Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
In the wake of deadly outbreaks in recent years linked to contaminated raw produce, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing some sweeping new food safety regulations.
At Dubuque's Locust Street Hy-Vee, produce manager Jerry Heins takes pride in the cleanliness and safety of his product.
"We rinse everything off in the sink back there," Heins said at the store Wednesday afternoon.
Of course, the raw produce doesn't originate here. The FDA is proposing regulations that would curb contaminated produce at the farm and processing levels.
Brittany Bethel is the regional food coordinator from the Iowa State Extension Dubuque office. She said potential regulations that involve building new hand-washing facilities for farm employees or erecting fencing around the fields to keep out livestock could pose a problem for smaller local producers.
"With regulation, people get anxious and they get frustrated potentially because it may mean that they have to invest a lot of money, invest a lot of time in managing their on-farm food safety practices, even though they have the right intention," Bethel said.
However, she also said the regulations could also help growers, especially the smaller local producers.
"A lot of them are looking for education," Bethel said. "The smaller farms that I've worked with that are looking to get into new markets -- such as schools or hospitals or restaurants, or just selling at the farmers' market -- are interested in having a safe product for their consumers."
For shoppers, it never hurts to be too careful when it comes to raw fruits and vegetables.
"They're very careful at the packaging companies and the farmers are very careful, too, but, yes, I would wash them in lukewarm water," Heins said. "Lukewarm water is very good for the product itself. Kales, leaf lettuces, anything that's a leafy item."
He said wet items are more likely to attract bacteria, especially if many shoppers are handling them, so washing produce at home is always the safest bet.
The FDA's proposed safety rules are aimed at reducing the estimated 3,000 deaths caused each year by foodborne illnesses.
None of these regulations would take effect until after a 120-day comment period, giving those most impacted -- farmers and food processing companies -- a chance to have their say.
If passed, most farmers would have two years to get on board with the new regulations.
Sunday, April 20 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-04-20 17:03:37 GMT
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