Your Customer Wants Safe Food

How do you ensure the safety of the food you produce? The risks are from chemical, physical or biological hazards. Have you used due diligence to reduce the risk of these hazards in the food you produce and sell?

Chemical hazards include pesticides and nitrates. Organic farmers do not use prohibited pesticides but even the few pest control products we do use have precautions on the label and in other literature that shows how to use them safely to reduce the possibility of residues. Excessive use of manure or compost can elevate nitrate levels in the soil and in the crop. This is usually not a problem on organic farms but the potential is there.

Physical hazards include steel and glass. When harvesting make efforts to avoid contamination of your product with broken tools or other wastes.

Pathogens are the main biological hazard. Examples include E. coli, etc. The main sources on the farm are from farm animals and from the people who handle the product during and after harvest. Another potential source is from water used for irrigation and in processing after harvest. Quick cooling and proper storage temperatures are critical to maintain product quality.

To reduce these pathogens

  • Use properly composted manure. Organic standards require the composted manure to have reached 55° C for 15 days. This should be incorporated into the soil prior to planting.
  • Rinse and cool the product with potable water.
  • Employees should wash hands often and before handling fruits and vegetables.
  • Clean and sanitize all bins and work surfaces regularly

Growers need an effective On-Farm Safety program. This includes having a plan (written), being able to follow the plan and keeping the records to show that you are following the plan.

The advantages of a good food safety plan are

  • improved food safety
  • better access to markets
  • satisfied customers

Producing a high quality product is common sense. A food safety plan is simply to:

  • say what you are going to do
  • do what you say
  • document it.

(Published in Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario Newsletter, Summer 2003)

 


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Hugh Martin - Organic Crop Production Program Lead/OMAF; Sandra Jones, - On-Farm Food Safety Program Lead/OMAF
Creation Date: June 2003
Last Reviewed: June 2003