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State of Massachusetts awards 30 grants to improve farm food safety

Total of $200,000 being distributed to farms in the state

By Diego Flammini,

In an effort to ensure food being produced by Massachusetts farmers is as safe as possible, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito announced 30 grants aimed at improving food safety.

“The Commonwealth’s agricultural industry is growing and consumers have an increased interest in eating locally produced nutritious food,” said Governor Baker. “These grants will allow farmers to implement infrastructure upgrades to ensure that food safety risks are managed, marketplace needs are addressed and their businesses continue to grow.”

A large portion of the grants will be used to support oyster farmers prevent Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) from causing foodborne illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, VP naturally occurs in waters where oysters are harvested and can cause abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills.

Aquaculture is an important contributor to the Massachusetts economy, generating about $45.5 million for the state and employing almost 1,000 people in 2013.

Officials are hopeful the decision to invest in farm food safety will have a domino effect when it comes to putting more Massachusetts food on more Massachusetts tables.

“By ensuring that our agricultural businesses have the tools, technical assistance and financial support to manage food safety risks, these grants are an important step towards implementing the goals of the Massachusetts Food System Plan to increase the production, sale and consumption of locally produced food,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton. “It is also vital that we help Massachusetts oyster farmers meet the requirements of our Vibrio Control Program in order to keep the oyster industry viable and consumers healthy.”

Grants are being awarded to farms in counties including Hadley, Dennisport, Dalton and Wellfleet; grants range in value from $750 to $20,000.

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