US: Food expert says growers bear primary food safety responsibility

A food safety expert has told growers that they should not rely on third party audits to guarantee the safety of their produce.

Larry Goodridge, associate professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, told farmers that they bear primary responsibility for food safety.

"Each farm or processing facility has to be able to assess their own risks," Goodridge told the governor's annual forum on Colorado agriculture in Denver. "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."

He cited the listeria outbreak of last year that was responsible for the deaths of 32 people, and which, for example, was traced to a farm that has just recently been awarded a "superior" rating from a third party food inspector.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate third-party auditors, and a congressional report released in January quoted the auditing company that graded Jensen farms as saying audits are not intended to improve food safety standards.

Retailers often rely on such audits in an effort to make sure food is safe, the report said.

However, Goodridge said that, whilst growers might hire inspectors to carry out thorough examinations, the actual event might prove to less intensive.

A food safety law passed last year would increase federal involvement in food inspection matters, but the finance to implement it is not guaranteed at this stage. Also, it would focus on improving safety in exported foods, not on those produced domestically.

The FDA said last year that melons at Jensen Farms likely were contaminated in the operation's packing house, which was using second hand, hard-to-clean equipment. Melons in the field tested negative.


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