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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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Farm Food Safety: Packinghouse Facility Activities

Part 11 of Preparing Your Farm Food Safety Plan
- Meredith Melendez and Wes Kline

Part 11 of your farm food safety plan addresses your packinghouse activities.  This includes transportation of the product from the field to the packinghouse, product storage once it has been delivered to the packing house, the washing/packing line, ice, worker health and hygiene and packinghouse general housekeeping.  Keep in mind that not all areas of the audit will apply to your farm based on your production practices.  Those areas not applicable would be marked not applicable by the auditor.   Areas that do apply but you are deficient in would result in a reduction of audit points.  A minimum of 80% must be achieved in each section to pass the final audit.  Conducting a mock audit is the best way to determine deficiencies and changes that will need to be made to your farm infrastructure and/or production practices.

The following statements and procedures should be considered to be included in your packinghouse facility section:

  • Transported product is covered in a safe manner
  • Product is stored properly in the packinghouse facility
  • Product that will be packed several hours or days later is stored in a refrigerated cooler
  • Water source  used on washing and packing lines is tested and is potable
  •  Check the water temperature  in dunk tanks on a scheduled basis (if applicable)
  • Chlorine or other disinfectant is used to treat water and the labels are followed as to concentration, pH, water temperature and they are monitored (if applicable)
  • Water contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized prior to grading and packing
  • Contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized prior to grading and packing
  • Packinghouse is thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day, including washing, grading, sorting and packing lines
  • If ice is used during packing and the source of this ice (if you manufacture your own ice show that the water source is potable, if you purchase ice you will need a copy of the manufacturing and storage procedures from the manufacture on file)
  • State how the ice is transported from the truck/ice machine to the packing area
  • Break areas are away from packing areas
  • State your employee policies including: hairnet policy, jewelry policy and glove policy
  • Train all employees on worker hygiene
  • Indicate if produce is packed in new boxes and how it is stored once packed
  • State where your box/container storage areas are located
  • Use only food grade lubricants on the packing machinery and equipment
  • Store  non-food grade chemicals away from the packing area
  • Keep packinghouse areas  free from litter, debris and standing water
  • Dumpsters are located away from the packinghouse or if close are covered
  • Garbage cans inside  the packinghouse have lids
  • Check floor drains in the packinghouse weekly to ensure proper drainage
  • Clean all pipes, fans and ceilings in the packinghouse on a scheduled basis
  • Cover glass lights, in case of breakage, with shatterproof covers
  • State your commitment to make sure that wastewater spillage does not occur and describe your cleanup procedures should it occur
  • Describe your procedure for cleaning or disposing of product that comes in contact with the floor
  • Do not allow animals, including pets, in the packing area
  • Describe the measures you use to keep pests out of the packinghouse
  • Describe how contamination is prevented from motors, pipes and other equipment in the packinghouse
  • Describe how harvested product coming into the packinghouse is identifiable to the field it was grown in, the harvest crew, and the date it was harvested

This is the eleventh 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 at: 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.  For more information on Farm Food Safety visit: