New Alliance for Food Safety Launched by Retailers, Growers, and Farm Workers - Health Minute for May 30, 2013
It’s summer, a new season for fresh produce. There’s something else growing: a new initiative to make sure that this year’s fruits and vegetables are 100 percent safe. An unprecedented alliance between retailers, growers, and farm workers has resulted in an innovative program to promote healthy produce. Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce’s Sierra Farm, a California grower, is training its workers in practices to avoid contamination, and to bring unsafe conditions they observe to the attention of farm managers. In return, Andrew & Williamson is providing a higher wage, one dollar more per hour than average, and better working conditions. The company’s strawberries are labeled “Limited Edition” to certify that food safety practices have been followed. Of course, there’s an extra cost to this effort. And with only nine cents of every dollar for strawberries going to the producer, finding buyer-partners willing to take on those increased costs has been a key part of the strategy. That’s where Costco’s support is making a difference. The giant retailer is supporting the program by paying higher prices for safer and better quality fruit, and passing on that cost to consumers. The health stakes are high. Last summer, 250 people became sick and three died after eating cantaloupes contaminated with salmonella. In 2011, cantaloupe tainted with listeria killed 33 people. The Food and Drug Administration blamed conditions that farm workers could help prevent, such as stagnant water and fecal contamination in fields, and dirty surfaces in packing areas. This new program incentivizes workers to report such problems. The plan seems to be working. Bon Appetit has joined Costco in buying Limited Edition strawberries, using the certified berries exclusively in a pilot program for the company’s 100 cafes in Northern California. This summer, expect more retailers and restaurateurs to respond to consumer demand for safe, fresh produce.
I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.
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