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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, August 15, 2012

Farm Food Safety: Field Harvest and Field Packing Activities

Part 10 of Preparing Your Farm Food Safety Plan

- Meredith Melendez and Wes Kline

Part 10 of your farm food safety plan addresses field harvest and field packing activities. Your plan should document your actives and your pre-harvest assessment log. Field harvest assessment should be made the day prior to starting to harvest to ensure everything is in place to reduce the chance for product contamination. We covered the specifics of the pre-harvest assessment log in article number 6 of this series. If a field is harvested over several days each morning the assessment is repeated.
The following statements should be included in your Field Harvest and Field Packing Activities section:
  • Pre-harvest assessments are made the day prior to harvest begins. 
  • Fields harvested for more than one day will be assessed each day 
  • Employees take necessary precautions to avoid contamination of produce. 
  • The number, condition and placement of field sanitation units comply with OSHA and WPS safety requirements.* 
  • These field sanitation units are always located in a safe area that poses no potential risk for contamination. 
  • If there is a spill or leak from the field sanitation unit, a soil berm is constructed around the unit and the service company is immediately contacted. 
  • Indicate the method of harvest that is used on the farm. 
  • During harvest, all equipment and harvesting containers are kept clean and are sanitized before use in the spring. 
  • During the production season containers are checked and cleaned/sanitized as needed. 
  • If hand harvesting knives or clippers are used: Hand harvesting equipment is kept clean and sanitized daily with a chlorine solution. 
  • All equipment and harvesting machinery that comes in contact with the produce is kept in good repair. 
  • All light bulbs and glass on the harvesting equipment are protected to ensure that contamination of the fields does not occur if the glass breaks. 
  • If glass does break the contaminated area will not be harvested and any product that had been harvested from the area will be placed in plastic bags and removed from the field. 
  • If other products such as chemicals, petroleum, or pesticides contaminate our produce the affected area and a five-foot buffer is not harvested. 
  • Harvest baskets and totes are used only for picking. 
  • Any container that is broken is either discarded or painted another color and marked not for harvesting.  
  • When field packing produce only new cartons are used. 
  • No water is applied to harvested product in the field. Note: water can be used, but it must be microbiologically safe 
  • Wagons and trailers used at the farm are kept clean from dirt and debris before the loading process. 
  • Products moved from the field are always covered.
*The number of field sanitation units, rest rooms, depends on the number of employees that you have working on a daily basis at that location. One unit is required per 20 employees.

This is the tenth article in a series dedicated to preparing a farm food safety plan. For previous articles refer to earlier editions of the Plant and Pest Advisory, or visit the Rutgers Vegetable Crops blog. Remember you may not need a third party audit; it depends on who is purchasing your produce. However, everyone should have a food safety plan.