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Food Safety

Food SafetyFarm food safety begins with Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs): the basic environmental and operational conditions that are necessary for the production of safe fruits and vegetables.

Farmers need to take steps to minimize pathogen contamination during production and harvest of their fresh produce. They should avoid side-dressing with manure, exclude animals near fields, promote proper worker hygiene in the field, test irrigation water quality, select irrigation methods that minimize crop wetting or allows for leaves to dry quickly, clean and sanitize harvest bins, promote cleanliness at U-Pick, and keep produce cool.

As consumers demand safer food, a growing number of retailers are requiring farmers to have independent, 3rd-party inspections of farms, certifying that their fruits and vegetables are being grown, harvested and packaged using Good Agricultural Practices.




Cleaning Produce Washing Equipment: Brush Washer Conveyor System Checklist

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: November 11, 2019
Cleaning Produce Washing Equipment: Brush Washer Conveyor System Checklist

As we learn more about reducing microbial risk on the produce farm, more emphasis is being placed on cleaning food contact surfaces. Accessing the hard to reach spaces in wash line equipment is challenging. Most of the equipment was not made to come apart very easily or in an economically efficient manner. The checklist provided here has been developed through hands-on research cleaning equipment as thoroughly as can be measured without doing microbial testing. That level of cleaning is still being researched but, from our work, the level of cleanliness provided here appears to be sufficient.


Cleaning Produce Washing Equipment: Root Barrel Washer Checklist

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: November 11, 2019
Cleaning Produce Washing Equipment: Root Barrel Washer Checklist

Months of research was conducted on a root barrel washer to determine the best way to clean the equipment given that it was not designed to be easily taken apart and cleaned. Hard-to-reach places were identified through the tracking of vegetable matter and debris dispersed within the barrel washer during use. An acceptable level of cleanliness completed in a reasonable amount of time was identified. The equipment cleanliness was based on visual criteria only; further investigation of the microbial level is still required. To the best of our efforts, areas of critical cleaning are identified in this checklist as well as all other sections necessary to clean.


Cleaning Produce Washing Equipment: SOPs for Cleaning Other Wash Line Equipment

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: April 10, 2019
Cleaning Produce Washing Equipment: SOPs for Cleaning Other Wash Line Equipment

In the wash/pack shed, a variety of large and small equipment can be found. All need cleaning. Here is a group of cleaning SOPs for growers to use as examples for writing their own to meet their specific needs. We also provide instructions for preparing sanitizer solution for a pump sprayer used to clean produce washing equipment.


How to Wash Produce Using a Peracetic Acid (PAA) Solution

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: April 17, 2018
How to Wash Produce Using a Peracetic Acid (PAA) Solution

This how-to guide will take you through the steps necessary to wash produce in a food safe manner. From calculation of sanitizer rates to washing procedures, many variables can affect the safety of produce on your farm. The guide details the materials you will need, preparation, calculating and mixing the peracetic acid solution, washing produce, and testing turbidity.


Food Safety Plan Template

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: December 22, 2017
Food Safety Plan Template

Writing a food safety plan for your farm will help you implement the practices later. To ease the burden of trying to figure out what to write for in a plan, we have created a template for you to use.


Set Up an Efficient Wash/Pack Facility

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: November 28, 2017
Set Up an Efficient Wash/Pack Facility

The goal of this document is to provide more detail on setting up an efficient wash/pack facility with a focus on farm food safety and maintaining post-harvest quality. Of course, each farm will have unique circumstances and need different pieces of equipment. The idea here is think about the way to use a space to your best advantage. A facility should be set up to wash and move produce efficiently while getting the job done effectively. Whether you are adapting a currently existing space or starting from scratch, you can use this document to plan as close to the ideal situation as possible. You can customize to your specific situation, budget and needs.


NY Water Testing Labs for Food Safety Use

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: January 5, 2017
NY Water Testing Labs for Food Safety Use

A PDF list of water testing labs for agricultural and farm food safety uses in NY (assembled Summer 2016). 


Cold Storage Chart and Reference Guide to Commercial Vegetable Storage

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: December 13, 2016
Cold Storage Chart and Reference Guide to Commercial Vegetable Storage

Commercial vegetable growers will find a Cold Storage Chart by crop type with temperature and relative humidity recommendations. The maximum number of weeks that the crop can be held under ideal conditions is provided as well.

Adapted from the USDA Bulletin #66, The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stock, growers will find information on quality, grading, sizes, and packaging, chilling and storage, and post-harvest pathology of vegetables.


Crop Cooling and Storage

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: September 29, 2016
Crop Cooling and Storage

On-Farm Cold Storage of Fall-Harvested Fruit and Vegetable Crops is an in-depth look at the planning and designing cooling for late season and winter storage but it also is useful for general cooling as well. This was written by Scott Sanford, Distinguished Outreach Specialist, UW-Extension, and John Hendrickson, Outreach Program Manager, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Material List and Cost Calculator for Building a Wash Table and Aerator

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 16, 2016
Material List and Cost Calculator for Building a Wash Table and Aerator

Our model wash table was built from parts purchased entirely from a decently stocked hardware store. The list contains all the components we used to build the main table, the side modular tables, and the "dirty table". Also listed are the prices we paid to give you an idea of a building price. The real goal for these tables is to demonstrate that it doesn't require high priced equipment to get started in setting up an easily cleanable wash line set-up. The idea is to have something usable whether it is indoors or outside under canopies. The key is having the tables and equipment that can be easily cleaned and sanitized while being low-cost, easy to build, and totally functional.


Video: Produce Washing Stations - How to Use a Germicidal Bleach

Last Modified: January 26, 2016
Video: Produce Washing Stations - How to Use a Germicidal Bleach

Good Agricultural Practices or GAPs are the steps taken in produce packing areas to reduce microbial contamination. One area where reducing micro contamination is critical is in the washing and cleaning of produce. This video shows you a set of standard operating procedures for using a germicidal bleach in a produce washing station. Learn what supplies are required and how to calculate the amount of germicidal bleach needed to sanitize the water.


Cost Calculator: Three Basin Produce Washing

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: November 25, 2015
Cost Calculator: Three Basin Produce Washing

Need to know how much it will cost to run a wash line for vegetable and adding sanitizers to the water? This spreadsheet that will give you the breakdown of costs based on the type of sanitizer chosen and will further provide how the costs are divided over each step of post-harvest washing and handling. 


Sanitizer Dose Calculation Spreadsheet

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: November 25, 2015
Sanitizer Dose Calculation Spreadsheet

Want to quickly figure out the sanitizer dose needed for various types of sanitizer for your wash line tanks/tubs/ or basins? This handy tool will give you that information without all that messy algebra everyone has forgotten from high school. Attached to this spreadsheet tool is a chart that provides the concentrations of sanitizer needed for large volumes of wash water. This spreadsheet was also created by Chris Callahan, UVM Extension.


Crop Cooler Storage Planner

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: November 24, 2015
Crop Cooler Storage Planner

This tool will help vegetable farmers figure out their cooler storage needs as well as be able to quickly see the refrigeration capacity to cool their harvest. This tool was created by Chris Callahan, AG Engineer, Univ. VT


Recommendations for Cleaning and Storing Your Harvest Containers and Tools

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: June 19, 2015
Recommendations for Cleaning and Storing Your Harvest Containers and Tools

Harvest containers and tools can contaminate your produce. Prior to use, harvest containers and tools should be washed and sanitized. When not in use, it is important that they are stored in designated locations where they cannot be used for any other purpose and secure from animal contamination.


Video: Farm Food Safety as if Someone's Life Depended On It

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: April 3, 2015
Video: Farm Food Safety as if Someone's Life Depended On It

This video is an overview of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) through on-farm risk assessment. Cornell Cooperative Extension, along with the National GAPs Program and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, has developed and implemented a nationally-recognized training program in GAPs to prepare New York growers for the marketplace's increased vigilance in food safety. You can learn more about that program through this video, as well as updates on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and economic information on the implementation of GAPs collected from growers through extensive interviews.


Building an Easy Clean Produce Wash Table

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: April 1, 2015
Building an Easy Clean Produce Wash Table

Farmers are inventive people. When faced with a problem, their creative minds fire up and come up with solutions. This project is the result of discussions with farmers about food safety on their wash lines. Many farms work with a harvest volume that doesn't warrant automated washing and packing equipment, but these famers still need a system to transform field harvested produce into saleable product. We designed this wash-line plan for small-scale farmers who wish to increase their efficiency and minimize microbial risk in post-harvest handling. The modular wash line plan shows that incorporating food safety practices can be affordable. Farmers can creatively minimize microbial risk cost.


Wash Your Greens: A Low-Cost but Effective Washer/Spinner Design

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: March 26, 2015
Wash Your Greens: A Low-Cost but Effective Washer/Spinner Design

Farm Food Safety practices not only reduces the risk of microbial contamination that can lead to food-borne diseases but can also improve the post-harvest quality of washed vegetables. There are many issues dealing with farm food safety and a lot of research going on. One area centers on low-cost but effective equipment options. Dr. Jay Neal from the University of Houston has designed a greens washer/spinner built from PVC and using a 5 gallon bucket with lid. One of our farmers has built a model and modified the instructions to make building and usage easier.


Food Safety Considerations and Design for Packing Sheds

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

Last Modified: February 16, 2015
Food Safety Considerations and Design for Packing Sheds

A packing shed schematic showing considerations for Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).


Sample SOPs on Hand Washing and On-Farm Injury

Last Modified: February 15, 2015
Sample SOPs on Hand Washing and On-Farm Injury

E. A. Bihn, M.A. Schermann, A. L. Wszelaki, G. L. Wall, and S. K. Amudson, 2013:
Sample Standard Operating Producer (SOP) that describes the correct method of hand washing for workers and visitors.

Sample SOP that describes what to do when an injury occurs on the farm.



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Upcoming Events

Announcements

Agricultural Workforce Resources for COVID-19

The Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development team has dedicated a page of their website to resources, information, and news releases related to COVID-19. Produce farms should review the resources to protect their workforce, their business, and their markets.

How to Take a Photo for Crop Diagnostics

With the current push to work remotely, using pictures to quickly address production questions has a lot of appeal and utility but the images must be of high quality.

In How to Take a Photo for Crop Diagnostics, readers will learn:
  • What makes a high quality image?
  • Things you should know
  • Different problems need different images
  • Steps for taking a high quality image
  • Pro tips
...Plus there a several side-by-side comparisons of poor quality photos versus high quality images with tips on what changes the photographer made to take the better photo. 

Cornell Commercial Vegetable Guidelines Available

The 2020 Cornell Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production are now available!

Written by Cornell University specialists, this publication is designed to offer producers, seed and chemical dealers, and crop consultants practical information on growing and managing vegetable crops in New York State. Topics include general culture, nutrient management, transplant production, postharvest handling, organic production, and managing common vegetable crop pest concerns. A preview of the Vegetable Guidelines can be seen online.

Highlighted changes in the 2020 Vegetable Guidelines include: 
  • Updated pesticide options for economically important vegetable crop pests.
  • Completely revised weed management chapter.
  • Updated online crop and pest management resources.
Cornell Crop and Pest Management Guidelines are available as a print copy ($41), online-only access ($41), or a package combining print and online access ($57.50). Shipping charges will be added to your order. Cornell Guidelines can be obtained through many local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, or from The Cornell Store at Cornell University or call (844) 688-7620.


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