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The Food Safety Network Launches Another Year of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable On-Farm Food Safety Programs and Research

16.apr.03, Food Safety Network, Food Safety Network

16.apr.03, Food Safety Network, Food Safety Network
GUELPH, Ont. - Researchers at the University of Guelph are launching another season of an evidence-based, peer-reviewed on-farm food safety program with Ontario's fresh fruit and vegetable growers.
Although a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is actively promoted as the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, there is a potential, as with any food, for contamination with microorganisms. Ontario fruit and vegetable growers continue to proactively reduce risks on the farm.
"We are continuing to work with partners along the farm-to-fork chain to¬ reduce microbial risks" says Dr. Douglas Powell, associate professor and scientific director of the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph. "Ontario producers are proactively implementing programs to increase the safety of our food and back up their statements with data."
The Food Safety Network on-farm food safety program partners include the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers; Ontario Tender Fruit Producers & Fresh Grape Growers as an integral component of their Partners in Quality initiative; and the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers through Agricultural Integrated Management Services. All programs are supported by the Ontario Government through the Healthy Futures for Ontario Program.
The Food Safety Network's on-farm food safety programs are based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), a system to examine food-related risks and reduce bacterial contamination on the farm. Data gathered from each farm is analyzed and strategies for prevention and control are developed to refine the program. Areas that the programs address are water (irrigation, wash water, etc.), equipment (crates, boxes, contact surfaces, etc.), transportation, general sanitation within the operation and worker hygiene (handwashing facilities, etc.) A food safety co-ordinator is available to growers and packers as a resource 24/7. Co-ordinators provide producers with documentation checklists and conduct on-site visits engaging producers in a dialogue about food safety issues. "Working one-on-one with growers allows us to identify the barriers to implementation of these programs and improve the channels for providing information" says Ben Chapman, a graduate student and food safety co-ordinator. "Our research has shown that continual communication with producers and practical, farm-based solutions have increased the rates of successful program implementation."
The programs also include the microbiological testing of produce samples and water. The tests look for total coliforms (an indicator bacteria that when found suggests possible sources of contamination), Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp., both of which can cause foodborne illness in humans. Any bacteria detected will indicate to the food safety co-ordinators as well as the individual grower, the areas that need greatest attention. These are controlled and eliminated as a source in the future.
The Food Safety Network will continue to research the implementation and evaluation of new initiatives in 2003 such as increasing the tracability of Ontario produce, and communicating with consumers and others in the farm-to-fork food safety system about what producers are doing to reduce risk on the farm.
The Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph provides research, commentary, policy evaluation and public information on food safety issues from farm-to-fork.

For more information about the Food Safety Network's on-farm food safety programs, see:
Luedtke, A.N., Chapman, B. and Powell, D.A. 2003. Implementation and
analysis of an on-farm food safety program for the production of greenhouse
vegetables. Journal of Food Protection: Vol. 66, No. 3, pp. 485­489.
For a QuickTime movie summarizing the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers'
on-farm food safety program see:
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