Why should I worry about clean breaks and lot sizes?

Cleaning and sanitizing all food contact surfaces are required to establish a clean break. Learn what a clean break is and why it might be important to fruit and vegetable growers who grade, sort and store the produce they grow.

Photo by Alison Work, MSU Extension

When harvesting produce, it is important that all food contact surfaces are clean and sanitary, especially if that produce may be eaten raw. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) includes requirements for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces, including harvest containers.

A clean break is the last time all direct food contact surfaces were fully cleaned and sanitized at the same time. This is true whether the food contact surface is on a harvester, harvest container, dunk tank, produce grader or hydrocooler. There are four steps to cleaning and sanitizing any food contact surface. The surface should be pre-rinsed to remove soil, washed with soap and water, rinsed of soap and water, then sanitized. Without all four of these steps, no clean break has occurred.

Clean breaks are an important component of an effective traceability program. If a recall were to occur, the recalls will include all product that was packed from the last full cleaning and sanitizing event forward. The product that is processed between clean breaks is called a lot. The more frequently you establish clean breaks, the smaller the lot. These lots should be indicated on the traceability system that you establish for your produce. (For reference, the FSMA PSR does not specifically require traceability for fresh produce.)

For more information on cleaning and sanitizing, this helpful video can walk you through some key steps in postharvest environments.

Michigan State University Extension is also offering a workshop on Post-Harvest Handling and Hygiene for Small and Medium Sized Growers from 1-4 p.m. on March 18, 2020, in Marquette, Michigan. This half-day workshop will help build your understanding of postharvest hygiene and how to buy more hygienic equipment and fabricate safer equipment. Visit Post-Harvest Handling and Hygiene for Small and Medium Sized Growers to learn more about the event or to register.

If you have specific questions about cleaning and sanitizing or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact the Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292.

Funding for this article was made possible, in part, by the Food and Drug Administration through grant PAR-16-137. The views expressed in the written materials do not necessarily reflect the official policies if the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government.

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