No matter how tight your production or streamlined your operations may be, every produce farm is vulnerable to food safety incidents — especially indoor farms. A controlled environment does not automatically eliminate climate changes, pest infestations, and contamination. In fact, according to food safety veteran consultant Sarah Taber, “if you mess up indoors, everything is magnified.”
“As a consultant, a lot of my time is spent grief counseling people over the loss of the innocence they had when they thought that food safety wasn’t a problem [indoors]. When you’re outside you have air circulation and sunlight that can brush back some of your mistakes. Temperature and humidity can get out of control indoors in a way it can’t outdoors and that can grow bacteria.”
Too many growers don’t have Standard Operating Procedures in place for even the most recognized audits to come out of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) — GAP, HACCP and SQF among them. That’s a problem. Not only because it put customers and consumers at risk, but it also endangers their businesses.
As a whole, the agricultural supply chain remains extremely vulnerable today. Growers no longer produce food on a local scale; internal imports aside, American produce travels on average nearly 1,500 miles from farm to table. The logistics of that kind of transport means that if and when a food safety concern emerges, the network of consumers and retailers put at risk is a wide one. Just look at the recent papaya salmonella outbreak. The CDC has traced back to a New York distributor, but not before people had fallen in eight states. In the last six years alone, food recalls across the U.S. have grown by 10%.
From a producer standpoint, if you don’t implement SOPs that help you meet regulatory compliance standards, maintain impeccable records of that traceable data, ensure accountability for tasks that ensure plant health and sanitary work conditions, and educate your team on recall plans in case of incident you put your entire business at risk.
Source: Artemis (Nathalia Delima)