Food contamination is a major worry for people the world over and the first point of check is at the farm level itself. Food safety is of paramount importance and special measures are always taken to properly ensure this aspect. It begins with factors that involve growing the harvest and extends to packing and packaging of the produce and making it ready for supply to the market.
The latest dimension to food safety on farms is labeled as Good Agricultural Practices and focuses on ways and means to prevent food contamination at the farm.
Needless to say, GAP is not only about food contamination and how much it affects the consumer. It is also about the credibility of the farm. Any proof that food sourced from a particular farm is contaminated can be disastrous for its business, economically, financially and reputation wise. This is why it is important that every grower knows about the potential food safety hazards be it a farm or orchard.
What then are the issues linked to food safety on farms –
Reducing risks during harvesting – It is necessary to look for ways and means to reduce the chances of contamination during harvesting of the produce. The main sources of contamination are the harvest tools, bins, harvesters and the environment and these should be scrupulously clean during harvesting. Choose containers that can be easily cleaned such as plastic. Always have these tools and containers cleaned after every use. This will stop pathogens from spreading from crop to crop. These containers should be exclusively used for storing produce and not for other materials such as chemicals.
Instead of doing it personally or with farm hands, it is always advisable to contract reputed cleaners for this task. One of the top of the line cleaning agency is Brighten Serv, based in Melbourne and operating in the suburbs.
Clean water for agricultural use – Post harvest water generally used for produce washing, hand washing or cooling should be pathogen free. Have a potable water test. If it does not meet drinking water standards, have it treated once. Or better still, install a continuous treatment system that uses chlorine or UV light. Surface water used for irrigation should be checked for microbial content thrice each season – at planting, at peak use and at or near harvest. Wherever possible, use drip irrigation that reduces direct contact with produce such as fruits, tomatoes, peppers and other similar crops. To avoid the possibility of contamination, seal probable entry points of animals, with fences, vegetative buffer plantings or any other physical structures.
Sanitised pack house – It is preferable but not always feasible to have pack houses with washable or stainless steel walls. Keep the area free of birds and rodents. Incorporate a regular cleaning schedule for walls, floors, and overhead structures. Prepare a check list for the cleaners or get a reputed cleaning agency on contract for this activity. Have a very slight slope towards the door for water to drain away after washing. Stagnant water at corners breeds germs and bacteria. Periodically, inspect the packing house. Damage to the roof or cracks and holes in exterior walls should be immediately repaired. Take out rafters where birds can perch.
These are just examples of precautions that should be taken for ensuring food safety in farms. There a lot more that needs to be done in this regard.