SPECIAL REPORT: Salmonella in the Grand Valley?

By: Stephanie Collins Email
By: Stephanie Collins Email

Within the last year a few different foods have been removed from supermarket shelves because of Salmonella. Products such as tomatoes, jalapenos, salsa, peanut butter, pistachios and most recently sprouts have all been suspected of being contaminated with Salmonella and making hundreds of people sick.

In order to prevent contamination the US Department of Agriculture says a farm to table approach to food safety is necessary. So with all the fresh produce in the Grand Valley, how is it regulated here?

Darleen McKissen from the Mesa County Health Department says they are only in charge of inspecting local restaurants and locally manufactured food products, but not locally grown produce, “Local produce at the farm area is not regulated by our department, and to my knowledge the department of agriculture isn’t doing that either.”

Farmer bob with Alida’s Fruit in Palisade says although his fresh produce is not regulated, the products he manufactures such as salsas, jams and fudge are, and he has to keep track of everything that goes into his products, “We have to check PH levels on everything, we make a batch sheet and code everything we make so if there is a problem, we know which batch it came from.”

So local manufacturers and restaurants are regulated, but can we trust that the food we get at local farmer's markets is safe?

Darleen says the Health Department meets with local farmers so they know what they have to do to keep their food free of bacteria, “We work with our farmer’s markets before the season to help them know if they’re going to give samples at their booth, we want them to wash the produce with potable water, bring it in a cleaned container, and have designated ones there for the consumer to sample.”

Since local produce isn’t inspected, it’s up to you the consumer to keep yourself safe and both Farmers and Regulators pretty much have the same advice; wash everything you buy and whether its from an orchard, a farmers market or a grocery store, don’t assume that any produce is ready for you to pick up and eat. Experts even recommend rinsing items that come from the store and say they are pre washed.

Farmer Bob also pointed out that produce that grows on a tree such as a peach or pear is less likely to get contaminated, and farmers such as Bob will throw out any produce that touches the ground and doesn't go straght from the tree to a box.

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