Food safety is an issue of great concern to all food producers, but especially to small growers who know their customers. Stay informed about food safety regulation and news by visiting this section often.
Fresh produce is being blamed for foodborne illness in a report this month from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The CSPI report,The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says leafy greens have caused the greatest number of food contamination outbreaks — 363 — among the 1,500 outbreaks analyzed from 1990 to 2006. Potatoes are #5 on the Top 10 list, tomatoes are #8 and berries are #10.
The organization used data from the Centers for Disease Control and other sources to create its Top Ten list. CSPI is using the report to urge the Senate to pass food safety legislation already passed by the House, which would give the FDA more power to regulate farms and processors.
These are the basic facts that are circulating about the report, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that they do not implicate farmers in most of the outbreaks. As a food producer, you need to know all the facts about this report so you can reassure your customers who may be worried by the headlines. So let’s look at what the report says about fresh produce when you get down to the details.
The Food and Drug Administration has released draft "guidances" for growing and handling tomatoes, leafy greens and melons to prevent microbial contamination. FDA says its guidance documents represent the agency's current thinking on a topic, and are not binding. However, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said the guidances "will be followed within two years by enforceable standards for fresh produce."
Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) - that sounds innocent enough. The danger lurks in who defines them and whether the rules and regulations fit farms of various sizes and processing on differing scales.