FDA Cracks Down On Food Handling

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

The Food and Drug Administration is starting the new year by cracking down on the way the food you eat is handled on the farm.

Some are saying it's the biggest change in food safety in the past 70 years.

On Friday, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act. What it does is move the focus from a reactive stance to one more determined to be preventive.

A major way the F.D.A. plans to accomplish that, by cracking down on the growers who handle fruits and vegetables. Some of the rules they're suggesting, like using clean water and treating fertilizer before use, should be common sense.

Many of the Valley's local growers already take those steps.

"Some of the joy that we get as farmers is giving fresh and health food to people," said Jake Cochran, a farm worker at Wildside Farms. "If there's any fear of contamination or dirt or anything, then we take pride in washing it."

The new rules come after several years of increased food-borne illnesses and deaths. Farm workers will need special training to handle the produce.

Some think that's a smart idea.

"Mistakes are going to happen," said Todd Bolender of Passage Creek Farm. "You're going to get cross contamination of things. They're producing a lot of different products and a lot of different workers that might be cross contaminating things."

The proposed rules exempt most of the sellers at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. The F.D.A. is currently aiming at the big farms.

Some in the Valley worry that's not going to last long.

"The regulations are getting closer and closer to home as they're stricter for smaller and smaller," said Radell Schrock of Season's Bounty Farm. "Most of the producers here would still be exempt, but it's kind of coming that way. So, it's something we need to think about."

The F.D.A. also has plans to strengthen regulations at processing plants. The agency currently has no timeline for when the new rules will go into effect.

They say they need more funding to roll them out.

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