Code of Practice for Minimally Processed Ready-to-Eat Fruit and Vegetables
Part I Good Agricultural Practices
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Microbial, chemical and physical contamination may occur during the primary production and harvesting of fresh produce. The safety of minimally processed ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables is highly dependent upon the degree of preventative measures used by primary producers to prevent contamination. Growers should implement GAP to minimize risks of microbial, chemical and physical contamination during the primary production and harvesting of fresh produce. The general aspects of GAP contributing to the safety of fresh produce include the following:
Previous and current use of land and adjoining sites should be evaluated (e.g., presence of nearby housing, feedlots, toxic waste site, etc.) to identify potential sources of produce contamination such as agricultural chemicals, fecal and/or microbial contamination or other hazards. Appropriate steps should be taken to prevent the access of farm and wild animals to the growing sites of fresh produce to avoid potential fecal contamination of the soil and crop and to reduce the risk of microbial contamination.
The use of natural fertilizers (e.g., manure, organic materials, slaughter wastes, sewage sludge, etc.) in the production of produce should be appropriately managed (e.g., maximize the time between application and harvest) and treated (e.g. composting, pasteurization, heat drying) to limit the potential for microbial and chemical contamination.
Water used for irrigation and application of pesticides and fertilizers is a potential source of contamination as it may contain microbial pathogens, heavy metals and other chemicals. Growers should evaluate the source (e.g., well, open canal, ponds, reservoir, re-used irrigation water, etc.), quality of water and how and when it is used on farm, as well as monitor its safety to prevent and/or control potential sources of contamination. Growers should keep records of agricultural water monitoring and testing.
Growers should only use agricultural chemicals which are approved for the cultivation of the specific produce and should use them according to manufacturer's instructions for the intended purpose. Growers should keep records on agricultural chemical applications (e.g., agricultural chemical used, rate and date of application, etc.).
Harvester and Handler Health and Hygiene
Hygiene and health requirements should ensure that personnel who come directly or indirectly into contact with produce are not likely to contaminate produce. People known or suspected to be carriers of a disease or illness likely to be transmitted through produce should not be allowed access to areas of the fields or indoor premises where there is a likelihood of contaminating produce. To ensure good personal hygiene, growers should provide toilets and hand washing facilities easily accessible to farm workers. All employees should be trained to follow good hygienic practices and proper hand washing technique. Records should be kept documenting employee training.
Diseased, damaged, bruised or overripe fruit or vegetables could be susceptible to microbial contamination and therefore should not be harvested. At the time of harvesting, produce should be inspected for the presence of physical contaminants such as stones, pieces of wood, metals or glass, spiders and insects. These and any other foreign materials should be removed prior to shipment of produce to processing establishments.
Transportation and Storage
Vehicles for transporting produce and storage facilities should be suitable for produce and adequately cooled. Containers, vehicles, and storage facilities should be cleaned and sanitized regularly and secured from pests (rodents, insects, etc.) to minimize risks of contamination. Transportation of incompatible foods, materials and animals with fresh produce should be avoided to prevent contamination. Records should be kept documenting the cleaning and sanitation of transport conveyances and storage facilities.
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