Produce-related Foodborne Illness Report Released

April 1, 2010

2 Min Read
Produce-related Foodborne Illness Report Released

WATSONVILLE, Calif.To help guide farmers in their efforts to reduce foodborne illness, The Alliance for Food and Farming released an updated report, Analysis of Produce Related Foodborne Illness Outbreaks, which analyzes Centers for Disease Control data associated with foodborne illness outbreaks and produce. 

The report shows that 12.3 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks from 1990 to 2007 were associated with produce.  Just over 10 percent of all identified outbreaks were associated with improper handling after leaving the farm and 2.2 percent were associated with the growing, packing, shipping or processing of produce.  The majority of the foodborne illness outbreaks, 88 percent, are from non-produce food items. 

Despite the low numbers of outbreaks associated with the growing and processing of produce, its important for producers of fresh fruits and vegetables to continue making strides toward improvement, said Ed Beckman, President of the California Tomato Farmers and a member of the Alliance for Food and Farming Management Board.  Two percent is still too high. We must work to get that percentage down to zero.

Farmers are responding by enhancing their food safety practices to protect public health as well as their own economic interests, said Ed Beckman, who noted that members of his organization, the California Tomato Farmers, along with tomato farmers around the country suffered significant financial losses when tomatoes were erroneously targeted in a highly publicized 2008 salmonella outbreak.  

Farmers are extremely motivated to work to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks from happening on their farms, continued Beckman.  But if the goal is to reduce future illness outbreaks in a significant way, its crucial for government agencies to provide information that accurately tracks the source of foodborne illness outbreaks. Farmers need this information as do restaurants and consumers if real improvements are to be made and measured. 

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