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Summer Food Concerns

24.jun.05, Sarah Wilson, PhD, The Lindsay Daily Post

Often the person behind the counter or table at the Farmers' Market produced the very food we're buying from them. Food safety is paramount to them.

24.jun.05, Sarah Wilson, PhD, The Lindsay Daily Post
Summer - the season for barbeques, summer festivals and Farmers' Markets - is finally here. One of the best things about summer is enjoying the abundant supply of local or home-grown vegetables, fresh fruits and berries and the tantalizing aroma of barbequed meats. As we enjoy summertime eating and dining outdoors, it's especially important to keep food safety in mind.
From succulent strawberries to the first taste of summer corn or tomatoes, we search out nature's best produce. To provide us with this abundance of safe, affordable food, farmers depend on a range of crop protection technologies, including pesticides. Healthy plants are better able to survive Mother Nature's weather surprises and provide a more plentiful harvest. Not only are fruits and vegetables free of insect damage more visually appealing, but wormholes and wounds left behind from insects can harbour dangerous bacteria which can make people sick.
Pest control products are strictly regulated by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to ensure human and environmental health and safety. Only products that pose no unacceptable risks to health and the environment are permitted for use and those who apply pesticides must be trained and licensed to do so.
Often the person behind the counter or table at the Farmers' Market produced the very food we're buying from them. Food safety is paramount to them.
Their livelihood and personal health depend on safe food production. The scrumptious samplings offered for sale are also enjoyed at home by the vendors and their families. Ask the vendor what they're doing to ensure the safety of their products.
Once the food is purchased, there are a number of safe food handling practices to follow to reduce the risk of it becoming contaminated by bacteria and other organisms which can cause illness.
Washing hands before and after food preparation is one of the most important safe food-handling practices. To effectively clean hands, wet them, lather with soap, scrub while counting slowly to at least 15, rinse, and dry.
Refrigerate all food that needs refrigeration as soon as possible. If the produce container appears to have been used in the farm field, transfer its contents to a clean container. Do not let juices from raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood come in contact with cooked foods or foods that will be eaten without cooking, such as fruits or salad ingredients. Refrigerate all perishable foods within two hours, even after cooking. Refrigeration is not only a matter of safety, but will prolong the quality of the food.
Keep all kitchen surfaces and equipment clean. Raw foods can transmit bacteria and other microorganisms to cutting boards, counter tops, and utensils. In order to reduce the risk of contamination, consider a separate cutting board for raw meats, or using a plastic board that is easier to clean.
Fruits and vegetables consumed raw can pose a food safety risk. Rinsing produce thoroughly with running water that is safe to drink is considered the best way to remove dirt and reduce microorganisms that might be present.
Using soap is unnecessary and can leave unwanted residues on the produce.
When cleaning leafy vegetables like lettuce or cabbage, remove and discard the outer leaves before rinsing under running water to remove any dirt.
A growing body of research shows that fruits and vegetables are critical to promoting good health. In fact, fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of a healthy diet, which is why Canada's Food Guide recommends eating 5-10 servings every day. Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and can help our bodies to fight diseases.
So bear these tips in mind this summer, and make sure you take the time to visit the Farmers' Market in Lindsay at the Lindsay Farmer's Market, located on Victoria Avenue between Kent and Peel Streets and pick up fresh, locally-grown produce for you and your family. Open from the beginning of May to the end of October, Saturday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dr. Sarah Wilson is the Manager of the Information Centre at the University of Guelph's Food Safety Network.