In the food industry, produce food safety is essential. Wholesale produce is often a restaurant and bar supply that owners and managers seek out. Just like with other food products, food safety is a big concern.
Some might assume that you can’t contaminate fresh produce, but that’s not the case. Chemical, physical, and microbial hazards often affect it. To prevent fresh produce contamination, you must identify these potential hazards.
The market for fresh-cut produce is growing in the United States. With that, produce processors encounter challenges of handling large volumes of products while ensuring their safety. All likely produce wholesale buyers need a safety certification.
When fresh produce is processed into consumer-ready products, it can increase the chance of bacterial growth and contamination. This is because the natural exterior of the produce has been broken.
This is often seen in pre-cut and packaged fruits and vegetables. While these might be easy to use for quick meal preparation, they’re not ideal in terms of produce safety.
A result of the broken natural exterior is a release of plant cellular fluids, like when produce is shredded or chopped. This provides the means for pathogens to develop and survive if they are present.
Understanding produce safety, especially in wholesale goods, is crucial. This article will cover the basics of food safety and provide tips to ensure fresh and safe wholesale produce. By the time you’re done, you’ll understand what is wholesale produce and food safety.
What Is Food Safety?
Food safety is enforcing best practices during food processing, handling, and distribution so that contaminants causing foodborne illnesses aren’t present. It is crucial for food production and food handling because it ensures the health and safety of the consumers. It’s an effort from all parties throughout the food supply chain.
To control it, you need to know about what can endanger the integrity and stability of the food. It is affected by contamination in the food supply chain.
The food supply chain is a long process. It involves sourcing raw materials, production, processing, packaging, storage, wholesale distribution, and retail distribution.
These contaminants can be caused by chemical, physical, biological, and radiological hazards. With proper inventory management and control of the food, you can prevent issues like foodborne diseases and food-related injuries.
Why Is Produce Food Safety Important?
Produce safety and food hygiene are important for businesses because they protect consumers' health from food poisoning and foodborne illnesses. Food poisoning can occur when contaminated food is consumed.
Since food contamination can occur at any point in the supply chain, it’s important to follow safety precautions at all times. This starts with the growers and wholesale suppliers and ends with the consumers or chefs.
This contamination can be from viruses, bacteria, and other germs like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.
In 2006, they implemented food hygiene regulations to require food establishments to carry out food tasks safely and hygienically. These laws and regulations have helped ensure that food establishments follow all safety protocols.
As a result, they’ve been able to minimize the spread of contamination. Complying with safe food handling standards can lead to fewer hospitalizations and consumer demand for fresh produce.
Food safety is an integral part of the food production process. It guarantees a healthy, high quality product that is safe to eat and produces better profits for businesses.
What Is Temperature Control In Food Safety?
In produce food safety, temperature control is a critical element. Controlling the temperature of food ensures that the food is safe to consume. You can reduce the risk of harmful bacteria levels in food by cooling, cooking, freezing, and reheating your food properly.
It’s common for meat poultry products, including wholesale meat and dairy, to be high risk. However, dry goods like rice and vegetables can also contain bacteria that grow if the food is exposed to poor temperature control.
To prevent growth of harmful bacteria on perishable food, you should always keep it out of the danger zone, which is considered 6-63ºC/42.8-145.4ºF. Perishable foods should be refrigerated at 8ºC/46.4ºF or below, and frozen food should be kept at or below -18ºC/-0.4ºF.
Controlling the temperature of foods controls the levels of bacteria. Enough heat kills bacteria, while colder temperatures can slow down the growth of bacteria and prevent it from reaching harmful levels. Too much bacteria–or the wrong kind–leads to food spoilage and potential illness.
Why Food Safety Is Important In the Produce Industry
Growers and processors must follow strict safety standards to meet consumer demands for fresh produce. These standards ensure high-quality produce goods. Preventing foodborne illnesses in the consumer market protects human health and saves lives.
Product contamination can hurt a brand’s reputation, especially if the issue results in recalls. A wholesale produce business can build trust with consumers by providing fresh fruit and vegetables that are safe to eat.
Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli are some of the germs that can sometimes contaminate raw fruits and vegetables. Adequate food safety practices lead to less food contamination.
Produce Safety Rule
In 2015, the FDA published the Produce Rule. This is also known as the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption. The rule sets standards for growing, harvesting, holding, and packing fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of unfavorable health consequences or death.
This regulation is in effect for both domestic and international produce growers. The details include standards for:
- Use of raw compost and manure
- Control of wild and domestic animals
- Agricultural water quality standards and testing
- Worker health and hygiene
- Control of equipment, buildings, and tools
4 Tips for Produce Food Safety
Farm food safety is critical, and it affects every fruit and vegetable grower. The growers are the prominent decision-makers when it comes to produce safety because they're the ones responsible for day-to-day operations. Consumers eat food produced on their farms, so farmers must keep educated on good agricultural practices GAP.
Growers should develop food safety plans and assess food safety risks. Food safety practices impact the financial visibility of farms and the health and safety of those who consume the produce.
Contamination can occur at different stages of the crop cycle. This includes planting, growing season, harvesting, and post-harvest handling, including during bulk shipping. It’s crucial to look for food safety risks during each production stage and prevent them from occurring.
Here are four recommendations on produce safety when selling wholesale:
1. Pre-Harvest Best Practices
Pre-harvest can include irrigation, planting, prepping the soil, and using fertilizers. Here are some best practices to adopt during this time:
- Set training requirement on workers on proper hygiene
- Ensure appropriate water quality for its intended purpose (cleaning, applying pesticides, drinking, irrigation)
- Maintain machinery and tools
- Ensure proper storage of chemicals
- Manage manure and compost
- Designate break areas in packing sheds and fields
- Clean and sanitize the food-contact containers, surfaces, and transportation
- Enforce proper use of hand washing stations and toilets
2. Best Practices for Harvesting
Harvesting is the process of gathering the useful parts of the plant once it is fully grown or developed. Here are the ideal produce safety practices for harvesting:
- Pick the fruits and vegetables once they’re dry, as this minimizes the amount of soil that sticks.
- Avoid harvesting produce that falls to the ground.
- Forgo harvesting damaged or rotten produce.
- Minimize nesting, hiding, and habitat places for rodents and other vermin in and around the fields.
- Inspect unused buildings for wildlife and pest nesting.
- Keep debris piles away from fields.
- Remove all harvested produce from the field as soon as possible.
- Enforce worker hygiene in the field (covered shoes, clean clothes, washed hands, and no smoking, eating or drinking while working).
- Train workers not to harvest produce that has been in contact with animal droppings.
3. Post-Harvest Best Practices
The post-harvest process includes cleaning, cooling, sorting, and packing the produce. The following are some best practices for this stage:
- Ensure nothing can fall into or onto the food.
- Sanitize all food-contact surfaces regularly.
- Keep all food-contact surfaces clean, including sorting tables, conveyors, brushes, rollers, racks, utensils, storage bins, and workers’ hands.
- Ensure all cold rooms are functioning properly.
4. Post-Harvest Produce Handling Practices
This process involves transporting, washing, sorting, and storing the produce. This is a crucial time to practice produce safety as the product is getting closer to the customer’s plate. During this time, you’re going to want to:
- Keep all surfaces clean
- Enforce worker hygiene practices
- Use clean water
- Keep workers well trained on all pertinent tasks
- Ensure working areas are free of pests and rodents
Frequently Asked Questions About Produce Food Safety
What Is the Biggest Risk In Produce Food Safety?
The biggest food safety risk in fresh produce is biological hazards and pathogenic microorganisms that can be found in the soil. Biological hazards include Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Listeria. Another risk with fresh produce is consuming fruits and vegetables without properly washing them.
What Is the Best Way to Store Produce?
The best way to store produce is to keep it in the dark and cool place with relatively high humidity. Avoid refrigeration but allow air circulation. Produce should be kept away from bananas, onions, and other goods that produce ethylene, which ripens fruits faster.
How Do You Keep Produce Safe?
The best way to keep produce safe is to wash it thoroughly. Washing produce will remove any dirt, bacteria, and pesticides on the surface. Produce should be washed under running water, and a clean brush can be used to scrub firm produce like potatoes. Softer produce like berries should be gently rinsed in a colander. Drying produce after washing is essential, as wet surfaces can provide an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
What Is FSMA Produce Safety Rule?
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) produce safety rule is a set of regulations designed to protect public health by preventing the contamination of fruits and vegetables. The FSMA's food safety rules apply science based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.. It also requires farms to have a safety plan that outlines how they will address potential hazards throughout the growing and handling process.
What Is Produce Safety Alliance?
The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) is a collaboration between Cornell University, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help growers comply with FSMA regulations.