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Identifying food safety hazards in greenhouse systems

According to the United States Department of Agriculture 2012 Census of Agriculture, sales from greenhouse-grown food crops equaled around $800 million in the U.S. Crops grown included tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and berries, with hydroponic production operations making up about 64% of the total production (cwt) (USDA Census of Agriculture, 2012).

Demand for greenhouse-grown produce continues to increase, providing 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 post-harvest handling stages. Use the checklist below to guide you in asking important questions targeting possible risks at each of the greenhouse system stages.

So, what kinds of questions a grower should ask themselves when it comes to this? 

Pre-Plant Stage
• What is the crop being grown? Are there any risks known to be associated with this crop?
• What is the seed source if you are propagating transplants from seeds?
• What substrate will be used for seed starting? Is it a soil-less substrate? If not, do you know the
source, composition, and process used to make the
media? For example, if rockwool is used, have the tools
used to cut the rockwool been cleaned and sanitized?
• Are the growing containers new, or have the used
containers been cleaned and sanitized?

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