Growing safe food
Food safety on the farm is good business!
Our on-farm Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Education Program works with Minnesota’s produce farmers to help you develop and implement on-farm food safety plans and prepare for GAPs audits.
Farm food safety planning
Who needs a food safety plan?
Food safety is a good idea and good for your business. At this time most Minnesota growers do not need to have their farm and produce GAP audited unless their customer – typically a distributor, grocery store, school or restaurant – requires it. If you need to have an audit, the first thing you need is a written food safety plan.
Even if you are direct marketing your produce and don’t need an audit, having a food safety plan and following good hygiene and sanitation practices can benefit your operation. It will assure your customers that you are proactively reducing the risk of microbial contamination on your produce.
Get started by using the templates for standard operating procedures and logsheets and adapt them for your farm. The material provided here is guidance and not regulation and should be applied as appropriate and feasible to your fruit and vegetable operations. Keep in mind that this is YOUR plan and should fit YOUR farm.
Food safety plan template?
This is the farm food safety plan template. It follows the GAP audit checklist. Download it and make it your own.
Files are editable.
- GAPs are voluntary guidelines for produce farmers to reduce the risk of microbial contamination related to food borne illnesses on their farms.
- There are various GAP audits available. Depending on the products grown, more than one audit a year may be required by your buyer/customer.
- Are you are interested in selling fresh fruits or vegetables to wholesale markets such as a distributors, hospitals or schools? You may be asked for a “third-party food safety audit.”
- Get step-by-step instructions on how to get a GAP audit.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
Why take the FSMA training course?
Participating in this one-day course fulfills the training requirement in the FSMA Produce Safety Rule (outlined in §112.22(c) of the Produce Safety Rule).
But all farms, including those that are exempt and qualified exempt from the full Rule, are encouraged to take this course to understand Good Agricultural Practices and the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.
It is a great overview of critical topics that are becoming even more important to the fresh produce industry.
If you would like to get a GAP audit at some point on your product to sell to a wholesale market, it will be very helpful to understand these concepts and how to write food safety plans.
This PSA FSMA course is currently recognized by the FDA to fulfill the training requirement in the Produce Safety Rule.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) National Produce Safety Rule was finalized and put into effect by the FDA in November 2015. The rule establishes, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
If you grow and sell fresh fruits and vegetables, you may be subject to the rule and its provisions. Compliance dates vary based on your farm size.
More on FSMA
FSMA overview (FDA) Key provisions of the rule.
FSMA Facts: Does this rule apply to you? (USDA) Flowchart to help you understand if the rule applies to your farm.
FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety (FDA) Main Produce Safety Rule page with links to guidance.
North Central Region center for FSMA training (Iowa State). Regional FSMA training center. Summary of current FSMA related information and a monthly newsletter.
Produce Safety Alliance FMSA training program Produce Safety Alliance provides the FDA recognized training for fruit and vegetable growers that are subject to the rule.
While food safety is important for all farms, the FSMA Produce Safety Rule regulation only applies to some farms.
There are several ways the farm or operation may be excluded or exempt from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.
FSMA Facts: Does this rule apply to you? (PDF from USDA)
- Flowchart to help you understand if the rule applies to your farm.
Food safety practices
- Hand washing is one of the most important steps you can take to reduce the risk of contaminating your fruits and vegetables with foodborne illness-causing pathogens.
- Learn how to build your own portable handwashing station for less than $20.
Clean and accessible toilet facilities must be available on the farm site for all workers and visitors to use.
Proper field sanitation helps reduce the potential for contaminating produce and helps protect workers and consumers from foodborne diseases.
All reusable harvest containers, tools and food contact surfaces should be kept as clean as possible and regularly sanitized.
Sanitizing can be done with a number of products.
- Cleaning and sanitizing tools.
- How to mix sanitizers.
- Keep it clean on the farm.
- Washing vegetables using the triple wash technique.
Washing fresh produce with potable water treated with a sanitizing agent reduces illness-causing pathogens.
To maintain appropriate levels of sanitizer in your wash water, use test strips or another method to verify the concentration after each addition of sanitizer.
Always read and follow the sanitizer label instructions.
Water used for handwashing, produce washing and rinsing, frost protection, irrigation, drinking and other uses on the farm should be tested.
When testing water, labs look for harmful pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli as well as nitrates.
It is important to properly collect the water for testing for an accurate result.