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Spring food safety to-do list for new and returning employees

 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.  Take a few minutes in the spring to remind the entire crew about your farm's rules and things will go more smoothly all season. 

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. Why does food safety matter?

Start any sort of talk about food safety with the "why". 

  • There are pathogens found in the feces of humans and animals that can spread on the farm through clothing, hands, footwear, tools and equipment
  • While most bacteria are beneficial or neutral, some pathogenic bacteria or viruses from feces of humans and animals can make people very sick. The goal of food safety on the farm is to keep the pathogenic organisms off the food.
  • We care about our customers! They are our friends and neighbors. Getting someone sick would be very bad for them, and for our farm.
  • There have been outbreaks on even small farms. We use food safety during our day-to-day operations to reduce the chance that we will make anyone sick unintentionally. 

2. Handwashing and hygiene

  • We 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 (show where handwashing is)
  • Always use the restroom (show where restrooms are, or Port-a-Potties)
  • What is proper handwashing? A 2 second rinse? Demo proper hand washing – 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

  • Don't harvest produce with visible poop! While in the field, look for:
    • 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 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? (Have a simple SOP for how you clean and sanitize your tools and equipment, and put it out so people can refer to it)

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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