FOOD SAFETY in Produce – How safe is our produce?
We know that meat and dairy products have required government inspections and must meet strict governments guidelines. But what about produce – fruits and vegetables.
Consumers, today, are more aware of food borne illness than ever before and are very concerned.
The produce industry is also concerned and has been at work for years to provide quality products and safe food to consumers. There have been incidents of food borne illness from produce in recent years in the United States. No one is more alarmed about such tragedies than the produce industry. One incident alarms consumers and consequences can be un-repairable for an industry. Persons can become ill and even death. Also many dollars and hours are lost in investigating the problem and confidence in the safety of the particular product is severely damaged. Jobs and sales for the product in the future have been enormously reduced.
Many industry leaders and Health officials say that improper food handling is more dangerous than residues and have actively been working for many years to prevent problems. They have formed Alliances, Associations, Consortiums, Advisory Boards, etc., to find problem areas and to correct the problem and to educate all involved from the growers, to those harvesting, packaging, storing and transporting the food item.
Efforts in California, in particular in the past twenty years, have been noteworthy.
Organizations like and including the Western Growers Association, California and Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Association, California Strawberry Commission, California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, etc., have developed guidelines, safety requirements, audits and educational materials to help inform, guide, and monitor the work of everyone in the Supply Chain to prevent food borne illness in produce. These include daily on site records of conditions (cleanliness, temperatures) formal inspections and audits with written and published reports of findings, and educational materials and records of attendance. Things monitored are Water, Wildlife Intrusion, Soil Amendments-fertilizer and other chemicals, worker hygiene and equipment sanitation.
Educational materials are in more than one language, with many pictures and illustrations to inform all workers what they must do. Materials are made large enough – to be noticed, easy to use – such as flip charts and portable, so they can be mounted on the “back of a pick-up truck” and taken to the work site. Workers throughout the supply chain have explained to them, their importance in providing safe food for the health of the consumers and of the continuing of work and income in the industry – how it is important and how it affects their job. Workers are given certifications for attendance at classes.
These industries are going above and beyond the required work to assure wholesome and safe produce. To work with and support the Industry, Government mandates have built on work done by growers and buyers and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (FSMA) was signed into law January 2011. * It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. It gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authorities to regulate the way foods are grown, harvested and processed. It gives the FDS several new powers, including mandatory recall.
The law was prompted in Congress after reported incidents of food-borne illnesses during the 2000s. Tainted food has cost the food industry billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales and legal expenses. The bill is similar to the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.
The FDA has the power to oversee how foods are produced and how they are maintained in food markets. This puts greater emphasis on preventing food-borne illness. The better the system for producing, transporting and preparing foods the safer our food supply will be.
Fourteen percent (14%) of the food supply to the United States is imported from other countries.
The new law significantly enhances FDA’s ability to achieve greater oversight of the millions of food products coming into the United States from other countries each year.
The legislation affects every aspect of the U.S. food system, from farmers to manufactures to importers. It places significant responsibilities on farmers and food processors to prevent contamination.
Basics of the Proposed Produce Rule:
Agriculture Water – Farmers must ensure that water that is likely to contact produce or food-contact surfaces is safe with periodic testing.
Biological Soil Amendments of animal Origin – The proposed rule specifies types of treatment, methods of application and time intervals between application of certain soil amendments, including manure and crop harvest.
Health & Hygiene – Farm personnel must follow hygienic practices including hand washing, not working when sick and maintaining personal cleanliness.
Domesticated and Wild Animals – There must be waiting periods between grazing and crop harvest, farmers must monitor for wildlife intrusion and not harvest produce contaminated by animals.
There is a constant effort – to make it better.
Food safety is important throughout the Supply Chain from farm to consumers.
* Wikipedia – FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.