This creative, portable handwashing facility meets GlobalGAP requirements. Water is clearly labeled.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SUSAN PHEASANT
For growers just getting started in the food safety certification arena, preparing for your first food safety audit can be overwhelming. But learning from the mistakes of others can help you avoid making the same mistakes yourself.
Susan Pheasant of The Ag Bridge, a Wenatchee, Washington, consulting company that provides a range of food safety services for the agricultural industry, has seen good and bad grower practices relating to food safety. She shared the most common reasons for noncompliances in GlobalGAP orchard audits with Good Fruit Grower and has compiled posters showing ways growers can better comply with certification standards.
Pheasant, who has been involved with food safety programs for several years, has participated in more than 100 farm audits and helped train more than 400 farmers and employees. She helped develop a guidebook created by the Washington State Horticultural Association as part of its tree fruit industry audit-readiness program called GRAS2P (Growers Response to Agricultural Safe and Sustainable Practices).
She also spent 18 months as an intern with GlobalGAP, helping create GlobalGAP’s version 4 standard. GlobalGAP is a nonprofit organization based in Germany that sets voluntary certification standards for agricultural products. Global stands for its worldwide reach and GAP for Good Agricultural Practices. Many foreign and domestic retailers require their suppliers to be GlobalGAP certified.
Pheasant’s newest project, The Ag Bridge, was created last year to help fill what she sees as food safety gaps pertaining to agriculture—from training internal inspectors of large grower-shippers, to conducting internal audits for growers in preparation of certification audits, to providing food safety training seminars.
For the most part, growers are complying with the many different food safety standards, Pheasant said. However, the following are the most common areas of noncompliance for GlobalGAP:
1. Training records and qualifications. Complete information is often omitted from records used to document worker training. Information needs to include date of training, name of trainer, name and signature of people receiving the training, and topics covered.
2. Hazard identification and warning signs. Hazard and warning signs need to be legible and in the language of the work force or in pictograms. Areas needing signs include fuel tanks, propane tanks, workshops, waste pits, ponds, fertilizer and plant protection product storage.
3. Water quality. The quality of water for irrigation and overhead cooling must be analyzed; drinking and hand washing water must be potable. Cooling water for cherries and foam pads or burlap must also be potable. Well water must be analyzed based on risk assessment.
4. Accident procedures and hygiene. Pheasant has found that most growers address these issues during orientation and training periods but often do not have the procedures posted, and the accident procedures tend to be incomplete. She asks growers, “If something were to happen to a key person, such as your foreman or yourself, is there sufficient information posted so workers would know how to direct a 911 responder to your location?”
5. Plant protection product storage facilities and spill containment. All plant protection products must be stored in a manner that prevents container leakage or spillage from contaminating other stored products or the storage facility. Materials, such as absorbent inert material, and equipment like floor brush, dustpan, plastic bags, and waste can, must be available to clean up any spillage.
Spill containment equipment and signage must be available at mixing and loading locations as well as the storage facility.
6. Technical authorization. Records for applications of plant protection products are required and should include crop name, variety, location, date, product name and active ingredient, name of applicator, justification for application, quantity applied, machinery used, preharvest interval, and technical authorization for application. The recommendation from the crop consultant or field representative is usually recorded, but, often, the missing control point is authorization of the application by the owner or orchard manager.
7. Equipment maintenance and calibration records. Repairs, maintenance, and calibration of all equipment involved in applying plant protection products must be documented. This includes fertilizer spreaders, sprayers, scales, irrigation systems used in chemigation, and temperature controls. Most growers have calibration records, but few have written maintenance records.
8. Recall/withdrawal. A written plan and procedures for both recall and withdrawal are needed, and procedures must be tested at least annually (can be a mock test) to ensure they work. The plan needs to state who is responsible for making decisions, how customers and the certification body will be notified, and how stock or inventory will be reconciled.
9. Traceability procedures. For traceability, complete tracking is needed from harvest, trucking, and receiving records. Harvest records include bin ticket, grower lot number, date, block, variety, storage designation, and picker or crew. Transport records include hauling slips and weight tags. Receiving tags from the packing house or handling facility complete the paper trail.