Vegetable Safety from Farm to Table

Vegetable Safety from Farm to Table

Food handling

All vegetables—whether conventional or organic—are susceptible to contamination by pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Between 1990 and 2005, there were at least 528 foodborne illness outbreaks associated with vegetables, resulting in more than 35,000 reported illnesses and several deaths.1 More than 80% of outbreaks can be traced to improper food handling by processors, consumers and food service workers, but large outbreaks have also originated on farms.2

Kentucky State University is conducting a series of interviews to determine what beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions underlie practices associated with vegetable handling among producers, retailers, consumers, and food safety educators. Biological sampling is also being conducted on small farms throughout Kentucky.

The research explores impacts of farm size and cultural community on food handling behaviors that affect the risk of vegetable contamination. Kentucky State University was invited to participate in this multi-institution project because of its established connections with small farmers, minorities, limited resource farmers, and alternative agriculture practitioners.

USDA The study is funded by the USDA-CSREES National Integrated Food Safety Initiative, and conducted in cooperation with teams from Ohio State University and Perdue University.

KSU Contacts:

Louie Rivers, Jr.
Marion Simon


1. Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2007. Outbreak Alert (2 MB PDF).

2. Gorny 2006. "Microbial contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables" in Microbiology of Fruits and Vegetables. Eds: Sapers, Gorny, Yousef, pp. 1-32.

Updated March 6, 2008

College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems