Monday, August 20, 2012

Farmers responsible for food safety

Dr. Doug Powell, who has made a career in food-safety communications, says “producers of any food need to own their food safety.

“Don’t ask government to do it, don’t ask consumers to do it: take care of things on your own end and good things will follow.”

He offers the advice leading into a website article about food poisoning traced to melons.

He notes that in Rocky Ford, Colorado, it’s only after a devastating outbreak of food poisonings that ended with at least 35 people dead that producers have hired a food safety manager to monitor melon picking and to change worker pay to hourly rates instead of melons picked.

They have also built a central packing shed where melons are washed with soap and a chlorine oxide, then rinsed with well water tested for contamination.

After being washed, the melons are cooled to reduce condensation and then packed into boxes labeled with codes traceable to the fields where the melons were grown. 
The boxes are packed with slips that interested shoppers can scan using a smartphone to read about where their melons originated.
“These are on-farm food safety basics that should have been undertaken years ago. There have been plenty of previous outbreaks,” writes Powell on his Barfblog website.
This year there have been food poisonings traced to melons from Indiana and North Carolina where inspectors found the melon field was a dump that had not been checked out. The bacteria identified there is Listeria.

In Indiana it’s salmonella and two people have died and at least 141 have been sickened.