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Chapter 2 : Role of Good Agricultural Practices in Fruit and Vegetable Safety
Fruits and vegetables are at risk for contamination throughout the production and distribution network, as well in retail stores, in restaurants, and in home. The source of pathogens can be virtually anything in the production environment that comes in contact with produce. Current research indicates that some pathogens can now survive in low pH environments, such as human stomach acid, where before these pathogens would have been killed. This chapter focuses on research findings and good agricultural practices (GAPs) implementation that is being achieved on the farm and provides additional information to make GAPs implementation more effective and efficient. The microbiological quality of water is always a concern because of the prevalence and importance of water in the production of fresh produce. The discussion of GAPs and food safety at the farm level is relatively new, and several challenges exist. GAPs principles can be incorporated into worker training programs that already exist, such as those that discuss pesticides and proper harvesting techniques. Irrigation water quality plays a significant role in produce food safety, but currently in the United States there are no irrigation water quality regulations. Irrigation methods that deliver water directly to the soil without wetting the plant or the ripe fruit or vegetable are lower risk than those that wet the entire plant. The biggest challenges are viewing fruits and vegetables as ready-to-eat food products and understanding which risks are most likely to occur for a specific commodity.