Food Safety

Introduction

This section of the production guide is a preliminary description of food safety in the production of grapes. Food safety is becoming more important for consumers, retailers and governments. Retailers are looking for traceability and quality systems to track contaminated food products, and identify and control food safety issues. Federal and pro-vincial governments have recently announced that food safety will be an item for new agricul-tural programs to focus on. Adopting safe food production and handling methods at the farm lev-el is a priority with federal and provincial govern-ments. For additional information on food safety, refer to this website: http://www.al.gov.bc.ca/foodsafety/programs.htm

What is a Food Safety Risk?

Food safety is related to the physical, chemical and microbial conditions or influences under which food products are grown, harvested, stored and transported to food markets.

A food safety risk is a site condition or operational factor, which creates the potential to affect the safeness of your produce in a negative way. All risks ultimately have the potential to affect the health of the consumer by causing food-borne illness. Food-borne illness occurs when a person gets sick by eating food that has been contaminated with unwanted micro-organisms or bacteria.

You are required to adhere to pesticide labeling and regulations in the selection, storage and handling of chemical products. Chemical food safety fac-tors include:

  • Only use chemicals registered for the intended crop
  • Calibrate equipment regularly
  • Observe the required interval between application and days to harvest
  • Keep records of applications
  • Thoroughly wash sprayers and mixing containers between chemical applications.

You can reduce physical food safety hazards by taking steps to minimize the chances that foreign materials, such as metal, glass and jewelry, may contaminate fresh product.

Ways That Fresh Product May Acquire Food Borne Illness

The most common ways of contaminating grapes with food borne illness are: by direct con-tact with water containing microbial hazards; direct contact with animal manure or faeces; passing of pathogens by workers to produce dur-ing handling; and contact of produce with micro-bial hazards in the field, food facilities or on vehi-cles, machinery and equipment. In addition, mi-crobial hazards may be carried or transmitted to fresh produce by pets, birds, insects, and through the air.

Use of Water

Wherever water comes into contact with fresh produce, water quality determines the potential for microbial hazards to be present. The food safety objective in using water is to use good quality water at the outset and to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. Food safety risk is mini-mized by adopting practices to protect water qual-ity, minimize the potential for contaminated water to contact the produce, and using procedures which monitor and detect potential water-borne threats to food safety on the farm.

Use of Manure

While composted manure and produce waste are desirable sources of organic fertilizer and soil con-ditioner in tree fruits production, respectively, they are also significant sources of microbial hazards when stored, handled and used. Reducing food safety risks can be attained by: using manure or produce waste in a manner that prevents cross-contamination of water; adopting practices which minimize the potential for raw manure and pro-duce waste to contact fresh tree fruits; and using procedures which monitor and detect potential manure-borne and produce waste threats to food safety on the farm.

Worker Hygiene & sanitation

Farm workers can be a source of microbial haz-ards for grapes. The micro-organisms are spread to produce through the use of unsanitary materials and equipment, improper hygiene, and ineffec-tive sanitary measures. The most effective way to combat worker-borne contamination risk is through education, training and supervision of workers who handle produce.

Orchard, Facility, Vehicle, Machinery & Equipment Sanitation

Poor management of materials, machinery and equipment on the farm can significantly increase the risk of exposing fruit to microbial haz-ards. The food safety objective is to start with clean materials, machinery and equipment; use practices which minimize the potential for cross-contamination; and monitor and detect potential hazards before they affect the food safety of your produce.

Good Agricultural Practices Reduce Food Safety Risks

Good agricultural practices (GAPs) can reduce the potential for microbes to contaminate fresh tree fruits. GAPs over which producers have control include:

  • Maintaining proper temperatures at all times to ensure quality and safety of produce
  • Ensuring that on-farm food facilities are of sound construction and kept in good repair
  • Maintaining overall farm cleanliness and good sanitary practices
  • Supervising the hygiene and sanitation practices of workers
  • Having a supply of potable water readily avail-able to your workers for washing and drinking
  • Minimizing the potential for water contamina-tion in irrigation, especially close to harvest, by using good quality water and preventing con-taminated water from coming into contact with the edible product
  • Taking precautions to ensure that manure stor-age and handling facilities are operating properly
  • Handling manure and produce waste with the understanding that application to cropping areas of manure treated by composting poses a lower microbial hazard than does raw manure
  • Ensuring that the traffic flow of vehicles, work-ers and produce on the farm avoids sources of microbial hazard
  • Keeping accurate records of food safety practices.

Crop production, harvesting, handling, and stor-age activities all influence the exposure of pro-duce to microbial hazards in some way. In agri-culture, it is much easier to prevent produce from becoming contaminated than to sanitize it later and it is in the grower’s interest to market high quality and safe food products.