Clothing and footwear on a multi-commmodity farm

Consider this scenario:

  • Vegetable operation: ready-to-eat vegetables are sold bulk to a local food processing company and at the farm gate
  • 50-head of beef cattle also raised on the farm
  • Seasonal workers are hired for the vegetable operation

Common food safety risks for this scenario:

The biological risk on this type of operation is cross-contamination of pathogens on manure-covered or exposed clothing and footwear from the beef housing area to the areas where ready-to-eat vegetables are produced, handled and stored. If you have seasonal workers who work on other farms and come into contact first with livestock, poultry, manure or untreated compost and then enter food handling, production or storage areas for ready-to-eat vegetables you also have a biological risk. If clothing and footwear are not changed or cleaned before passing through the vegetable operation or leaving the beef housing areas, cross-contamination could occur.

Clothing and footwear worn by visitors to the farm might also carry unknown pathogens. There is also a risk to animal health if appropriate biosecurity measures are not taken for animal housing areas. This could also impact food safety of products from those animals.

The chemical risk to clothing and footwear may occur when workers applying chemicals such as pesticides pick up residues on their clothing and then handle ready-to-eat products. Clothing worn by visitors to the farm might also carry unknown residues. If people wearing these clothes handle food, cross-contamination could occur. This could push residue levels over the allowed limits.

How good agricultural practices can help

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination from pathogens and chemical residues, farms need to adopt good agricultural practices with respect to clothing and footwear.

If you have workers on your operation that work between the beef housing areas and the ready-to-eat vegetable production, handling or storage areas during the course of the day, or employ seasonal or part-time workers that work on other farms before coming onto your operation,a biological risk could occur from cross-contamination through pathogens carried on soiled clothing and footwear.

You should:

  • Have written practices for clothing and footwear that is to be worn in certain areas on your operation for all workers to be trained on and follow. An example could be requiring workers to change into clean clothing before starting food handling activities such as harvesting or packing.
  • Set up good traffic patterns. For example, prevent workers from having to enter or cross high-risk areas such as animal housing or manure/compost storage sites to get to harvesting activities or food handling, storage or packing areas.
  • Create a "clean zone" or designated place between these two areas where people working in high risk areas can change or store contaminated clothing. They should have access to clean shirts, pants, footwear, aprons or coveralls before they take part in harvesting activities or enter food handling, storage or packing areas.
  • Provide coveralls or aprons to seasonal workers that can be worn during food handling and can be easily cleaned afterwards.
  • Assign workers with dirty clothing another duty instead of handling food.

If you have frequent visitors on your operation that have visited other livestock or poultry operation or it is unknown, a biological risk could occur with cross-contamination of pathogens on clothing and footwear.

You should:

  • Confirm that visitor clothing and footwear is clean and not worn recently on livestock/poultry operations before you allow anyone to enter food handling, production or storage areas.
  • Provide clean attire for visitors such as coveralls or boot covers.
  • Designate rubber boots and coveralls that are only to be worn in animal housing. These should be removed when leaving that area. Provide a place to hang coveralls and store boots at the entrance to the animal housing facility.
  • If changing footwear is not possible, set up boot-wash stations or footbaths at entry points to animal housing areas to minimize contamination.

If you have workers that handle or use chemicals such as pesticides on your operation, a chemical risk may occur if workers spill chemicals on their clothing and then handle food, potentially transferring residues onto food.

You should:

  • Ensure workers are trained to handle chemicals properly and only workers that have taken the Grower Pesticide Safety Course apply pesticides and supervise the handling of pesticides.
  • All chemical handling is performed away from areas where food is produced, handled or stored.
  • Provide and designate appropriate clothing that is to be worn for these activities, such as aprons or coveralls that can be removed afterwards and easily cleaned.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300

Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 15 March 2009
Last Reviewed: 15 June 2011