Food safety is important to our health and the health of our environment
With the increase of foodborne illnesses associated with produce it is vital to grow, harvest, handle, transport, prepare and serve our foods safely. Ensuring safety depends on a pro-active, systematic approach by everyone – and it begins on the farm.
On the Farm
Water. Water can carry pathogens and contaminated water can cause illness. Using potable water for as many produce operations as possible is the best way to reduce risks of microbial contamination. Work with local watershed committees to better understand watershed issues and improve surface water quality for all farms in the area. Testing and keeping water test records is an important good agricultural practice.
- Soil. Soil can carry harmful contaminants just like water. In order to ensure safe food handling practices avoid recontaminating clean produce with soil from the field. Harvesting containers should be kept off the ground during harvest to avoid contaminating areas where produce will be cleaned. Use new or clean boxes to pack clean produce in.
- Worker Hygeine. An effective employee education and training program that explains the microbial risks associated with farm labor and highlights proper handwashing practices is essential to a comprehensive food safety management plan.
- Wild Animals. While it is unreasonable to expect complete wild animal exclusion in the field and packinghouse, active controls and deterrents should be used to reduce microbial risks. All good agricultural practices in the field can be quickly reversed by poor animal control and lack of sanitation programs in the packing house.
- Post Harvest/Packaging. Once produce has been harvested, care must be taken to prevent either direct or cross contamination of the crop during grading, washing, packing and shipping. Keep records so that each package can be traced to the field of origin in the event of a food borne illness outbreak.
- Manure. Several harmful microorganisms (pathogens) found in livestock manure can cause illness in humans, but cause no symptoms in the carrier animal. As growers, you must consider both environmental and food safety risks in planning your manure applications.
Resources for the Farm
- University of Minnesota FSP4U – A Food Safety Plan For You
- Cornell University National GAPs Program
- Get GAP Certified! – A Farmer’s Guide to Understanding Food Safety and GAP Audits
- Iowa GAP Center
- F2S Regional Food Safety Checklist for Schools
Resources for Food Service
- University of Minnesota Food Safety for Food Personnel
- USDA Food and Nutrition Food Safety
- Iowa State University From Farm to Foodservice
- FDA Raw Produce: Selection and Serving it Safely