Food Safety Practices Guidance for Ready-to-Eat Fresh-Cut Vegetable Manufacturers
Appendix A: Good Agricultural Practices for the Primary Production and Harvesting of Fresh Vegetables

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Part II of the Code of Practice for Minimally Processed Ready-to-Eat Vegetables published by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency outlines good agricultural practices for the primary production and harvesting of fresh vegetables. Although manufacturers may not be involved in the primary production of vegetables, this section was included in the code to raise the awareness of its role in the safe manufacturing of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) fresh-cut vegetables. A code of practice for the primary production and harvesting of fresh produce is currently in development. This code will provide farmers with guidance for the hygienic production of fresh produce.

Microbial and chemical contamination may occur during the primary production and harvesting of fresh produce. The safety of RTE fresh-cut vegetables is highly influenced by the degree of preventive measures used on the farm to prevent contamination. Growers should be aware of good agricultural practices that minimize risks of microbial, chemical and physical contamination during the primary production and harvesting of fresh produce. Manufacturers should prescribe growers to adopt good agricultural practices and provide evidence that the product was grown according to specifications.

The general aspects of the good agricultural practices to promote safety of fresh produce include:

Land Usage

Previous and present usage of the growing field and adjoining sites should be evaluated (crop grown, feed lot, toxic waste site, etc.) to identify potential sources of produce contamination such as agricultural chemicals, fecal contamination or other toxic compounds. Steps should be taken to prevent the access of farm and wild animals to the sites to avoid potential fecal contamination of the soil and the risk of contaminating crops.

Natural Fertilizer

The use of natural fertilizers (e.g., manure, organic materials, slaughter wastes, sewage sludge) in the production of produce should be managed to limit the potential for microbial and chemical contamination of produce. Natural fertilizers should be properly treated (composting, pasteurization, heat drying, UV irradiation, alkali digestion or combinations of these) to minimize the potential for microbial pathogens.

Agricultural Water

Water used for irrigation and fumigation is a potential source of contamination as it may contain microbial pathogens, heavy metals and other chemicals. Growers should evaluate the source of water used on the farm (well, open canal, reservoir, re-used irrigation water, municipality, rivers, lakes, etc.), monitor its safety and control potential sources of contamination.

Agricultural Chemicals

Growers should only use agricultural chemicals that are acceptable 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 (agricultural chemical used, rate and date of application, etc.)

Worker Hygiene

Hygiene and health requirements should ensure that personnel who come directly or indirectly into contact with produce are not likely to contaminate the 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.

Harvesting

Diseased, damaged or overripe vegetables that could be susceptible to microbial contamination should be destroyed. Only sound fresh vegetables should be harvested and shipped. Physical contaminants such as stones, pieces of wood, metals or glass and foreign material such as insects or insect parts should be removed.

Transportation and Storage

Vehicles for transporting produce and storage facilities should be suitable for produce and adequately refrigerated. Containers, vehicles and storage facilities should be cleaned and sanitized regularly as well as secured from rodents and insects to minimize risks of contamination.

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