Teach your workers well to avoid food in the produce field

When harvesting fruits and vegetables for fresh consumption, it is important growers depend on farm workers to deliver a safe product. The best way to ensure they do is to teach them well, especially on the subject of eating and drinking in produce fields.

The importance of farm workers in maintaining a sanitary produce harvest cannot be overstated. What your harvest workers do while harvesting and packing produce has the most direct impact on the sanitary nature of the harvest. One critical component in this sanitation is keeping harvest workers from eating or drinking around produce as it is being harvested or packed.

In all cases, growers must introduce this as part of worker training and enforce it as policy. A food safety auditor will look for a record that farm workers have been taught this, and visual evidence that farm workers are actually obeying the policy.

By law, farm workers must have and are allowed potable water with disposable cups in the field, but nothing else. Food should not be consumed in the field or on a packing line. In situations where a break area may be provided, having one will encourage farm workers to eat or drink there instead of in close proximity to produce handling areas. As with any instance of eating or drinking, farm workers should wash their hands prior to returning to work.

If you have specific questions about harvest worker training for food safety or have difficulty tailoring GAPs to your farm, contact Michigan State University Extension's Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292. To obtain a guidance document on worker policies, ask for guidance document AFSM011-01.

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