All News & Blogs
Want to start your own home-based food business? Be wary of foodborne illness.
Science can play a role in a home-based food business.
FOOD INNOVATIONS / VIRGINIA TECH
Visit the Photo Place
DO YOU want to sell Grandma's special spaghetti sauce? Your aunt's famous jam and jelly? Your dad's delicious hot wing sauce? Do you want to start your own home-based food business?
Food entrepreneurship is on the rise, primarily due to the increased interest in locally grown or regionally identified foods. The local food movement is often supported by farmers markets, community-supported agriculture systems and health food stores. Farmers markets continue to expand, with nearly 8,000 Department of Agriculture registered markets in 2012, a 9.6 percent increase from 2011. This growth continues to create business opportunities from farm to fork.
As interest in locally grown food increases, so have concerns for food safety. The Centers for Disease Control estimates food-borne illness sickens 1 in 6 Americans, causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. Many incidents of food-borne illnesses go unreported and occur as a result of improper food handling and preparation.
There is a common misconception that local foods are "safer." Research does not show that local foods are any safer. Local foods, like home-processed products, are not immune to contamination from organisms such as E. coli, salmonella and shigella that plague large- scale commercially produced foods.
The CDC describes a foodborne disease outbreak as an incident in which two or more persons experience a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food. Typically, the media report only on large-scale outbreaks or large-scale food recalls that may directly affect thousands of consumers and present significant economic consequences. Local foods are distributed on a much smaller scale, so incidents often go unreported.
Fresh fruits and vegetables make up a significant proportion of the local foods market. The CDC reports that produce is the riskiest regulated food product when speaking of food safety violations. Food-borne illnesses can be costly and devastating for small businesses. The overall cost to the public is high, with the estimated annual economic cost of food-borne illness approximately $77.7 billion. On a local level, from 2007 to 2009, the estimated economic loss from food-borne illnesses in Virginia was $13 million-$25 million.
As demand for local foods continues to grow, the opportunity for food-related illness increases as well. Entrepreneurs should be aware of all local, state and federal regulations dealing with the proper packaging and labeling of products, obtaining appropriate permits and licenses, food
If food safety is made a priority, the opportunities for a sustainable home-based food business are endless. Whether you are a food entrepreneur, purchase food from your local farmers market or preserve food from your home garden, remember food safety first.
If you are interested in starting a home-based food business or have questions about local foods, please contact your local extension office.
Ashley Eisenbeiser is an agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension's Spotsylvania and Stafford office specializing in food, nutrition and health. Phone 540/507-7568; email: email@example.com