Produce Food Safety – Make it Cultural!

​As we approach the 2015 growing season, produce food safety continues to be an important issue.  This year, why not make it one of your goals to create a “culture” of food safety on your farm?  Below are some things you can do to get started on that goal during the winter months:Review (or get started on) your written food safety plan. Winter is an excellent time to review your written food safety plan.  As you review the plan, ask yourself if all policies and procedures are written in such a way that they are easily understood.  Review any areas, such as hand washing, documentation, etc., that presented particular challenges for the farm, to see if expectations can be clarified or if procedures can be simplified.

Make sure policies and procedures are available in the appropriate languages. As we see an ever-increasing level of diversity in our labor force, it is important to have copies of critical policies and procedures available to workers in their native language.  While finding translated materials can, at times, be challenging, the effort will yield a large return if it gives workers a better understanding of the expectations on your farm.

Contact buyers. Winter is a good time to visit with current or potential buyers.  Discuss food safety with your buyers to make sure you clearly understand their expectations for your products.  Thoroughly understanding buyer expectations allows you to incorporate their requirements into your farm’s food safety activities.

Review your worker training program. Worker participation and buy-in is critical if you are to create a culture of food safety on your farm.  When reviewing your worker training program, make sure that training is being provided in the appropriate language(s), that training materials are easily understood, and that your current training program is designed to achieve the food safety goals that you have set for your farm.  Worker training programs have the potential to set the tone for the entire workforce and should be looked upon as an opportunity, and not just another box to check off for a few points on audit day.

Model the plan. Whether it is team leader, owner, supervisor, or director, if you are in a leadership position, the most important thing you can do to create a culture of food safety on your farm is to model your food safety plan.  As a leader, ask yourself if your conduct on a daily basis models your farm’s stated commitment to food safety.  If there are things that you feel could be improved, develop a plan for doing so.  Workers take their cues from leadership.  Nothing emphasizes the importance of food safety more than watching managers model the standards and expectations that they expect from others.Remember, anyone can be good at food safety on the one day of the year that the auditor comes to the farm.  However, the expectation of buyers and consumers is that we will be good at food safety every day of the season.  Creating a culture of food safety on your farm will help to insure that those expectations are met.

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