A new report by the Alliance for Food and Farming, Watsonville, Calif., found that between 1990 and 2007, an overwhelming majority were linked to mishandling after leaving the farm or processor.
Released March 29 during a Web seminar, the report, analyzes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 17 years and attempts to quantify where produce was contaminated and how it measures up compared to other foodborne outbreaks linked to other food groups.
The report is based on data from 6,290 confirmed outbreaks, 560 of which were related to produce.
“We believe improved access to data is a critical step” in reducing the risk of future outbreaks, said Reggie Brown, executive director of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange and an alliance member, during the Web session.
According to the report, 10% of the outbreaks were “associated with improper handling after leaving the farm,” and 2.2% were “associated with the growing, packing, shipping or processing of produce.”
Additionally, 65% of outbreaks were associated with produce mishandled at the foodservice level, and 13% were related to mishandling produce at home, according to the report.
In situations where the source of the contamination was unclear, the report listed them in the category of “the growing, packing, shipping or processing of produce.”
“We do not intend to use this report to shift blame to any other segment or food group,” said Marilyn Dolan, executive director of Alliance for Food & Farming.