Preventing post-harvest contamination of broccoli and other fresh produce is easier when equipment and packing sheds are built with food safety in mind. A new resource developed with support from the Eastern Broccoli project brings the principles of hygienic design to the post-harvest environment to show how incorporating the right features and materials can simplify cleaning and eliminate common hiding spots for pathogens.
Hygienic design is the norm for food processing environments, but surprisingly little attention has been given to applying the principles to post-harvest equipment and facilities that handle raw agricultural commodities. That omission caught the attention of Produce Safety Alliance Director and Eastern Broccoli collaborator Betsy Bihn, who engaged University of Vermont Agricultural Engineer Chris Callahan to develop guidelines that would make it easier for cooling and packing environments to be in compliance with food safety standards. The result is Hygienic Design for Produce Farms, which is available for download from Callahan’s blog and via a link on the Eastern Broccoli Production resource page.
The publication explains the five key principles of hygienic design (visible and reachable surfaces; smooth and cleanable surfaces; no collection points; compatible materials; and preventing contamination) and discusses some of the tools and materials that can be used to implement them in post-harvest operations. The main goals are to eliminate “harborage points” (places where contaminants and pathogens can settle) and to ensure that all surfaces are accessible and suited to regular cleaning and sanitizing. An “On-Farm Hygienic Design Checklist” is included in the publication and is also available in downloadable, stand-alone pdf and Excel formats.
The publication is intended for growers who are constructing or renovating their washing and packing operation. Agricultural equipment manufacturers will also find the publication useful, as it provides insights about the types of equipment improvements their customers need.