16Aug 2016

The Heat Is on – so Is the Risk for Food Contamination

Keep food safe during the hot summer months.

While businesses turn their focus to heat illness prevention during the hot summer months, it’s also important—especially in the agricultural industry—to focus on field sanitation and worker safety.

Bacteria and other microbial contaminants such as e coli, shigella, listeria, and norovirus can be found in our soil, air, water, and on people and animals. Although always present throughout our environment, these microorganisms grow faster during the warm summer months, especially at temperatures from 90 to 110 degrees.

Keeping our food safe from these contaminants, starts with developing a written food safety plan and ensuring field workers follow field sanitation standards. Not only does this keep our food safe, it can help keep workers safe from these contaminants as well.

To ensure the health of workers:

  • Provide fresh, pure drinking water, in sufficient amounts taking into consideration air temperature, humidity, and nature of work performed to meet the needs of all employees.
  • Provide one toilet and hand-washing facility for every 20 employees of each sex.
  • Keep toilets sanitary, operational, and stocked with toilet paper.
  • Keep handwashing facilities filled with potable water, soap, and single-use towels.
  • Properly dispose of wastes from facilities.
  • Ensure employees wash hands with soapy water for at least 15 to 20 seconds before beginning or returning to work. This includes breaks and use of restroom facilities.
  • Allow smoking, eating, and drinking in designated areas only.

To ensure food safety:

  • Remove excess dirt to protect field packed produce from contamination found in the soil including fertilizer and animal materials.
  • Prevent harvesting of produce exposed to contamination.
  • Sanitize field equipment and containers before harvesting.
  • Prevent sick workers, or ones who have exposed cuts or wounds from touching produce.
  • Test irrigation water regularly for contamination.
  • Train agricultural fieldworkers in the Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Workers learn about how pesticides enter the body, proper work clothing, and the importance of showering and washing work clothes.

Following these procedures will ensure healthy workers and produce from farm to table.

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