To avoid fines, shut downs, recalls and outbreaks that lead to bad press and consumers swearing off certain foods forever, it's important that food and agricultural companies work closely with food safety and regulatory groups.
When fighting pesky bacteria, education and outreach are key. The World Organization for Animal Health, for example, distributes a free guidebook of good farming practices that lists a host of ways those who raise livestock can prevent the spread of disease [source: World Organization for Animal Health].
The guidelines include quarantining newly arrived and sick animals, making sure grazing areas are far from industrial plants, avoiding overcrowding, regularly disposing of animal feces and keeping the barn houses ventilated and clean.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations puts out a guide on good agricultural practices that includes applying fertilizers in the proper doses to avoid run-off, maintaining the soil through crop rotation and grazing, and limiting water use to only what is necessary [source: FAO]. The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates an audit and certification program to verify that farms use good agricultural practices like those recommended by the FAO.
In addition to routine inspections, the FDA has been implementing a new food safety program during the past 15 years called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). The new program aims to prevent food-borne illnesses by monitoring food processing at all stages of preparation rather than spot checking factories and sampling food after it's been produced [source: FDA].
The system -- already mandatory in the production of juice, seafood, meat and poultry -- was instated in response to a spike of new food pathogens in the 1970s and 1980s, increasing public concern about contamination, growth in the volumes and types of food U.S. farmers were producing and the rise of imports [source: FDA].
Following the guidelines and procedures recommended (and in many cases mandated) by these organizations can save food processors from potential disasters, and reduce the risk to their consumers.
For more on food safety organizations, see the links on the next page.