Buying Local Produce: Food Safety Advice for Restaurants

Chef Holding FruitsIn Australia, efforts are underway to strengthen the national food system in the hopes that it would lower the demand for imported food. While many food retailers still prefer imported products, mostly because they are more affordable, local farmers and manufacturers have become more competitive.

While studies have shown that locally sourced food is better for human health and the environment, food safety experts warn consumers and foodservice providers that there are risks to buying local food, as well. Restaurants, in particular, should take extra precaution when buying local food. Here are a few considerations:

Do Your Research

Local doesn’t always entail clean and sustainable. Even if the farms you’re getting food from are nearby, they could still contain certain amounts of pesticides. Likewise, improper processing and handling are still a possibility. When building connections with local farms, do your research or visit the farm yourself if possible.

It pays to know how big the farm is, what types and varieties of crops they grow, how many animals they raise, and what tools and techniques they use in all operations. While local farm operations and zoning rule are strictly implemented by the government, it’s best to double-check, especially if you’re putting your business on the line.

Brush Up on Food Safety Practices

Food-borne threats often change or come in a different form. Recently, experts found that it’s dangerous — even fatal — for children to eat lychee (fruit) on an empty stomach. As a restaurateur, it’s your task to ensure your patrons’ health and safety.

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You must always serve fresh and clean food at all times. If you buy vegetables in bulk, for example, always inspect, wash, and properly handle them before serving. Encourage your employees to get food handlers certificate and keep them in the loop in new food safety practices and regulations.

Go for Retail-ready Farm Products

Going for a more established farm is a wise choice, but there are many small-scale and hobby farms that show promise. Since you’re running a commercial kitchen, always go for retail-ready farm products, especially for processed goods and deli food.

For fresh produce, do your homework and get in touch with the local community. For example, suppliers who claim to have organic products should have organic certification. It’s best to hire a food consultant if you’re unsure if a farm or vendor meets retail criteria.

Local food has become more popular in Australia in recent years, and for good reason. Individuals and businesses involved in foodservice and retail, however, should remain meticulous when choosing suppliers.