken, other poultry and eggs because of Avian Influenza?

  1. Is it safe to cook and eat pork and pork products because of Swine Flu?

    Yes. Swine flu is not known to be transmissible to humans when pork or pork products are eaten.  Cooking pork to 160°F will kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present in raw pork or pork products.  When handling any meat or meat products, it’s always important to use good food handling practices to prevent foodborne illness. 


  2. I want to sell my food product to other retail food establishments. What type of license do I need?

    Exempt from licensing:
    · Facilities and warehouses of growers

    · Associations or organizations of growers of raw agricultural   commodities

    · Raw agricultural commodity farm area sales and shipping points where   raw agricultural products are not subjected to processing other than   washing, cleaning, cooling, waxing, grading, sizing, and packaging

    Every other wholesale food/cosmetic establishment falling within the statutory definition of a food establishment is required to obtain a license. A food/cosmetic establishment is defined as any place used in the production, preparation, manufacture, packing, storage, transportation, or handling of food or cosmetics intended for sale or distribution to any other person other than the ultimate consumer.

    Information about obtaining a wholesale food/cosmetic license is available on this web site or by calling 609-826-4935. You may also print a blank wholesale food/cosmetic license application by clicking on this link LICENSE APPLICATION/REGISTRATION.

    Other forms that pertain to licensing or registering wholesale food, shellfish, dairy, drug or cosmetic manufacturers are also available on this website.


  3. I want to open up a retail food establishment. Who do I need to contact? Do I need a license?

    If you plan to sell food directly to the consumer, you need to contact the borough, township or city hall where you plan to operate your business. The appropriate borough, township or city hall can supply you with the health department contact information that you will need. You will probably require a license that is issued by the town and/or local health department. The New Jersey Department of Health does not license retail food establishments. However, we do have jurisdiction over a small number of retail food establishments that are located on state property.


  4. I operate a drug distribution company that is not located in New Jersey. Do I need a Department of Health license to ship product into New Jersey?

    Yes. The New Jersey Department of Health requires registration of wholesale drug distributor facilities that distribute drugs into New Jersey.



  5. What do the dates on food packages mean?

    New Jersey only requires that bottled water and fluid milk products (milk, flavored milks, creams, yogurt, etc.) have a shelf-life expiration date on the package. The other dates that appear on many other food products are quality, “best when used by” or production dates applied by the food manufacturer to assist the consumer in either purchasing their product or to more clearly recognize food that may have been subject to recall.



  6. What does the phrase "ultra-pasteurized" mean on the milk container?

    Ultra-pasteurized means that the milk or milk product has been subjected to a very high temperature during the pasteurization process, 280 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two seconds, compared to normal milk pasteurization methods of at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. This is done to increase the shelf-life of the product at the retail store. The common complaint with ultra-pasteurized product which has been subjected to temperature abuse or is past it's shelf-life is that it has a chemical smell and/or taste rather than the "spoiled" milk appearance that people recognize. This also is caused by the ultra-pasteurization process which eliminates organisms which cause spoilage.



  7. I hold a NJDEP license to harvest shellfish and want to sell my product directly to retail food establishments. Do I need a license from the Department of Health?

    Yes. Shellfish dealers are required to hold a certification in order to engage in the wholesale handling, shipping, shucking, repacking, wet storage, or depuration of shellfish. Shellfish are defined as clams, oysters or mussels, fresh or frozen, and scallops if sold whole with roe attached. Retail stores/merchants can not repack or shuck shellfish unless it is done on the order of the consumer. In most cases, wholesale shellfish dealers must also hold a food/cosmetic license. Applications for shellfish certification and the wholesale food/cosmetic license are provided on this web site. There is no fee for shellfish certification, however, there is a fee for the food/cosmetic license.



  8. My family and I had dinner at a local restaurant in our area. The next day, my wife and son became ill. Who should I report this to?

    All suspected cases of foodborne illness should first be reported to your local health department.




  9. Are dietary supplements safe?

    By law (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act), the manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that its dietary supplement products are safe before they are marketed. Unlike drug products that must be proven safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, there are no provisions in the law for FDA to “approve” dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer. Also, unlike drug products, manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are not currently required by law to record, investigate or forward to FDA any reports they receive of injuries or illnesses that may be related to the use of their products. Under DSHEA, once the product is marketed, FDA has the responsibility for showing that a dietary supplement is “unsafe,” before it can take action to restrict the product’s use or removal from the marketplace.




  10. What is a certificate of free sale?

    It is a document completed and issued by the New Jersey Department of Health certifying that a company is in compliance with State and Federal Standards. The certificate is required by the importing foreign country before the product is allowed to enter.




  11. Why do other countries require a certificate of free sale before products can be imported?

    The certificate of Free Sale attests that a specific food, drug, cosmetic or medical device product regulated under Title 24 of the New Jersey Statutes and manufactured, distributed and offered for sale in New Jersey, is labeled in conformance with the applicable food, drug, cosmetic and or medical device laws.




  12. Where can I get instructions for requesting a certificate of free sale?

    Certificate of Free Sale guidelines and certificate forms are available on the Certificate of Free Sale page. For questions regarding Certificates of Free Sale, please call (609) 826-4935.


  13. What is foodborne disease?

    Foodborne disease is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes, or pathogens, can contaminate foods, so there are many different foodborne infections. In addition, poisonous chemicals, or other harmful substances can cause foodborne diseases if they are present in food.

    More than 250 different foodborne diseases have been described. Most of these diseases are infections, caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be foodborne. Other diseases are poisonings, caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated the food, for example, poisonous mushrooms. These different diseases have many different symptoms, so there is no one "syndrome" that is foodborne illness. However, the microbe or toxin enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, and often causes the first symptoms there, so nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea are common symptoms in many foodborne diseases. Many microbes can spread in more than one way, so we cannot always know that a disease is foodborne. The distinction matters, because public health authorities need to know how a particular disease is spreading to take the appropriate steps to stop it. For example, Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections can spread through contaminated food, contaminated drinking water, contaminated swimming water, and from toddler to toddler at a day care center. Depending on which means of spread caused a case, the measures to stop other cases from occurring could range from removing contaminated food from stores, chlorinating a swimming pool, or closing a child day care center.




  14. What are the most common foodborne diseases?

    The most commonly recognized foodborne infections are those caused by the bacteria Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7, and by a group of viruses called calicivirus, also known as the Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses.

    Campylobacter is a bacterial pathogen that causes fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. It is the most commonly identified bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the world. These bacteria live in the intestines of healthy birds, and most raw poultry meat has Campylobacter on it. Eating undercooked chicken, or other food that has been contaminated with juices dripping from raw chicken is the most frequent source of this infection.

    Salmonella is also a bacterium that is widespread in the intestines of birds, reptiles and mammals. It can spread to humans via a variety of different foods of animal origin. The illness it causes, salmonellosis, typically includes fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In persons with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, it can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

    E. coli O157:H7 is a bacterial pathogen that has a reservoir in cattle and other similar animals. Human illness typically follows consumption of food or water that has been contaminated with microscopic amounts of cow feces. The illness it causes is often a severe and bloody diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps, without much fever. In 3% to 5% of cases, a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can occur several weeks after the initial symptoms. This severe complication includes temporary anemia, profuse bleeding, and kidney failure.

    Calicivirus, or Norwalk-like virus is an extremely common cause of foodborne illness, though it is rarely diagnosed, because the laboratory test is not widely available. It causes an acute gastrointestinal illness, usually with more vomiting than diarrhea, that resolves within two days. Unlike many foodborne pathogens that have animal reservoirs, it is believed that Norwalk-like viruses spread primarily from one infected person to another. Infected kitchen workers can contaminate a salad or sandwich as they prepare it, if they have the virus on their hands. Infected fishermen have contaminated oysters as they harvested them.

    Some common diseases are occasionally foodborne, even though they are usually transmitted by other routes. These include infections caused by Shigella, hepatitis A, and the parasites Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidia. Even strep throats have been transmitted occasionally through food.

    In addition to disease caused by direct infection, some foodborne diseases are caused by the presence of a toxin in the food that was produced by a microbe in the food. For example, the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can grow in some foods and produce a toxin that causes intense vomiting. The rare but deadly disease botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum grows and produces a powerful paralytic toxin in foods. These toxins can produce illness even if the microbes that produced them are no longer there.

    Other toxins and poisonous chemicals can cause foodborne illness. People can become ill if a pesticide is inadvertently added to a food, or if naturally poisonous substances are used to prepare a meal. Every year, people become ill after mistaking poisonous mushrooms for safe species, or after eating poisonous reef fishes.




  15. How are foodborne diseases diagnosed?

    The infection is usually diagnosed by specific laboratory tests that identify the causative organism. Bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli O157 are found by culturing stool samples in the laboratory and identifying the bacteria that grow on the agar or other culture medium. Parasites can be identified by examining stools under the microscope. Viruses are more difficult to identify, as they are too small to see under a light microscope and are difficult to culture. Viruses are usually identified by testing stool samples for genetic markers that indicate a specific virus is present.

    Many foodborne infections are not identified by routine laboratory procedures and require specialized, experimental, and/or expensive tests that are not generally available. If the diagnosis is to be made, the patient has to seek medical attention, the physician must decide to order diagnostic tests, and the laboratory must use the appropriate procedures. Because many ill persons to not seek attention, and of those that do, many are not tested, many cases of foodborne illness go undiagnosed. For example, CDC estimates that 38 cases of salmonellosis actually occur for every case that is actually diagnosed and reported to public health authorities.




  16. When should I consult my doctor about a diarrheal illness?

    A health care provider should be consulted when a diarrheal illness is accompanied by

    • high fever (temperature over 101.5 F, measured orally)
    • blood in the stools
    • prolonged vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
    • signs of dehydration, including a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up
    • diarrheal illness that lasts more than 3 days

    Do not be surprised if your doctor does not prescribe an antibiotic. Many diarrheal illnesses are caused by viruses and will improve in 2 or 3 days without antibiotic therapy. In fact, antibiotics have no effect on viruses, and using an antibiotic to treat a viral infection could cause more harm than good. It is often not necessary to take an antibiotic even in the case of a mild bacterial infection. Other treatments can help the symptoms, and careful handwashing can prevent the spread of infection to other people. Overuse of antibiotics is the principal reason many bacteria are becoming resistant. Resistant bacteria are no longer killed by the antibiotic. This means that it is important to use antibiotics only when they are really needed. Partial treatment can also cause bacteria to become resistant. If an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important to take all of the medication as prescribed, and not stop early just because the symptoms seem to be improving.

    Related links:
    Antibiotic resistance
    National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS)




  17. What can consumers do to protect themselves from foodborne illness?

    A few simple precautions can reduce the risk of foodborne diseases:

    COOK meat, poultry and eggs thoroughly. Using a thermometer to measure the internal temperature of meat is a good way to be sure that it is cooked sufficiently to kill bacteria. For example, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 155o F. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm.

    SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate one food with another. Avoid cross-contaminating foods by washing hands, utensils, and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food. Put cooked meat on a clean platter, rather back on one that held the raw meat.

    CHILL: Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods if they are not going to be eaten within 4 hours. Large volumes of food will cool more quickly if they are divided into several shallow containers for refrigeration.

    CLEAN: Wash produce. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables in running tap water to remove visible dirt and grime. Remove and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage. Because bacteria can grow well on the cut surface of fruit or vegetable, be careful not to contaminate these foods while slicing them up on the cutting board, and avoid leaving cut produce at room temperature for many hours. Don’t be a source of foodborne illness yourself. Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food. Avoid preparing food for others if you yourself have a diarrheal illness. Changing a baby’s diaper while preparing food is a bad idea that can easily spread illness.

    REPORT: Report suspected foodborne illnesses to your local health department. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your cooperation is important. In public health investigations, it can be as important to talk to healthy people as to ill people. Your cooperation may be needed even if you are not ill.

    Related links:
    Fight BAC!(TM) education campaign
    Gateway to Government Food Safety Information


  18. Where can I learn more about food safety and foodborne diseases?

    National Food Safety Initiative
    CDC's Food Safety Initiative home page
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration
    U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Role of the federal agencies in food safety
    Gateway to government food safety information
    Partnership for Food Safety Education/Fight BAC
    Food Safety Training and Education Alliance
    Foodborne Illness Information Center
    National Food Safety Education Month
    Travelers' Health




  19. Is it safe to cook and eat chicken, other poultry and eggs because of Avian Influenza?

    Yes. It is safe to continue eating poultry and eggs. There is no evidence to suggest that you can become infected with bird flu by eating properly cooked poultry and eggs. No poultry products from countries affected with the bird flu are legally allowed to enter the United States.



 


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