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Food Safety Manual for Farm:
Produce consumption has increased in the past twenty years. Nutrition education, produce marketing campaigns, year round availability of a variety of fruits and vegetables, plus convenient, ready-to-eat packaged salad mixes have contributed to this trend, Recently produce has been linked with food borne illnesses from bacteria such as E-coli 0157:H7, ,Shigella, and Salmonella. Pathogens or microbes that can make you sick, are everywhere and can unknowingly be spread anytime, from growing the crop through consumption. Although pathogens can be killed during the cooking process, most produce is eaten raw and once pathogens get on produce, it is difficult to remove. Certain fruits and vegetables have skins or rinds that act as natural barriers to contamination, like bananas, cantaloupe, and potatoes. For leafy greens and berries with delicate, irregular surfaces it is almost impossible to remove pathogens by rinsing once it is contaminated. Prevention is the key. As a grower or gardener, you are the first line of defense to keep produce safe. This manual outlines potential risks and reasonable practices growers and gardeners can take to minimize the risk of microbial contamination of produce.
Raw manure, mishandled compost, or animal feces can be linked to produce making people sick. E-coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter can be present in manure and remain in the soil for months, depending on environmental conditions.
- Manure Using Technique: If you are using animal manure, cultivate the manure into the soil to reduce pathogen survival and potential problems with run-off. Do not harvest before 120 days. The longer the time from manure application to harvest, the better. This is not a concern if you will be growing non-edible plants.
- Soil Amendment: If you will be planting a root or leafy crop, consider growing it elsewhere or using another soil amendment. Using properly composted manure, green manure, or heat-treated manure as soil amendments, reduces the risk of undesirable microbes.
- Compost Using Technique: Growers can request microbial test results of commercial compost. If you are making your compost, follow recommended compost management practices.
- Barrier for Livestock: Keep animals out of the growing area. Feces from livestock, pets, or wild animals can contain pathogens. Farms next to livestock operations should have barriers to keep animals out of the growing area.
- Contaminated Water: Beams or trenches help prevent contamination from manure, chemicals, and other debris from flood waters. Do not harvest crops that have been in contact with flood waters.
- Quality Water: Water has many roles in growing food crops.. irrigating, fertilizing, spraying, rinsing, and personal hygiene of workers. Know the quality of your water. Using unclean water increases the risk of workers, produce and consumers being exposed to harmful microbes.
- Test Water: Non-municipal water provided through a ditch, reservoir or even a private well, requires testing to monitor quality. Whether for domestic or agricultural use, if your water tests show contamination, have a plan to correct the situation.
- Drip Irrigation: Irrigation methods like drip irrigation reduces contact with the crop and decreases the risk from poor quality water. Water comparable to municipal water (which is pathogen free) should be used when water will be in direct contact with the edible parts of the plant.This includes overhead irrigation, spraying, or rinsing produce after harvest.
- Pest Control: Whether using organic or conventional growing methods, pest control will reduce the amount of damage to fruits and vegetables in your farm or garden. Produce damaged by insects, animals or weather makes the plant more susceptible to pathogens getting into your produce.
- Crop Protection: The undamaged surface of produce protects the plant form disease and microbes just like our skin protects our body. When using baits, traps or other crop protection solutions, use the product as described by the manufacturer. Keep in mind that more is not better. First, be sure what you are using is approved for use on the intended crop. Next check the pre-harvest interval, allowing enough time between applying the pesticide and the time of harvest. Remember, when applying on the leafy or edible surface of produce, use pathogen-free water.
- Tools Sanitization Technique: Clean Equipment, tools, and vehicles In addition to water, any unclean surface or tool in contact with produce, can be a source of pathogens. Clean and sanitize harvest bins, tools, or packing tables before each use. Follow manufacturer directions for use of sanitizing products. Make sure products are approved for food contact surfaces. Clean and sanitize harvest tools before each use and store to prevent recontamination.
- Waste Management: Avoid reusing containers or packaging that may be contaminated such as grocery bag and boxes used for raw meat, poultry or seafood; pesticide or chemical containers, or containers that may have been exposed to rodents, roaches, or other pest and animals.
- Carrier Sanitization: Often tractors, trucks or vehicles serve multiple functions. Hauling manure and then using the truck to deliver your produce without washing and sanitizing. The vehicle can contaminate your produce with pathogens and chemicals. Include cleaning and sanitizing as part of your harvest routine.
- Worker Sanitization: Food workers are the most common source of foodborne illness. Soiled hands, gloves, clothing, and footwear can transfer pathogens from one place to another. Be sure to wash your hands before handling produce. Other important times to wash are: After using the bathroom, Before and after eating, drinking, or smoking, After cleaning and handling garbage, After handling fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals, After handling animals or animals wastes, After touching your hair, mouth or nose. After treating a cut or wound.
- Washroom Etiquette: Anytime hands are soiled Your hand washing station should have: • Clean water Soap • Single use paper towels, and a trash Can. To wash your hands, • First, wet your hands • Add soap • Scrub vigorously for 20 seconds washing the front and back of hands, between the fingers, around the wrist, paying special attention to fingernails. • Rinse thoroughly • Dry with a paper towel, then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. Throw the used paper towel into the trashcan.. Drying hands on your clothes will re-contaminate your hands. Remember, general hygiene also includes bathing, clean clothes, and hair restraints like a cap or hairnet.
- Harvesting Care:When harvesting, start with clean equipment, tools and workers. Handle your produce with care to minimize bruising or damage that can allow pathogens to enter and increase deterioration. Use care when harvesting, sorting, washing and storing to avoid unnecessary damage.
- Remove Soil & Clean: While in the field or garden, remove excess soil and leaves in contact with the ground. Bruised produce or produce that touches the ground can pick up contaminants that can spread to other products if included in the same container.
- Avoid Cross-Contamination: Keep harvested produce off the ground. To avoid cross-contamination, discard dropped or bruised produce. Rinse produce under running water to remove soil or debris.
- Rinsing & Sanitizing: Depending on the produce, processing may include a second rinse and a dip into a food approved sanitizer. Crops such as onions, potatoes, strawberries or basil are damaged by water and should be rinsed just before eating or cooking. Do not use soap or other substances not approved for use on foods. Always check the product label.
- Storing Technique: Store produce in a clean container. Certain items like leafy greens, green onion, and broccoli need to be refrigerated to retain the quality and safety of the product. Other items like sweet potato or round onions can be stored in a cool, dry place.
- Minimizing Risk Briefly: There is no way to guarantee no pathogens will get onto the produce we grow and consume. However using good agricultural practices in the home and garden can minimize many risks related to microbial contamination.
- Soil – Keep animals and raw manure away from the growing area.
- Water – Use potable water for spraying, rinsing, and hand washing.
- Pest Management – Monitor and control pests by using physical barriers and products according to the label.
- Clean surfaces – Sanitize surfaces, equipment, tools, and harvest bins in contact with produce before each use.
- Worker Hygiene – Wash hands before handling produce.
The Manual created as per Good Agricultural Practices on Farm and Your Home Gardens by CTAHR