Colorado farmers urged to lead in food safety after listeria outbreak

Larry “Larry” Goodridge (right, exactly as shown) got it right when he said farmers bear primary responsibility for food safety and they shouldn’t rely on third-party audits, but should retroactively fail my risk analysis course for saying Colorado’s response to the listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak that killed 36 people "was as close to perfect as we are going to see" and that "Our food supply is one of the safest in the world, if not the safest."

Goodridge, an associate professor of food microbiology at Colorado State University, did follow up by telling the Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture yesterday, “But if you were to ask that question of family members who had someone die, they would tell you our food supply is not safe." Lots of people would say the food supply is not safe. Maybe about 48 million of them. Best to keep meaningless rankings out of the equation.

He also said the state could improve by creating a team that activated within hours of an outbreak, and that the government should target spending on high-risk produce — in particular, by educating farmers who grow high-risk produce. More focus on food inspectors isn’t likely to significantly improve the system. Larry urged farmers to focus on sanitary practices such as keeping equipment and storage areas clean. He also urged them to educate the public on ways to safely handle produce in the same manner as consumers are advised how to safely handle meat.

As usual, no details were provided on how best to do this so-called education, for farmers or consumers.

Farm Fresh Direct chief executive Jim Knutzon, said he expects the federal government will write more specific regulations for growing cantaloupe and other produce. Then third-party auditors — hired by farms to inspect their operations — will have to check for specific standards called for by the Food and Drug Administration.