Jump start food safety on your fresh produce farm with Safe Food-A-Syst

Audits are a good way to verify safe growing and handling practices on fresh produce farms, but can be costly for small growers. Safe Food-A-Syst can be an affordable alternative in implementing food safety practices on a fresh produce farm.

Investment bankers often use the disclaimer that past earnings are no guarantee of future performance. What is true of investment banking could also be said of food safety, especially in the absence of having a food safety manual. Without developing, keeping and routinely referring to a food safety manual, there is no way any farm can guarantee good performance in the future.

The challenge for growers of any size operation is how they continue to improve safety and quality of the food delivered and food cost effectively into the marketplace. A good first step that all growers irrespective of size may wish to consider is walking through the voluntary Michigan Safe Food-A-Syst with a food safety technician. This program is carried out through several Michigan County Conservation Districts and is fully grant and taxpayer funded, making it free to growers.

Safe Food-A-Syst is like the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) in that there is a farm review and a certificate of completion provided when farms meet the criteria laid out in the risk assessment. It is voluntary and does not carry the weight of a food safety audit, but can get a farm on its way. It also provides a second set of eyes to look at potential on-farm food safety problems, making sure your future performance truly matches your good past food safety performance. After all, just because someone hasn’t gotten sick from eating a grower’s produce in the past, doesn’t guarantee someone will not get sick from the produce in the future.

If you would like to find out more about Safe Food-A-Syst, contact Elaine Brown, grants and MAEAP training and standards liaison, at 517-284-5613 or browne14@michigan.gov. If you have specific food safety questions or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292.

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