Foodborne Illness: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 9 million cases of food poisoning each year, with 56,000 people being hospitalized and 1,300 people dying. Farmers can keep their food safe from farm to market by following these guidelines and good agricultural practices.
LAND & WATER USE
- Farmers use appropriate growing practices that may include soil testing and waiting periods before planting crops. Before planting, they also consider land use. Does the land have intensive animal activity? Is it prone to flooding? Is it adjacent to high-risk areas?
- Farmers use safe and tested water for washing or rinsing produce.
- Farmers wait 90 to 120 days before harvest to use manure as fertilizer to prevent cross contamination of edible produce.
WORKER HEALTH & SAFETY
- Farmers teach their workers how and when to wash their hands and provide handwashing facilities for harvesting and packing produce.
- Farmers do not allow sick workers to handle produce. Workers with wounds or sores must cover the area with a bandage and wear a single-use glove.
- Farmers keep birds, animals, and pests away from fields and packing facilities.
PRODUCE STORAGE & TRANSPORTATION
- The temperature of the produce is reduced as soon as possible after harvest to slow the growth of bacteria.
- Farmers use food-grade containers and packaging materials.
- Farmers maintain clean vehicles and keep produce cool during storage and transport to enhance quality and promote safety.
- Farmers incorporate good agricultural practices at the market to prevent cross contamination by excluding animals, cleaning display tables, and packaging food samples.
- Utensils are cleaned and sanitized before serving samples.
- Only food-grade containers are used to store food. Garbage or reused grocery bags are never used. Food and food containers are kept off the floor.
- Farmers use a calibrated thermometer and plenty of ice, cold packs, or refrigeration to keep foods at 41 degrees F or lower.
Alice Moore, Regional Extension Agent, Food Safety and Quality, Auburn University.
New October 2023, A Farmer’s Day Keeping Food Safe From Farm to Market, ANR-3030