Recent reports of salmonella sickness by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has caused an increased focus on animal-human interaction. According to these reports, over 100 people in multiple states have been ill with salmonella. The CDC states that the most likely cause is their interaction with live poultry in backyard flocks. More recently, there have been at least 18 outbreaks of Virulent Newcastle Disease in Southern California. This disease is a highly contagious and often fatal virus that affects the respiratory, nervous, and digestive system of birds and poultry. It is important to note that no human cases of Newcastle have been reported from the consumption of poultry products (proper handling and cooking is always important.)
These reports are a good reminder that proper biosecurity by both small poultry flock owners and visitors should be exercised. It should come as no surprise that there are associated risks with livestock production, even in the smallest backyard flocks. Poultry are in constant contact with the outside world and their desire to scratch and peck the ground exposes them to numerous biological pathogens. Standard biosecurity practices within a home flock should become normal practice for poultry owners and can be easily implemented. Some steps you can take to best secure your flock include:
- Washing, rinsing and disinfecting feeders and waterers every week to 10 days. More often if heavily used
- Quarantine any birds that appear to have even slight to moderate symptoms of abnormalities
- Implement a pest control program, this should include rodents, insects, and snakes.
- Secure your poultry from natural predators, this may include a family pet like a dog or cat
- Limit the number of people who encounter your poultry, especially family or friends who own flocks
- Ensure you are acquiring birds from reputable sources. Most commercial hatcheries have stringent biosecurity measures at their facilities.
- Quarantine any new birds for at least 14-21 days before introducing them to your flock .
- Wash your hands before and after handling birds. A disinfectant by the coop can be handy as well.
Enjoying your backyard flock should be one of the delights of raising poultry on your own. They provide hours of entertainment and usually a few eggs each day! Ensuring that you and your animals are safe should be a top priority. As always, reach out to professionals, hatcheries, Extension agents, or other seasoned poultry owners for information.
These University of Florida publications are also great resources for additional information.
Sally Waxgiser sells Sally’s Old Fashion Jams and Jellies in Jackson County utilizing the guidelines of the the Florida Cottage Food Law, which was approved by the legislature in 2011. Photo credit: Doug Mayo
Under the Cottage Food Law in the state of Florida, individuals can sell certain foods they produce in unlicensed home kitchens, if the food has a low risk of foodborne illness, as outlined in Section 500.80 of the Florida Statutes. These food products must be sold within Florida, they cannot be sold wholesale, and they must be properly packaged and labeled. Although products can be served as free samples for tasting, the samples must be prepackaged.
The label on Cottage food must include the name and address of the Cottage food operation, the name of the product, the ingredients in order by weight, the net weight or volume of the product, allergen information, nutritional information if a nutritional claim is made, and the following statement, “Made in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.”
Recently, the Cottage Food Law was amended to include two important changes. These updates, which took effect July 1, 2017, increase the annual gross sales of cottage food products allowed under the law from $15,000 to $50,000, and make it possible for the producer to sell, offer for sale, and accept payment over the Internet, if the product is delivered in person directly to the consumer, or to a specific event venue.
As listed on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Cottage Food website, the following foods fall under the Cottage Food Law:
Loaf breads, rolls, biscuits
Cakes, pastries and cookies
Candies and confections
Jams, jellies and preserves
Fruit pies and dried fruits
Dry herbs, seasonings and mixtures
Cereals, trail mixes and granola
Coated or uncoated nuts
Vinegar and flavored vinegars
Popcorn and popcorn balls
For more information, please visit the FDACS Division of Food Safety website, and read their latest fact sheet called, Florida Cottage Food Guidance.
If you are a produce farmer, you should have heard about the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, by now. This act, which was passed in 2011, is considered the largest update to food safety regulation in over 80 years.
The proposed produce safety rule under the FSMA is very robust, establishing the minimum standards for worker training, health and hygiene, agricultural water use, animal soil amendments, on-farm domesticated and wild animals, equipment, tools, buildings, and sprout production. But just who does the new food safety rule affect?
First, the rule does not apply to produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity, or commodities the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified as “rarely consumed raw.” Secondly, if your farm has an average value of produce sold of $25,000 or less within the previous three years, you are also exempt.
Fresh cucumbers, for example, are considered a raw commodity. But cucumbers that will undergo further processing, such as for pickling, would be eligible for exemption from the produce rule. Photo by Molly Jameson.
If you do produce an agricultural commodity in which the rule applies, and the value of your produce sold is over $25,000, it is still possible that your farm might be exempt from most of the requirements. For instance, if the average annual monetary value of food sold directly to qualified end-users was more than the average annual value of the food sold to all other buyers within the previous three-year period, you meet the first half of exemption eligibility. A “qualified end-user” is considered the consumer of the food, or restaurant or retail food establishment, located within the same state as the farm that produced the food (or no more than 275 miles).
If you meet the above exemption eligibility standards, you must also meet the second requirement. That is, the average annual monetary value of all food sold during the three-year period must be less than $500,000, when adjusted for inflation.
Not sure if you are exempt? View the chart developed by the FDA: Standards for Produce Safety – Coverage and Exemptions/Exclusions for Proposed 21 PART 112.
Whether you will be exempt from the FSMA produce safety rule or not, it is always a good idea to follow good agricultural practices and to have a farm food safety plan. To learn more about food safety on the farm, view the University of Florida IFAS document Food Safety on the Farm: An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices.
The UF/IFAS Small Farms Academy is offering a Building Your Own Farm’s Food Safety Manual Workshop in Tallahassee to help growers develop their own food safety manuals. This workshop is tailored to fresh fruit and vegetable farms, fields, or greenhouses, and is partially supported by a grant through the Florida Specialty Crops Block Grant program from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The registration fee is $35 for the first person representing a farm, and $15 for an additional attendee from that farm. The workshop is limited to 20 farms on a first come, first serve basis.
The workshop will take place at the Amtrak Station, County Community Room, 918 Railroad Ave, in Tallahassee, FL, on Tuesday, May 23, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register on Eventbrite by following this link: https://farmfoodsafetymanualworkshop.eventbrite.com
Please note, this class will help you develop your farm’s food safety manual, but it does NOT fulfill the new FDA FSMA one-time training requirement.