Written planned production helps producers organize and focus on the safety of fresh produce. Once growers assess the risks, writing a plan allows them to define the practices that will reduce these risks. The plan is a document that shows the farm’s Standard Operating Policies and Procedures (SOPs) and also helps producers use resources wisely, investing time and money in practices that reduce the biggest risks first.
A farm production plan also helps producers be prepared to answer questions from buyers such as supermarkets, restaurants, or distributors and from third-party audits. A written plan can also help producers demonstrate that they comply with federal regulations such as FSMA and state regulations. Each farm is unique, risk reduction practices will be specific to each farm and no one knows the farm better than the producer himself.
The key point for producers is that they know and understand that they can assess risks and implement practices that reduce risks. Remember that the purpose of FSMA is to reduce risk, not eliminate it.
Writing a plan can be difficult. It is always advisable to start with the information you already know.
Production Plan Section
Here are some sections of the production plan for the farm:
- Name and address of the farm
- Description of the property:
- Farm size
- Lots and properties
- Cultivated products
- How long you’ve been growing
- Name and contact information of the food safety manager or farm manager.
- Risk assessment, including:
- Risk of practices
- Environmental conditions of the farm that impact food safety
If growers aren’t sure where to start, it would be good to take a moment to consider areas that may impact farm food safety, such as:
- The workers and facilities they use such as toilets and hand washes.
- Soil improvers with particular attention to those including untreated manure and other animal breeders.
- Domestic animals and wildlife.
- Water for agricultural use: with uses in production and post-harvest
- Post-harvest handling
- Use of adjacent land
Writing down risk and the practices that reduce those risks, maintaining them, and optimizing records of those risks, helps the practices are being done correctly.
- Practices to reduce food safety risks.
- Logs/Tasks to document best practices.
Other documents to include in the farm’s production plan
- Farm or manufacturing maps
- Farm Policies
- Standard Operations Procedures (SOPs)
- Producers may need to develop SOPs and conduct training to help workers implement best practices.
- Training Records
- Results of the analysis of water for agricultural use.
- Water analysis results
- Water System Inspections
- Treatment monitoring of animal-based biological sole improvers
- Contact information in case of emergency.
- Information from suppliers and buyers.
- Traceability and recall plan.
- Contact information of the contracted services.
Below, we provide some records that may be useful for the production plan.
- Programs to replace water used in post-harvest.
- Management of sanitary facilities such as cleaning and replenishment of bathrooms.
- Applications of sole improvers.
- Actions taken to minimize the intrusion of wildlife into the fields.
So, where should we start?
- The first most convenient step is to assess the risks:
- Assess the most likely risks to each farm by reviewing fine environmental practices and adjacent land use to identify situations that may introduce or increase food safety risks.
- Focus on microbial, chemical, and physical risks.
- Identify the risks that are most likely to occur and write down those that may occur frequently.
- Classify risks
- Risks that can lead to contamination of any crop.
- Risks that have previously caused outbreaks of foodborne illness.
- Example: Contamination of water for post-harvest use or fecal contamination from wildlife.
- Production practices on new or modified farms that could increase risks.
- Development of practices to reduce risks
The development of good practices can reduce the risks already identified. Know what resources are required to successfully implement the practices such as:
- Human Resources (Time or Personnel)
- Consumables (soap, paper towel)
Create a list of activities that need to be done and designate a person who is in charge of each activity.
- Document and review
Having a written plan is highly recommended even when the farm does not require the FSMA standard. To document what is being done properly and on time, design record-keeping as part of food safety practices.
Your production plan is a living document. This means it needs to be updated or changed when practices, workers, or situations change. Review the plan at least twice a yearor even if everything goes well.
Once the planned production is written with best practices and established activities, records are being documented and high-quality products are being produced and packaged. What’s next?
Traceability is the ability to track a product throughout the food production and distribution system. In the case of fruits and vegetables, this includes a step back to the field where it was grown and a step forward with any subsequent handling, storage and sales activities.
Traceability also means that the producer can identify any relevant inputsused during production including the source of fertilising soil improvers and any chemicals applied to the crop.
The Value of Traceability
Traceability is important for food safety but also brings other benefits forall agricultural businesses.
- Quality Monitoring
Identify products that have quality issues.
- Tracking the quantity of product sold
Knowing what sold well and how much money you should be making.
- Minimizing the impact of foodborne illness
Recall of the product from the market of a contaminated load/lot/drawer. Know how much was sold and how much is on the market and know who could have bought and consumed it.
Traceability involves documentation, record keeping for product quality and new technologies. Everyone in the food production and distribution system is responsible for doing their part, from the producer that sell to stores or distributors to the store that sells the product.
To learn more about how Guariké can help you develop, maintain, update your production plan and traceability, contact us!