Demand for greenhouse-grown produce continues to increase, providing ornamental growers with unique opportunities to tap into this expanding market. Although greenhouse systems provide a more protected environment than field-grown systems, it is important to understand the unique food safety risks and possible sources of contamination when growing produce in these systems.
Identifying food safety hazards are necessary to implementing practices that reduce the risk of contamination during the pre-plant, production, harvest, and postharvest handling stages.
A team of researchers from Virginia Tech University’s Cooperative Extension system has developed a checklist that is designed to guide growers in asking and answering important questions targeting possible risks at each of the greenhouse system stages. The checklist covers food safety concerns starting with before the crop is planted, all the way through to when it is packed and shipped.
Some general questions to ask at the very beginning include:
• Have all workers been trained in proper health, hygiene, and produce handling practices and policies for each of the stages?
• Are all procedures performed being regularly documented for recordkeeping?
• If any contamination concern occurs, what are the corrective actions to mitigate these concerns (remember to document them, describing the situation, date of occurrence, and action taken)?