Produce Safety Bite: Training
16 April 2021
On-farm food safety tips for fruit & vegetable growers
By Ollie Cultrara, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
Produce safety is about protecting our fruits and vegetables from becoming contaminated with harmful pathogens that can cause serious illness. Training is the foundation of your farm’s produce safety culture. Anyone on the farm who handles produce should have basic food safety training at least once a year—including seasonal workers, family members, or volunteers who interact with produce.
- Handwashing habits are key. Train everyone to wash their hands thoroughly (i.e. with soap and water, scrubbing for 20 seconds) before harvesting or handling produce, after using the toilet, and when returning to working with produce after breaks or other tasks.
- Empower your crew. Teach your team how to spot things that could contaminate produce, like animal feces or dirty harvest knives, and explain how to address issues that arise. Set clear expectations for cleaning containers and equipment, scouting for animal damage and feces, and not harvesting produce that could be contaminated. Let returning employees know you rely on them to set a good example for new crew members.
- Make it stick. Use training materials your team can understand and apply, like videos, visuals, or information in your employees’ first language. Looking for training materials? Contact the Vermont Produce Program (see below). Reward positive behaviors like consistent handwashing. And demonstrate your own commitment to produce safety through your actions by following your farm’s policies and taking possible contamination issues seriously.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) includes specific requirements for personnel training. Whether or not your farm is subject to the PSR, the Vermont Produce Program can help you take the next step in building food safety culture on your farm. Get in touch with our team at AGR.FSMA@vermont.gov, (802) 461-5128, or agriculture.vermont.gov/produceprogram.