food safety

  • Pub­lic health offi­cials esti­mate that nearly 48 mil­lion peo­ple are sick­ened each year by food that has been con­t­a­m­i­nated with harm­ful bac­te­ria.

    Most peo­ple are aware that ani­mal prod­ucts must be han­dled care­fully to pre­vent ill­ness. Many need a reminder that fresh pro­duce can also be the cul­prit in out­breaks of food­borne ill­ness.

    Out­breaks can be large, wide­spread or local­ized. In recent years, let­tuce, spinach, green onions and toma­toes have been the source of food ill­nesses.

    As our fresh pro­duce con­sump­tion trends up in sum­mer months. Now is a good time for a refresh on prac­tices and pro­to­cols on safe food han­dling.

    Fresh pro­duce can become con­t­a­m­i­nated in many ways. Dur­ing the grow­ing phase, fruits and veg­gies may be con­t­a­m­i­nated by ani­mals, harm­ful sub­stances in the soil or water, and by poor hygiene among work­ers. After pro­duce is har­vested, it passes through many hands, increas­ing con­t­a­m­i­na­tion risks.
  • The Blos­som Hill orchards are located in Pat­ter­son, Cal­i­for­nia. Some sug­gest this loca­tion to be the world’s best apricot-​growing region.

    Lucich — San­tos Farms have been family-​owned for more than 90 years. For over 35 years, they’ve devel­oped exper­tise in grow­ing, pack­ing and ship­ping Cal­i­for­nia apri­cots and apri­ums under the Blos­som Hill Orchard name.

    Four gen­er­a­tions over­see the daily oper­a­tions. Their over­ar­ch­ing goal is to pro­vide cus­tomers with the best eat­ing, sweet­est, juicy apri­cots.

    Jim Lucich, sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Blos­som Hill, said the 2018 crop in Pat­ter­son is lighter than usual. Weather played a part with the crop set. Chill hours were lower than needed, and some cold and rain that came after the bloom had an effect on the crop.

    The com­pany grows its apri­cots in a sustainable-​minded envi­ron­ment. Lucich and San­tos Farms and Blos­som Hill Packing’s objec­tive is to pro­duce pre­mium deli­cious fruit with food safety in mind.
  • Cul­ti­vat­ing Change is a local farm grant pro­gram offered by Greener Fields Together.

    It aims to fund projects and pur­suits that will help local farm­ers do what they’re best at– farm­ing.

    Qual­i­fied grow­ers and aggre­ga­tors are able to win fund­ing based through an online vot­ing plat­form and peer review panel.

    As farm­ers applied for this cur­rent Jan­u­ary pro­gram, they were required to apply for a spe­cific fund­ing cat­e­gory to enhance an area of oper­a­tions. Demands for all farms and ranches requires a con­tin­u­ous state of improve­ment for sus­tain­abil­ity.

    Cer­ti­fi­ca­tions is one fund cat­e­gory that assists with organic, food safety, non-​GMO, fair trade, bio­dy­namic or other daunt­ing reg­u­la­tory require­ments. This is an avenue of com­pet­i­tive advan­tage for many growers.
  • Food safety risks may be reduced on the farm by fol­low­ing good agri­cul­tural prac­tices (GAPs).

    GAPs help grow­ers under­stand the prac­tices and risks asso­ci­ated with their farm. They help iden­tify prac­ti­cal ways to reduce the risk of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing pro­duce being grown, har­vested and packed.

    There is no such thing as zero-​risk, but prac­tices and steps need to be in place on farms to min­i­mize any poten­tial risk of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Although the com­mon prin­ci­ples of GAPs don’t change from farm to farm, each GAP is unique, as every grower does things dif­fer­ently.

    GAPs focus on assess­ing the risk in five key areas:
    Water
    Manure/​Compost and Soil Amend­ments
    Land Use (Previous/​Adjacent) and Ani­mal Access (Domestic/​Wildlife)
    Equip­ment, Tools & Build­ings
    Employee Health & Hygiene
  • Far too often, lack of care or inex­pe­ri­ence col­lide with pos­i­tive con­sumer encoun­ters. That clash adversely affects fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles.

    Prod­uct qual­ity and prod­uct con­di­tion are two sep­a­rate issues. How we han­dle fresh pro­duce can def­i­nitely impact the lat­ter.

    Care­ful han­dling will max­i­mize fresh­ness, and add to shelf life or serv­ing appear­ance. It makes sense then that mis­han­dling is counter pro­tect­ing the inven­tory and in-​stock items.

    The influx of new employ­ees through­out the food indus­try requires train­ing and coach­ing on the sub­ject of han­dling. Proper receiv­ing is the first step in main­tain­ing good qual­ity stan­dards.

    Observ­ing clean­li­ness of truck trail­ers, inte­rior vehi­cle tem­per­a­tures and neat and straight pal­let stacks are a few signs that a deliv­ery is accept­able. Look for car­tons or cases that have not been split open or torn.

    Cold chain pro­to­cols are impor­tant year round. As we approach cooler sea­sons, chances are that pro­duce is trav­el­ling to us from far­ther away places. Keep­ing prod­uct in best tem­per­a­ture ranges is crit­i­cal to longevity. This goes for every­thing from berries to zucchini.

  • Its easy to ignore “The sky is falling” warn­ings when they are incon­clu­sive. The clas­sic folk tale of Henny Penny (Chicken Lit­tle) bares rec­ol­lec­tion when food safety is at stake.

    The most recent indus­try mes­sages regard­ing romaine let­tuce alerts have been frus­trat­ing for every­one in the sup­ply chain.

    In defense of all stake­hold­ers, no one wants to err on the side of per­sonal ill­ness or worse case sce­nario, death.

    As com­pa­nies wait for more infor­ma­tion from fed­eral agen­cies on the E. coli O157:H7 out­break that has been ascribed to chopped romaine only and not a spe­cific sup­plier, fresh pro­duce indus­try asso­ci­a­tions are com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a uni­form voice about the sit­u­a­tion.

    United Fresh Pro­duce Asso­ci­a­tion, Pro­duce Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and the Leafy Greens Mar­ket­ing Agree­ment have worked in con­cert on com­mu­ni­ca­tions regard­ing this recent outbreak.
  • Clos­ing out the year gives way to per­sonal and pro­fes­sional reflec­tion.

    As an indus­try, 2018 pre­sented many dif­fi­cult chal­lenges to hur­dle for every sup­ply chain stake­holder.

    Grow­ers, ship­pers, proces­sors, sup­pli­ers, retail­ers and food­ser­vice estab­lish­ments all shared in the endeavor to deliver fresh pro­duce.

    Demand­ing everyone’s atten­tion through­out the year were var­i­ous prod­uct recalls, warn­ings and alerts. Recent romaine ill­nesses are still top of mind. Fifty nine indi­vid­u­als, in fif­teen states, were affected in the last out­break.

    These all too fre­quent out­breaks unfor­tu­nately adversely impact the health of any num­ber of fresh pro­duce con­sumers. For the rest of the mar­ket­place, it casts a dark shadow on eat­ing any leafy greens or veg­eta­bles.

    Pro­mot­ing increased con­sump­tion of fresh pro­duce is an already tall task. Rebuild­ing erod­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in the after­math of these peri­odic out­breaks puts addi­tional stress on most indus­try professionals.