Fresh Produce Responsible for Most Foodborne Illnesses in the U.S.

Fresh produce is the cause of most foodborne illnesses in the U.S., reports the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

In a study of outbreaks that occurred between 2004 and 2013, the consumer advocacy group found that fresh produce, such as cilantro, cucumbers, cantaloupes and peppers, caused 629 outbreaks and almost 20,000 illnesses.

But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on fruits and vegetables.

“You are twice as likely to get sick from eating a serving of chicken as from eating a serving of vegetables,” said CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney David Plunkett, co-author of the report. “The data support improving the safety of our produce supply but don’t support eating less fruits and vegetables, which provide valuable nutrients.”

Over the period studied, there was a total of 193,754 illnesses reported from 9,626 outbreaks. Of the total number of reported outbreaks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was able to identify both the food source and the contaminant in fewer than 40 percent. CSPI only reviewed the 3,485 solved outbreaks.

The report also found that seafood caused more illnesses per pound consumed than any other food category, while fruits, vegetables and dairy caused the fewest illnesses per pound consumed.

In addition, the number of outbreaks appears to decline sharply in 2009, but that may be due to changes in how norovirus is classified and not an actual reduction in illnesses from foodborne causes.

CSPI recommends that CDC continue to work with state and local health departments to standardize and maintain the consistent reporting rates seen since 2010, while also addressing the disparities in reporting rates among different states.

And Congress should fully fund improvements to the surveillance system, including providing more assistance to state public health efforts, the group stated.


Source:, December 8, 2015

Seeking Farmer Research Partners

Do you have questions about food safety that you would like answered? The Iowa State University On-Farm Food Safety Team is seeking growers interested in being involved in research related to fresh produce and value added product safety.  Because of past support from growers, our team has been successful with obtaining grants to answer questions and develop materials useful and relevant to you. We are recruiting growers who are willing to 1) contribute their skills and knowledge to our research team; 2) participate in research projects; and/or 3) advice plans for future research. Commitment is based on your comfort level – there is no minimal participation requirement!!  Benefits of participation include: 1) first view of project results; 2) reimbursement for travel and time on projects; and 3) opportunity to network with other producers and researchers.

How does it work?  First – sign up and fill out a short survey – this will enroll you in our pool of growers. When a grant opportunity comes up, we contact those growers with interest in that area and/or we may ask you for a brainstorming session. You decide yes or no to the opportunity. If you say “no”, you will receive no more emails for this project and we will contact you when another opportunity comes along OR if you say “yes”, we will send a follow up email with more details.   You make the decision to say YES or NO. You can ask to be completely removed from the list at any time.  Email will be a primary method of communication!  An example of a current need: We are seeking growers to assist with a Flood Food Safety Project.  Your commitment would be a letter of support and a commitment to attend 2 (in person-paid travel or via phone) meetings, provide feedback on a quarterly report of the research, and accepting an honorarium for your efforts.

Interested?  Sign up today

Questions:  Email  or call 515-294-0868.

Research: Impact of GAPS training on food safety behaviors in Iowa

Summaries of 8 recently completed projects funded by the Leopold Center are now available.  Read about a GAPs training program launched in Iowa.

Title: Impacts of GAPs and post-harvest handling practices certificate training on producers’ on-farm food safety behaviors and perceptions of customer assurance.

Key Question: Does food safety training for fruit and vegetable growers affect consumer and retail foodservice buyers’ purchasing decisions?

Findings: Findings from the project indicated the growing need for food safety checklists, verification of safety protocols implemented, and third-party audit information. Results also suggest that requirements by wholesale buyers will continue to drive the need for food safety and auditing information in the marketplace. Despite national media attention about fresh produce safety, little concern was displayed among Iowa farmers’ market shoppers.

Visit the project page and read the full report.


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