Creating a preharvest food safety checklist

Keeping food safety as simple as possible is a continuing challenge. Using a preharvest checklist may simplify the process by helping to streamline food safety recordkeeping.

Produce growers looking to streamline food safety can face a daunting challenge. Often, multiple controls need to be monitored and recorded at the same time. When getting ready for harvest, the grower may need to make sure potable water is available to all workers while ensuring the harvest containers are clean and a myriad other tasks. It is easy to forget to monitor a step or write down that the step was accomplished on a log sheet for that specific control point. One strategic approach recommended by Michigan State University Extension that can help streamline the process is by organizing the various controls around a task instead of around a particular control point.

A grower who is getting ready to harvest fresh produce could have a preharvest checklist that lists all the main process controls for that harvest. The grower signs and dates the checklist once, then checks off each process control step as it is accomplished. Checklists can be created for hydrocooling, grading or any other step where multiple process controls need to be monitored prior to commencing the activity. This eliminates the need for signing multiple log sheets for each activity, but it requires one checklist sheet per activity performed.

This same principle is applied to aviation with every flight. The pilot fills out a preflight checklist that covers each potential problem area on the plane prior to take off. This ensures that each preflight check is performed in the same manner no matter where it is performed or who is performing it.

If you would like more information on implementing preharvest checklists in your operation or your post-harvest facility, contact the Agrifood Safety Workgroup at 517-788-4292 or at

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