Pennsylvania supermarkets will continue selling local fruits and vegetables, officials say, but will require local farmers to show proof of good agricultural practices. The tougher regulations are a response to a recent string of foodborne illnesses.
Over the past several years, the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control have noted a startling rise in instances of reported health outbreaks connected fresh produce. Every year an estimated 48 million foodborne illnesses cause about 3,000 deaths. The most recent outbreak originated in Colorado, when cantaloupe infected with listeria led to the deaths of nearly 30 people.
In response to the recent outbreaks, grocers and agricultural officials are requiring farmers to show proof of good agricultural practices and food safety standards. These GAPs include safe irrigations methods, appropriate use of raw and composted animal manure, proper worker health and hygiene standards, proper post-harvest handling practices, and adequate traceability.
Another crucial part of improving food safety is requiring GAP education and distributing education materials.
In addition to requiring proof of adequate safety methods, agricultural officials will crackdown on mandatory third-party audits. Third-party certification is a major part of maintaining good agricultural practices. Despite these increased requirements, some environmental and health advocacy organizations question the efficacy of audits. The Colorado farm responsible for last year’s listeria outbreak passed an inspection just before the first cases were reported.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer