Grown Here at Home: Farmers can reduce risk of foodborne illness in produce

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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ7) - Food safety begins on the farm. It starts at the growing process. There's a food safety plan farmers can implement to reduce the risk of contamination.

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“You need to look at your land, the plot that you're going to use for the crop. Has it been used for anything in the past? Has it had pesticides on it recently? Has it been used recently for raw manure; if so, has recently has it been?” said Carol Haynes, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent.

Training employees is a must.

“Have they been trained on good, personal hygiene? That's a big cause for foodborne illness,” Carol said.

Even the way the food is transported makes a difference.

“Are you vehicles clean? Have they been sanitized? Are you keeping your product at the correct temperature? And also make sure that when you get it to the farmers' market, because everybody loves coming to the farmers market, that you keep it time and temperature controlled. If you're going to re-use your containers, make sure that you re-sanitized them before you bring them back to the farmers' market. The farm needs to have a recall plan if they find out there is a problem with their produce. They need to be able to trace it and say okay, it came from this field and it was this date,” Carol explained.

Carol says not always, but a lot of times it's bigger farms where foodborne illnesses will occur. And it doesn't always happen on the farm, but in the processing plant. That's why she says there's a great benefit to going to your local farmers' market to get buy your produce.

“When we were growing up, you knew your next door neighbor, you knew how they grew their product, you knew what kind of animals they raised on their property. You may not know that today, but this is a great way to get to know your farmer. Come to the farmers market,” she said.

From the farm to the farmers' market' every step counts.

“It's like a puzzle. Once all the pieces fit together it makes a beautiful picture, you have a beautiful product, but you've got to follow each step,” Carol said.

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