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Food Safety Practices: from farm to table

19 Oct 2016

Most times we don’t think about the comprehensive processes that operate behind the scenes to ensure that the food we eat is not going to make us ill – or even worse, kill us.

But in fact – and lucky for us – there is an entire discipline dedicated to ensuring that the food that finally arrives on your table is edible, nutritious and uncontaminated.

Considering the distance food has to travel to reach you, numerous things can go wrong. From farming methods to transportation to supermarket handling, to final purchase – that food in your trolley already has a history. Do you know it? Perhaps not. Should you care? Most definitely yes.

Food Safety is a scientific discipline dealing with the handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that will prevent food-borne illness. A number of strict routines must be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards. This includes safety between the food production industry and the market, and then between the market and the consumer.

Food Safety in farming

Food hygiene begins with the first planting of seeds and continues throughout production and eventual packaging. There are a range of applications that should be strictly adhered to:  

  • monitoring for allowable additives and pesticide residue 
  • checking for the safety and quality of the water used
  • using covering wagons for harvesting to prevent bird droppings 
  • ensuring the hygiene standards of the workers 
  • ensuring the harvest is not contaminated by animal droppings or manure residue
  • eliminating produce that is decayed or damaged or fallen on the ground 
  • washing all soil from the produce before packing 
  • cooling produce quickly to slow the growth of micro organisms and lessen spoilage 
  • keeping packing areas and containers clean
  • using clean, uncontaminated water.

Food Safety in transportation

Two key areas of concern are always the temperature control and possible contamination. So the following aspects are vital in bringing healthy food to market:

  • maintaining proper refrigeration control through stringent application of required temperatures for the different types of produce being transported 
  • using vehicles that are specifically designed to carry food 
  • protecting food from contamination by ensuring there is no cross-contact of food items by keeping food covered at all times with lids over containers or plastic film
  • maintaining scrupulous cleanliness of these vehicles 
  • training personnel to properly maintain the highest standards 
  • maintaining meticulous records of the journey.

Food Safety in supermarkets

When we’re busy rushing around the supermarket, we take it for granted that the food we’re buying is safe to eat and nutritious. After all, it’s displayed on clean brightly lit shelves and presented in attractive packaging. But safety in supermarkets requires comprehensive actions:  

Employee hygiene: washing of hands, hair caps, gloves and clean overalls – as well as regular health checks of personnel – are essential basics for employees in any store dealing with uncovered food. Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning.  

Pests: anywhere that food is stored is a magnet for a variety of unwanted entities that would like a bite, including cockroaches, flies, mice and rats. Vigilance with regard to controlling pests is the chief focus of any reputable store.  

Building design: this something you might not think about – but poor building design allows pests access through windows, doorways, drains and sewers, as well as spaces around pipes and cable ways, vents and holes in roofs.

Shopping trolleys: shopping trolley handles – as well as basket handles – have shown that they carry 72% more germs than any other area you may encounter. Everybody’s health history is on those handles! So always shop where they offer the option of hygiene wipes for your trolley.     

Labelling: knowing the amount of sugars, refined carbohydrates, types of fat, salt, vitamins, minerals or fibre that are in the products is important not only for your own health but to keep you informed of additives and the possibly dubious origins of different foods.

Food Safety at home

Prevent contamination at home by:

  • ensuring food is handled by as few people as possible, and avoid contact with pets 
  • keep your home pest free by taking regular measures against invasion 
  • separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating cooked foods 
  • ensure food is cooked at the right temperatures and for the right length of time 
  • store food at the proper temperatures 
  • put refrigerated foods in your cart last 
  • always check expiry dates 
  • separate raw meats from other food by using plastic bags  
  • be aware that micro-organisms occur everywhere in the environment, and there is always a risk of spoilage when foods are exposed to unsuitable conditions – therefore always follow the four steps to safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill to reduce risks of food-borne illness.

Water Safety and drip irrigation

Water is the key to all our produce and its health. It is used during production, harvesting, and handling and packing. Drip irrigation is the perfect way to apply this fundamental need to a plant’s beginnings for healthy growth, while also ensuring good yields, water savings and cost-efficiency. Using sub-surface drip irrigation, water is never in contact with any edible part of the plant, therefore eliminating all the dangers of contamination that surface waters may carry. With drip irrigation you have the most hygienic way of bringing clean, safe water to your produce while it is still in the growing stages. Our technology helps farmers ensure the best produce and the safest final product in the supermarket. 

Find out more about us at: www.netafim.co.za


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