This message is from a food safety list (probably in response to the 
strawberry situation). Note the comments about manures, and the food 
system implications.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 23:23:49 -0500
From: CHARLES CLINGMAN <CDEEC@worldnet.att.net>
To: foodsafe@nal.usda.gov


	Prior to 1987 CDC reported 2% of foodborne disease outbreaks were
associated with fresh produce.  From 1988 to 1991 this number had
increased four times to 8%. 

	Numerous bacteria, viruses, and protozoa have been linked
epidemiologically to fresh produce-associated disease.  These pathogens
are not product specific since they have been linked to several types of
produce.  Therefore, many possible combinations of pathogen/food items
exist for fresh produce-associated diseases. 

Probable reasons for the increase in fresh produce-associated disease: 

1. Changing food industry demographics with larger and more centralized
production units and longer food chains. 

2. Changing consumer food preferences with an increase in consumption of
fresh produce. 

3. Changing food consumption patterns with a trend toward more use of
salad bars and fast food, and more meals being eaten outside the home. 

4. Increase in international travel making more people exposed to the
microbial flora in other countries and also allowing more people to bring
pathogens home with them from abroad. 

5. Increase in global trade which makes food from around the world
available to the average customer, and brings an end of seasonality in the
food supply. 

6. Changing social demographics with an increased proportion of the
population being elderly, immunocompromised, or suffering from chronic
diseases, which increases the population at highest risk for foodborne

7. Changing food production methods with greater use of manure fertilizers
rather than reliance on chemical fertilizers. 

8. Decreased emphasis and lack of home and secondary school education on
proper handling and washing of fruits and vegetables before consumption. 

Preventative measures

To prevent foodborne diseases associated with fresh produce, it is
necessary to prevent initial contamination, decontaminate/pasteurize, and
prevent amplification of pathogens.  Proper sanitation at all levels in
the fresh produce chain, from farm to table, is crucial.  This includes
the avoidance of the use of manure as fertilizers, proper sanitary systems
and hand washing facilities for the workers in the fields, the use of
clean equipment and transportation vehicles, good hygiene in the
processing facilities and in the kitchen, and measures to prevent

 Inasmuch amplification points involving water are commonly implicated in
fresh produce-associated outbreaks, the quality of irrigation water at the
production level and the quality of water/ice use after harvesting are of
prime importance.  To prevent growth of microorganisms it is important to
maintain proper temperatures during processing, transportation, and
storage of fresh produce.  For minimally processed fresh produce the use
of pasteurization, irradiation, addition of growth inhibitors, or lowering
pH should be considered as barriers to bacterial survival and growth. 

Prevention of foodborne illness is also an education issue.  Education and
information within the industry, at the retail level, and to the public
should be undertaken.  All workers along the food-chain from farm to table
as well as the consumers need to know how to handle the products correctly,
how to prevent cross-contamination, at what temperatures different foods
are to be kept during storage, and for how long processed produce can be
kept before consumption.  However, it is important to remember that the
problem of foodborne diseases is an international problem, especially when
it comes to fresh produce. 

One cannot address this issue at a national level only; international
collaboration on food safety issues is essential. 

C Dee Clingman
VP Quality Assurance
Darden Restaurants