GAP - that is, Good Agricultural Practices with regard to food safety and traceability - starts right at the front door to any food production facility, with a controlled entrance for any welcome visitors, and proper maintenance and repair to ensure that any unwanted visitors - mice, and other animals - are kept out altogether.

Maintaining a clean, organized environment throughout the plant - storing product away from the walls, for instance - can also reduce the potential for pest infestation.
But certainly, one of the best practices of any on-farm food safety program is having well-trained and engaged employees, who fully buy in to the importance of food safety.

Tony Hogervorst, Berryhill Farm, Watford
It's important that the workers understand the "why" of this program. Why do we bother? Why is it important? And that takes us to the safety of the public in general and understanding that a small error on the farm could lead to health problems or death to many people in the consumer population.

Workers need to be educated in the importance of proper, clean work attire, that personal effects such as jewelry and watches) - or nail polish - are not to be worn in food production areas; and of course, perhaps nothing is more important than being instructed in the correct, thorough technique for regular hand-washing and sanitizing.

It's essential, too, for the farm operator to provide adequate designated areas for employees' to keep their personal belongings.

And employees need to understand that hygiene is critical in all facets of food production, and that all the equipment they use - whether in the field or in the pack-house - must be properly cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis.

As important as it is to properly train farm workers in Good Agricultural Practices, still, for some operations, automating certain cleaning and sanitizing processes can be one of the most productive and cost-effective investments in food safety and assurance that an operator can make.

Whether cleaning up spills, tidying up storage areas, using proper lighting and protective covers, eliminating hazards and preventing contamination is essential to the success of any food production facility anywhere in the supply chain, from the farm to the consumer.

Similarly, creating a traceability system that is practical for your operation, and ensuring its consistent use through staff training can make a critical difference not only to public health and safety, but to the future of your family farm business.
Tony Hogervorst, Berryhill Farm, Watford
I find that it works best to bring the food safety message to the workers if they first understand the risks, the risks being contamination of one sort or another, and where that contamination can come from, and until you really start to think about it, you don't realize that it comes from so many different sources.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs offers an array of resource materials to help food producers train their workers - and visitors - in good agricultural management practices. There's a series of durable posters featuring topics including: hand-washing and sanitizing, vehicle inspection, and proper storage practices, all available in English-and-Spanish, and French-and-Spanish. The portable easel for instructing workers in proper hand-washing technique in English and French, plus Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. And the iGap CD shows you how to reduce risks and determine where to best focus your efforts. To find out more about these resources as well as the Advantage Manual, interactive workshops presented by OMAFRA food safety advisors, and advisory services individually tailored to your operation, go to this website:

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