Voluntary compliance should be the goal. Growers and packers will accept and adopt procedures that are clearly shown to lead to better consumer health. It is in their self-interest to do so. However, they will resist doing things that are viewed as just window-dressing and not related to better consumer health. Our growers will not be convinced of the need to wash their tractors before going into a muddy orchard at harvest.
Education is the means to achieve voluntary compliance. Information presented on the Internet, by food safety officials at grower association meetings, and by county extension agents would all be useful. Federal funds will be necessary to promote this type of broad educational effort over the breadth of the United States and, for produce imports, in supplier countries.
Fines and criminal penalties should be reserved for the most egregious cases. The coercive arm of the state should be sparingly put to use.
Submitted by Christian Schlect, President, Northwest Horticultural Council
July 16, 2010