In the UK, we take food safety for granted, and very rarely consider what potential risks could be associated with eating. Safe food (being food that will not cause injury or illness) and is normally a given when food is bought in the UK.
This in part is down to our comprehensive food safety laws, but also in part down to retail and consumer pressures to ensure the very high standards we see today. Retailers often rely of certification schemes for food processors and fresh produce growers as a way to maintain food safety.
Is this relevant to Fresh Produce?
When you grow fresh produce what are the food safety risks? In the food industry we have 4 main hazard types of concern. These are:
- Microbiological – mainly bacteria that can come from soil, animal manure, animals themselves, water for irrigating or washing them and people.
- Chemicals – mainly pesticides that are applied to control pests and diseases and heavy metals that are found in the soil.
- Physical contamination – such as stones that can be entrapped in root crops, leaves and twigs, or pieces of glass and metal from damaged equipment.
- Allergens – there are 14 legally declarable allergens in the UK. These include from a fresh produce point of view tree nuts, cereals containing gluten, celery/celeriac, mustard and lupins.
In addition, there is the potential for malicious contamination and food fraud which as well as causing food safety issues can also cause economic fraud.
As can been seen from the above, fresh produce is linked to food poisoning and can cause deaths. However, with the right precautions, the fresh produce you grow, harvest and sell can be safe.
Safe food means happy, healthy customers and a good image for your business - Getting it wrong can lead to bad publicity, fines and even imprisonment.
In the next issue we’ll talk specifically about microorganism in fresh produce and some simple ways to minimise the risk.
This factsheet is produced as part of the Farm Assurance Training Series
The Farm Assurance Training Series is a collection of webinars, training and support aimed at growers considering applying for agricultural standards or schemes. Training will be delivered by industry expert, Malcom Laidlaw from ML3 Technical. More information on this programme can be found here: Farm Assurance Training Series
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