Food Safety Practices Guidance for Ready-to-Eat Fresh-Cut Vegetable Manufacturers
Hazard Summary for Ready-to-Eat Fresh-Cut Vegetables

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Potential hazards associated with the production of Ready-to-Eat fresh-cut vegetables are summarized in the table that follows. Possible control measures are suggested in the table. The manufacturer is responsible for identifying hazards specific to its operations and for determining how each hazard can be controlled. For additional information, please refer to the specific sections of this document as outlined in the Reference column.

Hazard Summary Table for Ready-to-Eat Fresh-Cut Vegetables
Process StepPotential HazardsControl MeasuresReference
Incoming Materials / Receiving (fresh vegetables, packaging materials, and chemicals) Pathogenic microorganisms on fresh vegetables and/or packaging materials (e.g., E. coli O157:H7 and Shigella spp.).

Obtain a guarantee from suppliers that the fresh vegetables, packaging materials and chemicals provided meet the operator's purchase specifications (e.g., the supplier provides a Letter of Guarantee). Alternatively, suppliers may provide a certificate of analysis (COA) for each shipment.

Ensure that temperature requirements for ingredients have been maintained throughout their transportation to prevent pathogen growth.

Inspect the condition of all incoming materials and containers upon receipt and confirm that purchase specifications are met. Do not accept damaged containers.

Do not use materials that do not meet specifications.

1.4
Incoming Materials / Receiving (fresh vegetables, packaging materials, and chemicals) Pesticide residues on fresh vegetables.

Obtain a guarantee from suppliers that the fresh vegetables provided meet the operator's purchase specifications (e.g., the supplier provides a Letter of Guarantee). Alternatively, suppliers may provide a certificate of analysis (COA) for each shipment.

Check incoming materials against predetermined screening criteria when received (e.g., GAP).

Do not use materials that do not meet specifications.

1.4
Incoming Materials / Receiving (fresh vegetables, packaging materials, and chemicals) Foreign materials (extraneous material), e.g., stones, glass, metal, plant debris, animals, etc.

Check incoming materials against predetermined screening criteria when received (e.g., GAP). Inspect for the presence of foreign material, excessive filth, soil, etc.

Do not use materials that do not meet specifications.

1.4
Storage of Incoming Materials Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to inadequate cooling.

Unload and store fresh vegetables in a timely manner.

Control temperature and storage practices to minimize bacterial growth.

Implement procedures for ingredient rotation and use (i.e., first in, first out protocol).

6.2
Storage of Incoming Materials Contamination due to improperly stored chemicals (e.g., cleaning product(s), antimicrobials). Store chemicals in a separate location from fresh vegetables and packaging material. 6.2
Inspection/Sorting and Trimming Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms from field soil and/or contact with contaminated vegetables or other material. Identify and remove vegetables with visible contamination, decay and/or damage. 1.5
Inspection / Sorting and Trimming Contamination with foreign material. Remove foreign material. 1.5
First Wash Contamination due to pathogenic microorganisms and/or chemicals in the water. Monitor and/or test water to ensure that it is acceptable (potable). 3.4
First Wash Inadequate washing fails to lower the bacterial count. Monitor and/or test that washing is done correctly. 1.6.1
First Wash Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms due to the improper change/addition/removal of wash water, improper washing and/or warm wash water.

Change water at a frequency to ensure that its potability is maintained.

Include an antimicrobial treatment step in the process.

Monitor and/or control wash water clarity (i.e., organic matter) and temperature to ensure the efficacy of chlorination or other antimicrobial treatment.

1.6.1
Cutting/ Slicing/ Shredding/ Grinding Contamination by metal fragments due to equipment and utensil wear and tear.

Monitor equipment set-up and wear through an effective preventive maintenance program.

Inspect equipment and utensils regularly.

2.1.3
Cutting/ Slicing/ Shredding/ Grinding Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to an excessive delay between cutting/ slicing/ shredding/ grinding operation and antimicrobial treatment. Conduct cutting/ slicing/ shredding/ grinding step just prior to an antimicrobial treatment. Control ambient temperature during processing. Minimize the amount of time the product is sitting at elevated temperatures. Implement procedures for corrective action to be taken when delays occur. 1.6.1
Antimicrobial Treatment Contamination due to pathogenic microorganisms and/or chemicals in the water. Monitor and/or test water to ensure that it is acceptable (i.e., potable). 3.4
Antimicrobial Treatment Inadequate reduction of pathogenic microorganisms due to inadequate treatment. Use antimicrobial products at appropriate levels and monitor the levels during production.

Ensure that the amount of contact time of the antimicrobial product is appropriate.
1.6.1
Antimicrobial Treatment Chemical residue due to improper chemical application rates. Use a validated antimicrobial treatment, and/or validate the process for the operator's specific facility, equipment and product. 1.6.1
Antimicrobial Treatment Hazardous chemical residue on final product due to the use of unapproved antimicrobial treatment. Use only antimicrobial treatment products that are approved for use on food. 1.6.1
Rinse After Antimicrobial Treatment Contamination due to pathogenic microorganisms and/or chemicals in the water. Monitor rinse water to ensure that it is acceptable (i.e., potable). 3.4
Rinse After Antimicrobial Treatment Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms due to the improper change/addition/removal of rinse water. Implement an effective rinsing procedure to ensure the adequate removal/change of rinse water and/or addition of potable water as appropriate. 1.6.1
Rinse After Antimicrobial Treatment Excessive antimicrobial residue on final product. Implement an effective rinsing procedure to ensure the adequate removal/change of rinse water and/or addition of potable water as appropriate. 1.6.1
Rinse After Antimicrobial Treatment Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the use of warm rinse water. Monitor and/or control rinse water clarity (i.e., the presence of organic matter) and temperature. 3.4
Drying Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to inadequate drying. Control and monitor the effectiveness of drying. 1.6.1, 2.1
Blending / Mixing Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms and/or chemicals due to the improper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils. Monitor sanitation procedures and verify the effectiveness of the sanitation program. 4.1, 7.5.1
Blending / Mixing Unlabelled allergens due to the addition of incorrect ingredients to the package (i.e., croutons, dressing packets, seeds, nuts, etc.) Develop and implement an allergen control program to ensure the correct ingredients are added to the correct package and all allergens are labelled. 1.6.2
Packaging / Labelling / Coding Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to improper label instructions related to product storage and shelf life.

Monitor label on product (e.g., correct label applied to product, all information provided is complete, accurate and legible).

If the shelf life is printed on the label, it should be validated for quality and food safety.

1.2, 1.9
Packaging/ Labelling/ Coding Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to the improper application of gases for modified atmosphere packaging. Where the finished product is packaged in a modified atmosphere, monitor gas mixtures. 1.7.1
Metal Detection Contamination with metal fragments due to ineffective detection by the metal detector and/or failure of the metal detector to function properly when metal is detected. Regularly calibrate metal detector to ensure that it is functioning as intended.

Monitor and control the function of the metal detector.
2.1.4, 1.6.1
Storage of Finished Product Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to inadequate cooling. Control temperature and storage practices in the cooler to minimize the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. 6.2.3
Shipping / Distribution Contamination from pathogenic microorganisms, extraneous material and/or chemicals due to unsanitary carriers, improper distribution temperatures and/or damaged packaging. Inspect carriers before loading to ensure transportation conditions meet the requirements of the manufacturer for the product being shipped. 6.1
Shipping / Distribution Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to time and/or temperature abuse during transport. Transport product in a timely manner at a temperature that will minimize the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. 6.1
All Process Steps Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms, chemicals and/or extraneous material due to employee error as a result of a lack of training and/or a failure to understand the importance of following written standard operating procedures (SOP) and/or Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Provide employees with training in standard operating procedures (SOP) and/or Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) appropriate to their position and the work being performed. 5.2
All Process Steps Growth of pathogenic microorganisms due to time-temperature abuse. Control the temperature during processing to minimize bacterial growth. 1.6.1
All Process Steps Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms, chemicals and/or extraneous material due to employee handling practices. Provide employee training in proper hygiene and correct handling procedures. Monitor employee practices. 5.1, 5.2
All Process Steps Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms and/or chemicals due to the improper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and facilities.

Monitor sanitation procedures and verify the effectiveness of the sanitation program

Develop and implement an Environmental Sampling Plan for Listeria spp. as recommended in Health Canada's Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods (2011).

4.1
All Process Steps Contamination from pathogenic microorganisms, extraneous material, and/or chemicals (including lubricants) due to improper equipment design, installation and/or maintenance.

Use equipment that has been properly designed and installed for use in a food establishment. Maintain equipment appropriately to ensure that it is functioning effectively.

Ensure that food contact surfaces are food grade and that equipment is designed and positioned to prevent contamination of product.

2.1
All Process Steps Contamination from pathogenic microorganisms carried in the air and/or as the result of condensation. Control and monitor airflow and the ventilation system in order to minimize the risk of product contamination. 3.2
All Process Steps Cross-contamination from pathogenic microorganisms due to improper plant layout (e.g., inadequate separation of operations). Separate non-compatible operations through building and process design. 3.2
All Process Steps Cross-contamination from pathogenic microorganisms due to the improper movement of employees or visitors between processing steps. Control employee and visitor movement within the plant. 5.1
All Process Steps Contamination with pathogenic microorganisms due to the presence of rodents, birds or insects. Monitor the effectiveness of the pest control program. 4.2
All Process Steps Contamination of finished product with Listeria monocytogenes. Categorize and sample finished products in accordance with Health Canada's Policy on Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods (2011). 1.3
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