The Track and Scat Fresh Produce Safety Handbook for Southwest, Arizona

Monday, July 22, 2013
Desert Ballroom: Salons 7-8 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Kurt D. Nolte , University of Arizona, Yuma, AZ
Kaylee Renick , Agricultural Technology Management, University of Arizona, Yuma, AZ
Channah M. Rock , University of Arizona, Maricopa, AZ
Produce is perceived to be healthy and nutritious due to documented health benefits derived from consumption. Moreover, consumers also demand quality produce that has minimal risk of foodborne pathogens. However, over the years the number of outbreaks arising from the consumption of fresh vegetables has increased exponentially. Vegetables commonly associated with outbreaks include leafy greens where sources of contamination can be variable and amplified due to open environment growing conditions. Microbial contaminations in fresh vegetables can occur at any stage of crop growth, harvest, or in transport to facilities; therefore the key to any effective food safety program is prevention of such contamination. Specifically in Arizona, vegetable growers, wholesalers, and foodservice buyers want to ensure that their fresh vegetables are being grown free of harmful pathogens and bacteria. Yuma, AZ, is considered a major player in the United States supply of winter grown vegetables, including leafy greens. As a fertile valley surrounded in a desert environment, a specific challenge for growers is wildlife intrusion within production acreage. Wildlife, such as birds, rodents, pigs, and deer, can be vectors for transmitting fecal pathogens to produce fields without growers’ knowledge of intrusion. The ultimate goal for vegetable producers is to maximize food safety for the public while minimizing negative impacts on wildlife populations and habitats. Working in collaboration with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, Arizona Department of Agriculture, and the Western Growers Association, the University of Arizona Yuma County Cooperative Extension developed a scat and track field guidebook to help identify signs of wildlife and domestic animal intrusion within production areas.  Development of the field guidebook and contents will be discussed.