Developing an On-farm Decision Tree for Fresh Produce Growers to Assess Risks and Prioritize Implementation of Food Safety Practices

Thursday, July 25, 2013: 2:30 PM
Springs Salon A/B (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Elizabeth Bihn, Senior Extension Associate , Cornell University, Geneva, NY
Michele A. Schermann, Research Fellow , University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN
Annette L. Wszelaki , Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Gretchen L. Wall, Extension Associate , Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Susannah K. Amundson, Extension Assistant , University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Food safety is every growers’ responsibility, however, identifying and prioritizing food safety risks on the farm is often difficult. While there are many food safety resources and templates offering guidance on practices to reduce risks, most do not explain how to assess risks or how to prioritize which food safety practices should be put in place first.  Not all risks are the same and farm resources are limited. Understanding how to prioritize the implementation of food safety practices that reduce the biggest risks is important to farm viability and safety. In this project, Decision Tree Portfolios were developed to help fruit and vegetable growers assess on-farm risks and write farm food safety plans that guide and prioritize the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables in the field and packinghouse can come from many sources, such as wild and domestic animals, water, soil amendments, workers, and adjacent land. To address the diversity of risks, ten Decision Tree Portfolios were developed: Worker Health and Hygiene Training; Wildlife and Animal Management; Biological Soil Amendments; Non-biological Soil Amendments; Agricultural Water for Production; Agricultural Water for Postharvest Use; Previous and Adjacent Land Use; Sanitation Practices; Transportation; and Traceability.  Each Decision Tree Portfolio contains an overview of the topic, a decision tree for assessing risks, food safety template language, sample standard operating procedures, sample log sheets for recording food safety practices, and references for additional resources. Initial development and review of the Decision Tree Portfolios was guided by an advisory group of growers, extension educators, topic-specific experts, and government personnel.  Focus groups were conducted with growers in Minnesota, New York, and Tennessee to evaluate the final Decision Tree Portfolios for usability and functionality.  Educational materials will be disseminated through nationwide train-the-trainer workshops for agricultural extension educators as well as through workshops with fruit and vegetable growers, with particular emphasis on small and medium scale growers, including Amish, organic, and direct-to-market growers.