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.