Why you should 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.

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 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 Produce Safety Rule does not specifically require traceability for fresh produce.)

If you have specific questions about the Produce Safety Rule 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. 

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 of 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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