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Publication #FSHN10-03

Food Safety on the Farm: Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices – Transportation1

Alexandra Chang, Alina Balaguero, Renée Goodrich-Schneider, and Keith R. Schneider2

As part of the Food Safety on the Farm series, a collection that reviews the generally recognized principles of GAPs as they relate to produce, primarily at the farm level and with particular focus on fresh Florida crops and practices, this publication focuses on GAPs and GHPs relating specifically to post-harvest transportation of produce. The publications in this series can be found online at the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_series_food_safety_on_the_farm.

Introduction

Good agricultural practices (GAPs) and good handling practices (GHPs) encompass the general procedures that growers, packers, and processors of fresh fruits and vegetables should follow to ensure the safety of their product. GAPs usually deal with preharvest practices (i.e., in the field), while GHPs cover postharvest practices, including packing and shipping. We will use the term GAPs to generally cover pre- and post-harvest practices associated with the safe handling of produce. This fact sheet covers the GAPs of transporting crops. Other Florida Cooperative Extension factsheets in this series focus on specific aspects of the GAPs program and how they relate to Florida crops and practices.

Microbial Hazards

Poor sanitation during any step of the transport process greatly increases the risk of contaminating fresh produce. Microbial cross-contamination can occur between produce and anything that comes into contact with it during loading, unloading, storage, and transportation (FDA, 1998).

How to Control Potential Hazards

Operators should evaluate potential sources of contamination at each step of the transportation process, including transport to and from the field, storage, packing facilities, distribution centers, and retail centers. Successful management of transportation involves active dialogue with transport personnel to ensure sanitation conditions are evaluated and GAPs are being followed. The transportation GAPs below have been recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 1998). Additional GAPs for the Florida tomato industry may be found in the Tomato Best Practices Manual (FDACS, 2007).

General Considerations

  • Workers involved in the loading and unloading of fresh produce during transport should practice good hygiene. Refer to Good Worker Health and Hygiene Practices: Evaluation and Importance in GAPs and GMPs, a companion fact sheet to this series, available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy716 (Ritenour et al., 2007).

  • Product inspectors, buyers, and other visitors should comply with established hygienic practices, such as thoroughly washing their hands before inspecting produce (FDA, 1998).

General Transport Considerations

All workers involved in transporting fresh produce, including growers, packers, shippers, brokers, exporters, importers, retailers, and wholesalers should help ensure good sanitation practices throughout the transport process. The following GAPs should be considered in transport sanitation (FDA, 1998).

  • Use trucks that are able to be cleaned, block infestation of pests, and allow effective inspection.

  • Inspect trucks or transport carriers for damage, cleanliness, odors, and obvious dirt or debris before beginning the loading process. Keep a log to make sure inspections are being conducted.

  • Use dedicated transport vehicles to reduce the risk of cross-contamination from previous loads. Do not transport fresh produce in trucks that carried live animals, animal products that were improperly packaged or contained, or other harmful substances. After removing surface debris, wash water at 60°C–71°C (140°F–160°F) and appropriate approved sanitizers can be used to clean the interior surfaces of trucks.

  • Maintain proper temperatures to help ensure both the quality and safety of fresh produce. Use refrigerated trucks or ice to reduce the growth rate of potentially harmful microbes during transport. Trucks should be pre-cooled so they are at the proper temperature before loading. Be aware of temperature requirements for produce to prevent transporting mixed loads with incompatible refrigeration requirements. Before loading, and about every four hours during transport, inspect the cooling unit to make sure it is in proper working condition.

  • Load produce in trucks or transport carriers in a manner that will minimize damage. Take care to prevent contamination of produce during loading and arrange produce in a way that allows proper refrigerated air circulation.

  • Utilize transportation logs to be completed by your personnel in conjunction with the truck's driver. Consider implementing performance standards into your transportation contracts. Utilize checklist and reporting systems to ensure your product is shipped under the proper conditions.

References

  1. United States Food and Drug Administration. Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards for fresh fruits and vegetables. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, 1998. Available from http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ProducePlantProducts/ucm064574.htm [29 March 2013].

  2. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Food Safety. Tomato Best Practices Manual. Tallahassee, FL: FDACS, 2007 Nov. (accessed April 8, 2010). Available from http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/fs/TomatoBestPractices.pdf.

  3. Ritenour, M., M. Holmes-Pearce, A. Simonne, J. Brecht, S. Sargent, and K.R. Schneider. FCS8766. Good Worker Health and Hygiene Practices: Evaluation and Importance in GAPs and GMPs. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2007. Available from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy716.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FSHN10-03, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date June 2010. Reviewed February 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Alexandra Chang, graduate student; Alina Balaguero, student; R.M. Goodrich-Schneider, associate professor; K.R. Schneider, associate professor; all of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department; Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; University of Florida; Gainesville 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.