Growing Vegetables, Fruits and Produce (Food Safety Self-Assesment Tool)
Food safety is a concern to all involved in the production, marketing and consumption of foodstuff. Produce, fruits and vegetables, present unique problems in that they are often consumed raw without processing. In many cases, small produce growers market their crops directly to consumers or outlets where they are sold fresh. Raw foods can carry disease-causing microorganism like Salmonella and E.coli. Unless these pathogens are killed or washed off, people may become sick. This chapter discusses the risks of microorganism contamination from the time of planting to harvest to preparing for sale. Risks are related to our actions or lack thereof. When we decide to do something, we should consciously strive for practices that minimize the risks. The microbial food safety risks of growing only one crop that is shipped and marketed directly from field to the processor, is markedly less than that of growing a variety of crops with a variety of exposures to potential contamination. A person growing potatoes for a chipper has less food safety risk than someone growing and direct marketing fresh lettuce, carrots, radishes and strawberries at the same time. Growers are willing to accept this higher level of risk because diversification for a small farm is more profitable. These growers need to evaluate their operations to minimize risk and to promote consumer education in food safety. For example, growers can provide information to their customers about the need to wash all produce before eating. This self-assessment tool will help diversified growers identify potential risk areas and provide them with information and resources to minimize the risk. The purpose of this section of Food*A*Syst is to provide fruit and vegetable growers with a self-assessment tool to determine their level of risk for food contamination.