Monday, November 20, 2006
Is Locally Grown Food Safer?
In advance of Thanksgiving, we wanted to find out whether food grown and sold in your own state or region is safer to eat than the food shipped from across the country or overseas.
Our food travels an average 1,500 miles before it gets to our table, and problems can also hitch a ride.
Three people died and 200 were sickened recently after fresh spinach was contaminated with E. coli bacteria. That spinach made it on the menu in dozens of states before it was traced to a farm in California.
I paid a visit to the Georgia Farmers Market just south of Atlanta to find out whether locally grown food is safer. Even at this time of year, food grown in Georgia such as turnip greens and tomatoes are brought to the market and sold to the public or processed on site to be sent to supermarkets and restaurants across the southeast.
Tommy Irvin, commissioner of Georgia's Department of Agriculture, says distance doesn't necessarily mean risk. Locally grown food will be fresher and buying it will help your area's economy but it all comes down to how the food is handled.
Irvin has these simple hints:
- Wash hands often and thoroughly while preparing food
- Clean produce by rubbing briskly under running water to remove dirt and microorganisms
- Cook food to a minimum of 165 degrees, killing all bacteria and viruses
Irvin says fresh or frozen, organic or not... the safety of the produce and the meat you put on your table this Thanksgiving depends on YOU! Food can be perfectly safe on the trip from the field to your kitchen but if you don't go the extra step of washing and preparing or cooking it properly... foodborne illnesses could to come to dinner along with Aunt Ethel.
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