Before it is even time to harvest, there are alot of opportunities for contamination. The steps taken to prepare a field, care for and maintain a crop, maintain fields and equipment, and the operation of a farm overall could pose risks to food safety. By maintaining produce safety throughout the season, you reduce and cut down on potential risk events on large problems from arising.
Suggested Pre-Harvest Considerations for Produce Safety:
If you're going into the field for any reason... CLEAN BOOTS
- Boots can track contamination into your field or packing shed. Consider where those boots have been. Inside the barn? In a livestock pasture? In someone else's field? Preventing cross contamination from boots is a good practice to observe to prevent transporting plant diseases into your fields as well as human pathogens. Soil from other locations could contain weed seeds or plant pathogens that could damage yield and plant health. So clean those boots for plant health and food safety!
If you're fertilizing with raw manure... leave at least 120 days between application and harvest!
Scout for signs of animal intrusion.
- Animals leave feces behind. Flag off droppings, remove it from the field, and possibly even decide NOT to harvest within 6 inches of that dropping. Also look for signs of heavy animal traffic like trails.
- Fields adjacent to roads are at risk from roadkill runoff. Animals that are hit in the road may wander into adjacent fields before succumbing to their injuries. Dead animals and blood are sources of bacteria, viruses, or parasites and should be removed from fields immediately. If this occurs after fruit has formed, or in leafy green fields after greens have sprouted, product should not be harvested that was under or immediately around the area where dead animals are found.
Consider water sources being used for irrigation.
- Testing might be required depending on your customer demands. If you do not test, consider ending irrigation a few days before harvest to allow the sun to sufficiently dry product before it's touched by hands in harvest.
Use pre-harvest time to training workers in proper harvesting handling and hygiene.