Monday, August 6, 2018

Food safety on the farm

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, food safety is defined as “A suitable product which when consumed orally either by a human or an animal does not cause health risk to consumer.” The chain of food safety begins with farmers in the field, but continues through packinghouses, value-added production operations, farmers markets and other vendors, and ultimately ends with the consumer.

Food safety practices must be in place at every point along the farm-to-fork continuum, including the farmers market. Each year 1 out of 6 Americans will become ill from a foodborne pathogen. These pathogens can be bacteria, viruses or parasites that are spread by contaminated food.

There are three potential sources of health risks caused by food:

Fresh produce is often eaten raw—there is no “kill-step” or action taken to kill bacteria/pathogens (in contrast to milk, for example, where pasteurization is used as a “kill step” to eliminate pathogens). Produce that is not cooked is therefore considered higher risk for pathogens than those fruits and vegetables that are cooked.

Healthy ecosystems contribute to food safety in a number of ways. Healthy, living soil will harbor a greater number and variety of both macroscopic and microscopic organisms, and will thus be less susceptible to colonization by unwanted pathogens. Vegetative buffers can filter pathogens from streams and runoff, and protect cropland from windborne pathogens.

It is important for fruit and vegetable growers to implement Good Agricultural Practices, also known as GAPs, on their farms to reduce the chance of foodborne pathogens contaminating their produce. Market managers should become knowledgeable of GAPs and strongly encourage vendors to have a food safety plan implemented on their farms.
Food safety on the farm
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