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New employees? Don't forget to offer food safety trainings - sample checklist for spring training

 Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety

As you hire new employees or welcome back returning employees to the farm this season, remember that anyone working on your farm should receive training about your farm's food safety policies each year.  Farms that take the time to have a dedicated spring employee training meeting say that the season goes much more smoothly and that the handwashing, harvest, packing, washing protocols are all clear and consistent for everyone. You might need to revisit these topics later, but coming together early on in the season is a great first step to ensure your employees are working together to ensure a safe, healthy harvest. 

Here is a sample training agenda you can follow when you offer a training this spring. Remember to include all employees, and offer refreshers throughout the season as needed, especially if you are seeing that there are some practices not being done correctly or other issues arising. You will need to change this to fit your own farm, but this is a starting point. 

1. Principles of food hygiene and food safety and why it is important

  • Humans carry and spread pathogens
  • Pathogens can spread on the farm through clothing, hands, footwear, tools and equipment
  • While most bacteria are beneficial or neutral, some pathogenic bacteria from feces of humans and animals can make people very sick. The goal of food safety on the farm is to keep the pathogenic bacteria off the food.

2. Personal hygiene rules for all farm employees and visitors 

  • Wash hands frequently – before working with the vegetables, before starting work, after eating, after using the restroom, after working with livestock or animals, after taking out garbage or handling compost
  • Always use the restroom (show where restrooms are, or Port-a-Potties)
  • Proper hand washing (demonstrate if possible) – 15- 20 seconds of rubbing hands together with soap and water, rinse, turn water off with paper towel, dry with single use paper towel, dispose of paper towel in secure container
  • Wear clean cloths and footwear to work, especially if you work with livestock
  • It's very important that you don’t work when you are sick. Don't come to work if you are sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, jaundice. Tell your supervisor if you get sick at work.
  • If you wear gloves to harvest, maintain them in a sanitary condition, change if contaminated or torn. Reusable gloves must be cleaned often.
  • Remove aprons, gloves, rubber bands and other equipment before using the toilet and store in a clean, designated area when not in use.
  • Do not eat, chew gum or use tobacco in the field or in the packingshed. Take breaks in designated areas.

3. Harvest Protocols

  • Look closely for contamination risks before and during harvest such as significant animal activity
    • Presence of fecal matter (poop), damaged crops, or extensive animal tracks
    • Damaged crops such as from eating the crop or flattened crops from animals walking through or from animal bedding
    • Extensive animal tracks
  • If animal presence is found, evaluate how extensive the presence. If feces are found, do not harvest from crops immediately surrounding.
  • Never harvest anything contaminated with feces, such as bird poop on a leaf or deer poop next to a crop
  • Never harvest dropped produce (in field or packing area)

4. Tools and equipment

  • Use only clean harvest and packing containers 
  • Harvest containers should be washing after use and stored in a clean area.
  • Before use, inspect containers to make sure they are clean and not broken
  • What is the protocol for cleaning and sanitizing tools and equipment?

What do visitors need to know?

A visitor is anyone that enters the farm with permission for any extended period of time. All visitors must be made aware of your farm’s policies.  

Visitors can be notified of farm policies by e-mailing before coming, posters at the farm, a handout at the farm or verbally.

Information for visitors should include:

  • Do not visit when ill
  • Keep pets at home
  • Why, When, Where and How to wash hands
  • Location of toilets 
  • Areas of the farm they are allowed to visit
  • Specific food safety policies related to a task they perform

Visitors must have access to toilet and handwashing facilities.

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