Where does worrying about food safety in fresh produce end for the grower?

Most growers worry a lot about the safety of the food they grow and where their responsibility lies. This article aims to point out where the worry may not match up with the grower’s responsibility for food safety.

Fresh produce growers who are food safety certified often sweat over the integrity of their product all the way to the consumer. Though this is understandable, there are more clearly defined points where responsibility shifts to another party in the event of a recall. It is important to be aware of these points, even if to only sleep a little easier during the harvest season.

When a grower has direct control or custody over the produce, it is the grower’s responsibility to maintain the safety of the produce. Once the produce leaves the control or custody of the grower, the grower is not technically responsible any longer for maintaining the safety of the produce.

For instance, if a grower contracts an individual to transport produce from the field to a packing facility, then the grower no longer is responsible for the safety of the produce. If the grower owns the truck that does the transportation to the packing facility, then the grower is still responsible for the crop until it is received at the packing facility.

It is important to emphasize that just because a grower is not responsible for the produce after it leaves their care, due diligence must be taken if an imminent risk exists to contaminate the produce. If a truck pulls up to transport produce to a packing facility that hasn’t been washed or does not have a temperature log if it is necessary, the grower’s due diligence would dictate refusal of the truck, even though the safety of the produce would no longer be the responsibility of the grower. After all, if there is a problem with the safety of the product, it isn’t just the shipment or their business that suffers. The whole industry loses during a foods safety outbreak.

 If you would like more information on implementing good food safety practices in your operation, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Work Group at gaps@msu.edu or 517-788-4292.

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