Programs improve safety of fruits and veggies from farm markets
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 46% of all foodborne-illness outbreaks originate with fresh produce. Using good agricultural practices (GAPs) on farms where fruits and vegetables are produced can help. Farmers who sell their products to large retail buyers are required to be GAP certified. Farmers selling directly to consumers are not. To make sure more farmers who sell directly to consumers are using good food-safety practices, land-grant universities are training direct marketers as well.
In Indiana, educators delivered “On-Farm Food Safety for Produce Direct Marketers” to more than 200 people.
In a survey, 85% of participants said they anticipated making a change in their practices. A follow-up survey showed 58% had indeed made changes, such as improved handling and packaging, better management of manure or waste, better management or training of workers and improved practices at the point of sale.
Examples of changes included timing of manure application and improved management of wash water. Cost estimates of the changes ranged from $0 to $150. Because of increased awareness and knowledge, the program has improved food safety along the local supply chain, reduced illness, and enhanced the public’s ability to enjoy nourishing food produced on nearby farms.
A similar program in Virginia reached:
- 125 produce growers and direct marketers with “Enhancing the Safety of Locally Grown Produce”
- 175 growers with food safety and handling requirements
- 77 growers with higher-level trainings related to on-farm and marketplace food safety risks
- More than 500 growers with Produce Safety Rule (PSR) information from the Food Safety Modernization Act
The education and training will lead to adoption and implementation of best practices that reduce risks and strengthen the food safety culture among all fresh produce growers.