Food Safety

Last Monday evening, I had the chance to listen to Erin Hiebert, with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre. She gave a presentation on food safety. Food safety is a concern to all of us. We have seen major changes in our food supply with globalization. We can see fruits and vegetables from around the world. We have seen an increase in produce coming from the local sources. Diverse food sources have required a number of changes in legislation on how we inspect and handle the foods that hit our kitchens and ultimately our plates. The concepts on how to deal with food safety are changing. The industry used to deal with food safety by imposing certain standards on the processing plants and assume that this would keep the food safe through the rest of the food chain. Now the food industry deals with food safety from the producer to the fork. There are standards that are imposed at the farm gate, the warehouse and the grocery stores. Food must be handled in a safe way. Each step in the process must meet standards. Food must be traceable. We can identify a problem and deal with the issue quickly. Labeling allows recalls to happen quickly and effectively. It was interesting with the beef plant problems that we saw last fall, the problem was identified quickly and the number of people that sick was very small. If this problem was not dealt with quickly by our public health system, the meat from this major processing facility could have caused significantly more problems. Our system performed by identifying the problem quickly and eliminating the source of the potential health issue. With food safety, the consumer also has responsibility for the security of their food. Consumers are looking more to local farmers markets and food processors for this reason. The farmers market brings together people that you know or can get to know. You can ask those questions about the food that they are offering for sale. If you want, you can go view the processing facility because it is local. This is appealing to more consumers as a way to control exposure to food contamination issues. Finally, remember to practice safe food processing in your home. E coli can be controlled by cooking meat and vegetables at the right temperatures. Wiping countertops is always a good idea working with your food. Washing all your fruit and vegetables before eating them is a good practice to follow. Our food that we eat is safe. We have to depend on legislation and inspectors to identify and deal with problems in our system. If you choose wisely about the source of your food and take care with handling food at home, we should be safe to eat the food that is offered to us. As a member of the agriculture industry, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to make our food safer. It takes work by all of us, but due diligence will keep our food safe.