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The points of contact between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service and the grower & business communities are the NJ County Agricultural Agents. The agents are a tremendous source of information for both new and experienced growers. Visit your local county extension office.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Farm Food Safety: Mission Statement

Part 1 of Preparing Your Farm Food Safety Plan

-Meredith Melendez and Wes Kline

Having a farm food safety plan that is specific to your operation makes good business sense. Publicity about illness outbreaks traced back to the farm has created a public that pays much more attention to food safety than they used to. Developing your own farm food safety plan can help to reassure your customers about food safety on your farm and potentially increase your market opportunities. A farm food safety plan will help prove to your customers dedication to on-farm food safety and show them the measures you’ve taken to ensure a safe quality product.

Steps to writing your farm's Food Safety Mission Statement:
The first step in writing a farm food safety plan is to create a food safety mission statement for the farm. This statement should be brief, consisting of several paragraphs and explain your company’s commitment to food safety, food quality, food sanitation and worker hygiene. This mission statement is specific to food safety only, and is separate from the mission statement of your farm business plan.

The first paragraph of your mission statement should focus on the general philosophy of the farm with regards to food safety and indicate who at the farm is responsible for the food safety program.

This first paragraph should include the following statements:

  1. The most important mission of the farm is food safety. 
  2. Management and employees at the farm are committed to producing and marketing safe product through good agriculture and handling practices that focus on principles of food safety and quality. 
  3. Indicate who on the farm oversees the food safety program.
  4. Indicate, when possible, what food safety training the supervisor has had.

The second paragraph of your mission statement should describe through broad statements how food safety is ensured. Statements should show that the following are priorities:

  1. Making sure there is no immediate safety risk present in areas where the produce is grown, processed and packed.
  2. Making sure there is no immediate risk of contamination of the product.
  3. Making sure product is not at risk for contamination by insects, rodents, birds and pets.
  4. Employees are appropriately following heath and hygiene practices.
  5. All information and paperwork is documented in an efficient and truthful manner. 
  6. Maps are available in the food safety plan of the farm and water movement. 

The third paragraph should focus on documentation, the organization of this documentation and the annual review of the food safety plan. Statements can include:

  1. The food safety plan will be reviewed annually and updated as needed.
  2. All documentation referenced in the food safety plan will be kept on file for a minimum of two years.
  3. Employees will be familiar with the food safety plan and will be trained annually and as the farm food safety plan is updated.

Next week: Farm Maps