Food Safety Expert Assures Consumers of Farming Precautions

Food Safety Expert Assures Consumers of Farming Precautions


[Ellijay, GA/John Holcomb – Reporting]
All over the state, just about any time of the year, you can find farmers growing fresh
produce like blueberries, watermelons, peaches, apples, and so much more. Whether their growing them for wholesale or
for direct to consumer markets, producers put in a lot of work to make sure that produce
is safe to eat. [Lee Penland/Co-Owner, Penland’s]
You know it’s a great idea to do every step that you can to prevent stuff from happening. We want to do things right, we don’t want
to intentionally make anybody sick, and it’s just good to check stuff to make sure you’re
putting the best product on the table that you can put out there. [John]
Within the last decade, food safety has changed drastically. That’s thanks to the food safety modernization
act. A law that is meant to hold farms to certain
standards to reduce the presence of potentially dangerous bacteria. In doing that they require things like water
sampling, education of employees on hygiene, soil testing, and more. All things that work to prevent the outbreak
of illnesses as well as make it easier to trace where an illness originated. [Laurel Dunn/Food Safety Extension Specialist,
UGA] The goal of that is to make not only growers,
but also food manufacturers, more proactive in their practices. So now everything from pretty much before
a plant gets in the ground, is regulated, and we need to be making sure that we’re reducing
our risk of introducing not only microbial contamination, but also chemical contamination,
or other harmful things that could enter the food supply. [John]
Dunn is a food safety specialist at the University of Georgia that works to help make sure growers
know what they need to be doing to make sure they’re in compliance with the produce safety
rule. [Laurel]
We offer a lot of programming at UGA. So, we work in partnership with the Georgia
Department of Agriculture. We offer some produce safety trainings to
help growers get into compliance with the produce safety rule. We offer other short courses that are on specific
topics as food safety needs come up throughout the state. We also spend time consulting with individual
farmers. [John]
Being up to date on compliance standards is important, especially when you’re a producer
or even a manufacturer, because when outbreaks occur, not only is the reputation of that
grower or manufacturer ruined, but the reputation of the industry usually suffers as well. [Laurel]
One of the things we see when there’s an outbreak associated with a food product, is everyone
who’s a part or who’s associated with that food product really suffers. So we saw it the past couple of years when
we were having outbreaks with E. coli associated with lettuce. There were parts of the country that were
about to start harvesting their lettuce and had nothing to do with the outbreak, but because
everyone was told, “Hey, stop eating romaine lettuce,” they pretty much had no market. So, it’s really about not only protecting
yourself and your own liability, but you’re really protecting the entire market. You’re protecting your fellow growers, and
really protecting the entire industry by continuing to provide safe food. [John]
Reporting in Ellijay for the Farm Monitor, I’m John Holcomb.

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