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This section provides a general description of food safety practices in the production of tree fruits BC. Food safety has now become a major concern for consumers, retailers and governments. Concerns in the production of tree fruits relate to microbial, chemical and other unknown hazards (e.g., Genetically Modified Organisms). These and other food safety risks may be reduced at the farm through proper Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).
Major retailers, in response to consumer demands for safe food, increasingly continue to require growers to demonstrate their commitment to food safety in the production of tree fruit. Tree fruit growers can do this by developing and implementing an On-Farm Food Safety Program that meets industry standards, is documented and is certified by an independent third-party certification body.
OFFS programs are based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. HACCP is a preventive food safety system approach that focuses on identifying potential hazards and implementing and monitoring controls to eliminate or reduce hazards to a safe level. Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), also called Good Production Practices (GPPs), are the foundation of all OFFS Programs.
The extent of OFFS Programs will be determined by the activities taking place at the production site (e.g, growing, storing, field packing, packing house, u-pick operation). Overall, the main elements of an OFFS Program include requirements related to:
- Commodity starter products (e.g., rootstocks)
- Agronomic inputs (e.g., insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, manure, compost/compost tea,
mulch, row cover materials)
- Water quality
- Equipment maintenance and calibration
- Cleaning and maintenance materials
- Waste management
- Personal hygiene facilities
- Worker hygiene and training
- Visitor policy and controlled-access areas
- Growing and harvesting
- Sorting, grading and packing
- Packaging materials
- Transportation and storage
- Traceability and recall
- Pest control
Traceability is a very important element of any effective OFFS Program. In this globalized food supply chain, BC growers need to ensure fruit can be identified and traced back to their orchard and through to the retailer or in some cases through to the consumer. Identifying the fruit and maintaining a traceability system help minimize the grower's financial losses in the event of a recall and improve the recall's efficiency.
To demonstrate an OFFS Program has been implemented and is maintained growers must maintain records (e.g., spray records, worker training records). These records are grower's due diligence and will likely be requested by third-party auditors during a Certification audit or randomly by customers as a way of monitoring compliance.
BC growers may select the OFFS Program that is more suitable to their operation. Consideration must be given to the standard requirements, the level of commitment required by the standard, cost, availability of auditors, certification options and in some cases the retailer/customer's preference for a specific standard. Some of these standards include:
- Global G.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) standard
The BC Tree Fruit Cooperative (BCTFC) has upgraded their existing OFFS Program to meet CanadaGAP requirements and achieve Group Certification. CanadaGAP is the name of the OFFS Program developed by the Canadian Horticulture Council (CHC), reviewed for technical soundness by the Canadian Government and internationally recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative. Under the CanadaGAP's Group certification option BCTFC grower's OFFS Programs are managed through a central management system. Contact BCTFC for further details.
The Food Safety Systems Implementation (FSSI) Producer Program offers education workshops and on-site assistance and cost-share funding to individual BC growers to support the implementation of written OFFS Programs. Funding is also available for BC growers through the Enterprise Infrastructure Traceability (EIT) Program. The EIT Program assists growers with specific costs relating to the purchase and installation if traceability infrastructure and the training of staff to implement traceability systems. Funding is available through Growing Forward. For further details contact the B.C. Agricultural Research & Development Corporation.