More buyers going local after recent food recalls

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Many people are going for fresh produce off a South Carolina farm. But when it's fresh, does it mean it's safer?

With all the recent food recalls, many people think the food at local markets is safer for the stomach. But there is actually no official way to tell if the produce is less likely to cause illness.

Generally, produce in local markets has less federal and local oversight, but that hasn't stopped the demand for it. In fact, the Myrtle Beach Market has seen a 30 percent rise in sales over the past couple of months.

Congress has exempted smaller farms from stricter regulations with a new food safety act- and that's if those farms sell the majority of their products directly to customers, stores or within 275 miles.

But farmers and producers here along the Grand Strand tell us, there's no need for more regulations at the local level because of how food is handled. "You notice the way things are handled," said farmer Rich Graz. "They're not really handled as clean, everything's moved around, by a hundred different people. They're not just taking care of when they're picking up the stuff making sure the stuff is clean and picked the right way."

Demand for local food has doubled over the past ten years, and the industry is expect reach 7 billion dollars by the end of this year. Markets along the Grand Strand have been answering that demand. There are markets in Conway, Georgetown County, North Myrtle Beach, and Market Common will have one for the month of October. But there's no evidence that it's actually safer.

Each farmer's market sets it's own policies- the Myrtle Beach Market requires all farmers and producers to fill out an application, where they have to put how they handle their food. But buyers here say when it comes to the local market, they don't have as many worries about how it gets to their dinner table. And the proof is in the produce.

"No concern whatsoever," said local buyer Helen Haveris. "I've never been sick with eating stuff here. Never. If you wash it properly, and cook it properly, it shouldn't be a problem."

Reports say few outbreaks are connected to local markets, but smaller outbreaks are often not reported.

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