Food safety expert shares how Yuma keeps produce safe

How to keep produce safe

YUMA, Ariz. - This week on Home Grown we talked about food safety and how consumers also play a crucial part in keeping produce safe.


News 11 met with Amanda Brooks, food safety director at Harrison Farms. 


“Our ultimate goal is to provide safe produce to our consumers,” she said.


Harrison farms grows about 5,000 acres of produce in Yuma County.


Brooks believes food safety has come a long way.


“The Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement started in 2007 after the E Coli outbreak in 2006 and at that time the farmers and the shippers came together and voluntarily put this program together,”  Brooks said.


Paul Brierley, head of the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA) shared how important of a subject this is to the agriculture business. 



“There are government regulations around food safety, but the industry goes even further because they care so much about their product being safe," he said. "The industry standards they impose on themselves and the work they do through the Center for Produce Safety and Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture is above and beyond what’s mandated by the government," he added.


For Brooks, she takes her job very personally.


“When I think of why it’s important I think of my family and I don’t want anyone in my family to get sick, I don’t want anyone in your family to get sick," she said.


Brooks even mentioned there are things consumers can do to keep produce safe.


She suggests always washing your hands before prepping food, washing your produce and using separate cutting boards for meat and for produce.


Brooks helped form the Yuma Safe Produce Council. They have a list of five things which involve the community to help with harvesting safer foods. 


“The five things we ask the community to do to help us to keep food safe is when you’re walking your pets please keep them on a leash and pick up after your pets, we ask that if you have horses or other animals that you exercise them away from our fields, do not liter and do not enter our agriculture fields, and never dump or dispose of any substances in our ditches and canals," she said.


There are a lot of steps to getting the food safely from the field to your plate.


“We start in August before anything is planted in the ground and we do what we call a pre-season inspection where we go out and look at the field and the surrounding areas and we identify what could be a potential hazard and we always say the first step in food safety is prevention so we try to prevent any risks from being there in the first place," she said.


Then they do an annual training with all of their employees which covers good agriculture practices, personal hygiene and field security.


Then they monitor the crops very closely throughout its growth.


“When it’s time to harvest we do a daily harvest inspection where again, they look at the field even more closely," she said.


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