by Evan Anderson, UF/IFAS Extension Agent
It’s no coincidence that the United States has one of the safest food supplies. Plenty of work has been put into developing rules that producers, processors and distributors must follow to keep food safe.
Even so, thee are plenty of instances when something goes wrong and people fall ill.
On February 12, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared an end to a recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterial pathogen.
Since October, 35 people in 12 states have fallen ill, and at least three have died, because of contaminated prepackaged caramel apples. Outbreaks such as this can catch the public’s attention–and can cause people to think twice about purchasing similar products, whatever the source.
Listeria–just one pathogen that can cause illness–is most severe when it affects pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems.
As modern medical science allows people to live longer and helps those who are immune-compromised to survive, it becomes increasingly important to protect our food’s quality.
Disease-causing organisms or chemicals may come into contact with food in a variety of ways. These include using improperly composted manure, employees practicing poor hygiene, or allowing contaminants to spread to crops from nearby areas.
In 2010, Congress pass the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. This legislation–which attempts to update food safety laws–is still being implemented. The final rules will be in place by October, though it is still unclear when enforcement will begin.
When it does, farms may be required to have a farm safety plan and undergo inspections, depending on farm size. A farm safety plan includes a set of standard operating procedures that a farm must follow. These cover topics such as animal husbandry and grazing, water use and quality control, adjacent land use, fertilization, employee hygiene and training, and food security.
Visit the Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises team’s website, http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu, to learn more about food safety.
A Food Safety Plan Workshop will be held February 26 at the Duval County Extension Office in Jacksonville. Contact Dilcia Toro, 386-362-1725, ext. 102, for more information.