All in on food safety

02/01/2013 10:05:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looking at a decade of foodborne illnesses found nearly half attributable to fresh produce.

Even more sobering, the CDC suggests fresh vegetables and fruits account for 23% of food-related deaths.

In response to the report, produce trade groups were quick to detail steps the industry has taken since the tragic 2006 spinach outbreak that became a call to arms for food safety by produce handlers.

Among the responses, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement clarified some CDC findings.

The LGMA pointed out that many produce items are eaten raw, and that makes it crucial that safe handling is practiced throughout the supply chain.

The LGMA also mentioned the CDC’s finding that norovirus is responsible for 57% of foodborne illness cases — predominately spread by handling after produce leaves the farm.

CDC data shows the most common place for food to become contaminated is during preparation at restaurants, in homes or at events, the LGMA said, adding that only 2% of the foodborne illnesses linked to fresh produce were linked to production or processing.

Industry demanding that suppliers and handlers hold themselves to ever higher safety standards is the right thing to do — not to mention good business.

But their vigilance is for naught if consumers and foodservice outlets fail to observe simple and commonsense food safety measures too.

Helping educate them in this area is also the right thing to do.

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