Nat Sound of Sue Sykes
“Our pepper jellies – we have both a mild pepper jelly and a red pepper jelly.”

Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Sue Sykes talks with pride about the 18 different products her company offers. Tennessee Gourmet takes produce grown locally and makes jams, jellies, sauces and salsas. If it enhances flavor, chances are you can buy it here.

Sue Sykes (TN Gourmet)
“At the end of last month, we had actually produced over sixty thousand units here in the kitchen.”

Chuck Denney
The “kitchen” is the second part of the Tennessee Gourmet story. Sue and husband Gary are the caretakers of this culinary kitchen, operated by Cumberland University in Lebanon with further help from UT Extension. Here Tennessee Gourmet and ten other specialty food companies use the facilities to produce and package their items. And never far from mind is the issue of meeting food safety regulations.

Sue Sykes
“We have a very, very strict food safety program. So every ingredient that comes in, each lot number or best-used-by date, is recorded for each one of those products that are being produced.”

Dr. Faith Critzer (UT Extension Food Safety)
“You heat your chicken. You heat your hamburger. That doesn’t work so well with your salad.”

Chuck Denney
UT Extension food safety specialist Dr. Faith Critzer says anything in nature can allow pathogens into our food, and one in six people will become sick from a food borne illness this year. That’s why producers must follow proper safety guidelines with all foods, especially produce.

Dr. Faith Critzer
“So we really rely heavily on good agricultural practices. They’re kind of our best steps in trying to prevent entry of any of these pathogens.”

Chuck Denney
Produce is really challenging to keep safe. The US grows 55 billion pounds of produce each year and imports another 26 billion pounds. The food industry has to be careful in growing and handling these items. Recently UT Extension teamed with the Tennessee Food Safety Task Force for this informational session for produce growers at Ellington Ag Center in Nashville. Growers heard about ways to meet ever-changing food safety demands, and got an overview of the new Food Safety Modernization Act.

Dr. John Dunn (Tennessee Department of Health)
“I think it’s going to be important for Tennesseans in particular to understand these issues with food safety and produce and what they can do to protect themselves.”

Dr. Faith Critzer
“Things are ever-evolving with food regulations and food safety. We learn something new all the time.”

Chuck Denney
That’s why Sue and Gary attended those sessions in Nashville - to learn something new about food safety. They like to think of Tennessee Gourmet as a one-stop gift solution. And to get the repeat customers they want, they have to offer products that are good-tasting and safely-produced.


NOTE: There are steps you can take to protect yourself from a food borne illness with produce. Make sure you buy produce that is not bruised or damaged. And store perishable fruits and vegetables in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of at least 40 degrees or below.