In the wake of a listeria outbreak originating from a Colorado cantaloupe farm, food safety and animal science experts have urged farmers and ranchers to take the lead on pushing for increased safety measures.
Last year’s listeria outbreak was one of the deadliest outbreaks of food-borne illness in recent memory, killing more than 30 people and sickening nearly 150 in 28 states. While it has been months since the outbreak, many consumers are still wary of consuming Colorado cantaloupe, and production across the state has suffered.
In addition to the high human cost, the listeria outbreak revealed major deficiencies in federal food safety programs. Currently, only one federal organization, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbial Data Program, regularly tests fruits and vegetable for dangerous pathogens. This group’s existence is currently threatened. The budget recently submitted by President Barack Obama would eliminate this program, leaving microbial inspections entirely in the hands of states and third-party organizations.
Passing the buck like this is dangerous, according to food safety experts speaking at the governor’s annual forum on Colorado agriculture. Jensen Farm, where the listeria outbreak originated, received a “superior” rating from a third-party inspection conducted just before the outbreak.
“Everybody who produces food has to be responsible for the safety of the food they produce. You cannot rely on third parties. You just can’t,” said Larry Goodridge, associate professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer