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Video Series: Food Safety for Wash-Pack Facilities

Robert Hadad, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Cornell Vegetable Program

September 3, 2020

Wash/pack facilities are bottlenecks -- all produce on the farm may need to go through the facility, and the smallest amount of contamination could escalate into a much bigger contamination event under the right conditions. This is why it's critical that food safety practices be implemented to ensure that foodborne pathogens are not introduced or spread as produce is sorted, graded, washed, and packed. To help you understand how wash/pack facilities can be sources of foodborne pathogens, Robert Hadad and Caitlin Tucker have developed a 5-part online video resource.

Part 1: Principles of Food Safety for Wash-Pack Facilities
For any subject, it's important to start with the basics. In Part 1 you'll learn about the three types of pathogens that can contaminate produce. We'll identify how contamination can enter into the wash/pack facility via workers, water, soil amendments, animals, and tools. For mitigating risks, one of the easiest ways workers can reduce the chance of foodborne pathogens entering into the wash/pack line is by following everyday health and hygiene practices. In Part 1 we'll go through all of the personal hygiene expectations that you should have for your workers, and for yourself. 

Part 2: The Ideal Wash/Pack Facility
Whether you're currently dreaming about a wash/pack facility, or already have one up and running, it's important to set aside time to think about how design and layout can impact food safety. There is no one "ideal" wash/pack facility layout, but there are number of modifications that can be made to greatly reduce food safety risks. In Part 2 we'll outline the 5 Principles of Hygienic Design, the benefits of ergonomics, and how general layout can impact cleaning efforts, worker safety, and efficiency. We'll also dive into some detailed considerations for walls, lighting, flooring, drainage, storage, pest management, and more. 

Part 3: Post-Harvest Water Management
The source and quality of the water used for washing produce is critical for food safety. In part 3, we'll review the different sources of water typically found on the farm and how "risky" they are when used to wash produce. Food safety risks related to water can further be reduced when we understand the concept of infiltration and the benefits of using sanitizers in wash water. We'll also cover a number of factors that can influence sanitizer efficacy - following label instructions, monitoring sanitizer levels, water temperature, pH, and turbidity. Finally we'll highlight all of the different ways you could wash produce and the pros, cons, and food safety considerations of each. 

Part 4: Cleaning and Sanitizing
What's the difference between cleaning and sanitizing? How can I clean my wash/pack equipment if I don't typically introduce water into the wash/pack line? How do I clean harvest bins, equipment, greens spinners, etc?  Can I use my power washer? All of these questions and more will be answered in Part 4. We'll walk you through the steps of cleaning and sanitizing, introduce the concept of "dry cleaning", and will point out some key things you should know about cleaning and sanitizing different items in your wash/pack facility.

Part 5: Cleaning Common Wash/Pack Equipment
Cleaning - a topic so important for wash/pack facilities that we're going to cover it in TWO sessions. In Part 5 we're going to tackle cleaning larger wash/pack equipment like root barrel washers and brush washers. Cleaning this type of equipment is much more involved - more tools, more time, more attention to detail. We'll also discuss the difference between "thorough or deep" cleaning and "maintenance or routine" cleaning and underline why both types of cleaning are needed for larger, heavily used cleaning equipment. Throughout Part 5 we'll highlight some of the tools that the Cornell Vegetable Program has trialed, tips and tricks for cleaning items like absorber donuts and give you an estimate on just how much time it will take to clean this type of equipment. 



Transcript: Part 1: Principles of Food Safety for Wash-Pack Facilities (pdf; 511KB)

Transcript: Part 2: The Ideal Wash-Pack Facility (pdf; 407KB)

Transcript: Part 3: Post-Harvest Water Management (pdf; 371KB)

Transcript: Part 4: Cleaning and Sanitizing (pdf; 566KB)

Transcript: Part 5: Cleaning Common Wash/Pack Equipment (pdf; 581KB)

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Upcoming Events

SCRUB Twilight Workshop Series

September 1, 2021 : Bin Blitz

Experienced growers and UVM's Ag Engineering present new strategies and cleaning tools to increase the efficiency and efficacy of bin cleaning, sanitation and management practices. Lead growers show and tell their bin systems, with lessons learned. Participants leave with a plan to improve/implement new practices.

September 8, 2021 : Low Cost and High Value

Evaluate low-cost (either money or time) improvements that make a big difference. Experience growers show and tell the thrifty improvements they made and summarize lessons learned, including trade-offs of spending money (or not) to lower risks and increase efficiency. 

September 15, 2021 : Wash/Pack Floors

Learn to improve or repair a concrete floor so that it is smooth and easy to clean. This workshop highlights concrete repair, cleaning and sanitation techniques, water management, products and resources, as well as show and tell from experienced growers, and Chris Callahan from UVM's Extension Ag Engineering.

September 22, 2021 : Wash Water Management

Experienced growers and facilitators dig into the fundamentals of managing produce wash water, including show and tell with lessons learned about wash water management, use and monitoring of sanitizers. All participants leave with a plan to improve/implement new practices.

September 29, 2021 : Tools for Employee Management and Empowerment

Develop management strategies/systems to retain and empower high-value workers, while improving crew morale and culture. Learn from experienced managers of loyal and reliable crews, the pros and cons of their current management systems, and how they came to be. Participants leave with resources and a plan to improve/implement one or more new practices or strategies.

October 6, 2021 : Bubblers/Aerators for Greens Washing

For growers wanting to install or improve a greens bubbler/aerator. Get feedback from growers who built/improved their own systems. Examine designs and DYI resources, as well as perceived quality and efficiency gains from bubblers as compared to other washing methods. This workshop features a panel of New York growers!

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Announcements

Fungicides for ALS in Broccoli

The Cornell Fungicide "Cheat Sheet" for ALS and Head Rot in Broccoli and Other Cole Crops has been updated for 2021. It includes some additional products including generic options for Inspire Super and Switch, which may offer some cost savings.

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