Stemming from a recent question that I posted to Caleb’s AMA post, @Caleb asked me to consider sticking up a thread to discuss food safety matters relating to your Personal Food Computer/Server/Data Centre. So I did. Welcome.
Many people don't realise that horticultural produce is a significant source of foodborne illness globally. In fact, it was a horticultural crop that caused one of the largest global foodborne illness outbreaks ever recorded - the E.coli O104:H4 outbreak associated with seed sprouts from Germany in 2011. Also surprisingly, according to the CDC's own data, plants as a commodity group were responsible for approximately 51% of all foodborne illnesses in the USA between 1998 and 2008 (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/19/3/11-1866-t1).
The aim of this thread is to encourage discussions about food safety that are relevant to the home production of food, in particular using the PFC and similar systems. Over the next little while, I will try to put up some Food Safety 101-style posts and links to resources so that everyone that is interested can begin to gain an understanding of some of the things that you might like to think about when you start to produce food at home, to try and make your food as great as possible.
EDIT: I forgot to add that I'm also interested in your experiences - is it something that you've thought about? Have you had any positive/negative experiences with produce food safety? Do you take any steps to make sure that your produce is good to eat? Do you think that the PFC offers advantages to improve food safety outcomes?
//WHAT IT’S NOT//
It’s not my intention to scare you by dragging in monsters to throw under your bed. Many of the things that I will talk about are plain common sense. In fact, I’m sure most of you do a great job at this sort of stuff already. But, awareness is key and the people that we least want to be affected by any foodborne illness are those that we will probably first share our produce with - our family and friends.
//WHO AM I//
My name is Andrew Wilson. I am an agricultural scientist and microbiologist from Brisbane, Australia. I’ve grown up with a traditional agricultural production-focussed career and completed my doctorate in microbiology. Nowadays, I work for the state food safety regulatory authority regulating the primary production and processing of meat, dairy, seafood, eggs and seed sprouts – generally from the paddock to the backdoor of the retailer (similar to the FDA/USDA in the US). I also have an interest in sustainable urban agriculture, which lead me to the OpenAg project in the first place. When I’m not working, I like tinkering with/making stuff, fixing cars, woodworking and cooking. I’m also not a programmer and I have a VERY basic knowledge of robotic systems engineering and the like, so please be patient with me in that sense. The PFC will be the first project of this kind that I undertake, so I’m glad that I have all of you to call on when I run into troubles there.
The advice/opinions or otherwise that I express on this thread/forum are my own and not that of my employer, OpenAg or anybody else. Also, I am here to learn about your experiences as food producers as much as I am to contribute to the discussions. If you have any questions or put something to me that I’m not sure about, I’ll do my best to see if I can locate some information for you that will give you an answer or direction, but be prepared for me to not be able to give you an answer at all. This might be the case particularly if you have a question about regulatory requirements in your country relating to commercial food production.
Also, you should know that food safety knowledge (like the rest of science) is very dynamic - lots of this stuff is changing all of the time. If you’ve got a better answer or more recent information, throw it up! I’m keen to hear from all of you.
Looking forward to this little journey to making our food as great as it has the potential to be – should be exciting (and if you've got any burning questions, get posting)!