Australian rockmelon growers get best practice guide to help food safety


Are these guidelines actually going to make fewer people barf and die?

It’s all about the implementation and verification, but that’s expensive and rarely undertaken beyond soundbites.

When Listeria killed seven people in Australia last year, linked to rockmelon (cantaloupe for you North American types) growers acted like it never happened before and just wanted to get product back on shelves.

They should never be cut in half, although all retailers do it, and it’s just greed over public health.

In the fall of 2011, 33 people were killed and 147 sickened from Listeria linked to cantaloupe in the U.S.

And it keeps happening.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has released a best practice guide for rockmelons and speciality melons prompted by the 2018 listeria detection on a NSW farm which severely impacted the entire Australian rockmelon industry.

Domestic and export sales ceased for around six weeks. It has taken the following two years to regain market share.

To support rockmelon growers and combat foodborne illness risks, Hort Innovation launched a review of all industry food safety practices to strengthen food safety measures and provide training support for the industry.

Delivered by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI), the project involved working individually with all Australian rockmelon growers to review and audit current practice and critical control points.

One-on-one food safety consultations with growers, managers and key farm staff also took place.

The project also developed a Melon Food Safety Best-Practice Guide and a “toolbox” for grower use including risk assessment templates, training guides, food safety posters and record sheets to support food safety programs.

Farms, not classrooms, to inform produce producers about food safety

The educational methods used in a food safety/Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) educational program with small and limited resource produce farmers in Alabama to assist them with obtaining certification were examined in this case study.

The educational methods enlisted to facilitate food safety certification included group meetings, instructional material delivery, individual farm instruction, and expert instruction. In addition, there were four challenges to food safety certification identified—the needs for motivation, information, clarification, and resources—along with strategies to address the challenges.

The program was found to be limitedly successful, producing ten GAP-certified operations. It was concluded that further evaluation of the educational methods is needed.

An educational program on produce food safety/good agricultural practices for small and limited resource farmers: a case study

December 2018

Journal of Agriculture and Life Sciences vol. 5 no. 2

Barrett Vaughan


If you’re not too busy farming read this: Draft Guidance for industry: Standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of product for human consumption,

The purpose of this draft compliance and implementation guidance document is to help covered farms comply with the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, which establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.  Entitled “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” the rule is part of FDA’s implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

The draft guidance provides a broad range of recommendations on how to meet the requirements for most subparts of the rule. It also outlines how to determine whether produce or farms may be eligible for exemptions from certain requirements, or from the rule in its entirety.  

Specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited, and in some cases, specified using the word must. The use of the word should indicates that something is recommended, but not required. The use of the word including means options that are not limited to the described items.

You are encouraged to submit comments on the draft guidance within 180 days of the publish date to ensure your comments are considered while FDA works on the final version of the guidance.

In addition to the draft guidance, there is an At-a-Glance overview of key points in each of the nine chapters described below, as well as a glossary of key terms. The overviews summarize important aspects of each chapter.  It is recommended that you review the draft guidance itself for complete information.

What about going public? Why produce organizations adopt food safety protocols

We examine theoretically and empirically the factors associated with commodity organizations’ voluntary adoption of stricter food safety guidelines. Our theoretical analysis finds that larger organizations are less likely to require members to invest in food safety procedures due to higher implementation costs.

lettuce.skull.noroRecalls induce organizations to adopt stricter food safety standards only when expected future gains from improved product reputation outweigh the short run costs of implementing those standards. The same logic holds for organizations representing growers of a product with higher demand, e.g., a larger share of fruit and vegetable sales. Organizations whose members have a larger share of the market for their product are more likely to adopt stricter food safety guidelines when that investment induces members to increase output, a necessary condition for which is that members’ current food safety procedures are more protective than the industry average.

Our econometric analysis finds that organizations with more members are less likely to adopt food safety guidelines for their members, as our theoretical analysis predicts. Organizations whose members account for a larger share of the market for their product and organizations for commodities representing larger shares of fruit and vegetable sales are more likely to implement food safety guidelines, consistent with considerations of long term profitability increases due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production. Organizations that have experienced negative shocks to reputation as measured by the number of Class I FDA recalls are also more likely to adopt food safety guidelines, again consistent with considerations of long term profitability due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production.

Foodborne illness outbreaks, collective reputation, and voluntary adoption of industrywide food safety protocols by fruit and vegetable growers

AgEcon Search

Aaron Adalja and Erik Lichtenberg


Handwashing in the field: soap or sanitizer or both

Effective hand hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of pathogens on produce farms and reduce foodborne illness.

dirty.handsThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act Proposed Rule for Produce Safety recommends the use of soap and running water for hand hygiene of produce handlers. The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) may be an effective alternative hygiene intervention where access to water is limited. There are no published data on the efficacy of either soap or ABHS-based interventions to reduce microbial contamination in agricultural settings.

The goal of this study was to assess the ability of two soap-based (traditional or pumice) and two ABHS-based (label-use or two-step) hygiene interventions to reduce microbes (coliforms, Escherichia coli, and Enterococcus spp.) and soil (absorbance of hand rinsate at 600 nm [A 600]) on farmworker hands after harvesting produce, compared with the results for a no-hand-hygiene control.

With no hand hygiene, farmworker hands were soiled (median A 600, 0.48) and had high concentrations of coliforms (geometric mean, 3.4 log CFU per hand) and Enterococcus spp. (geometric mean, 5.3 log CFU per hand) after 1 to 2 h of harvesting tomatoes. Differences in microbial loads in comparison to the loads in the control group varied by indicator organism and hygiene intervention (0 to 2.3 log CFU per hand). All interventions yielded lower concentrations of Enterococcus spp. and E. coli (P < 0.05), but not of coliforms, than were found in the control group. The two-step ABHS intervention led to significantly lower concentrations of coliforms and Enterococcus spp. than the pumice soap and label-use ABHS interventions (P < 0.05) and was the only intervention to yield significantly fewer samples with E. coli than were found in the control group (P < 0.05). All interventions removed soil from hands (P < 0.05), soap-based interventions more so than ABHS-based interventions (P < 0.05).

ABHS-based interventions were equally as effective as hand washing with soap at reducing indicator organisms on farmworker hands. Based on these results, ABHS is an efficacious hand hygiene solution for produce handlers, even on soiled hands.

 Ability of hand hygiene interventions using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and soap to reduce microbial load on farmworker hands soiled during harvest

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 11, November 2015, pp. 1930-2102, pp. 2024-2032(9)

de Aceituno, Anna Fabiszewski; Bartz, Faith E.; Hodge, Domonique Watson; Shumaker, David J.; Grubb, James E.; Arbogast, James W.; Dávila-Aviña, Jorgé; Venegas, Fabiola; Heredia, Norma; García, Santos; Leon, Juan S.

Wash. state health official stymied in quest to test farm pigs for Salmonella

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified the feds of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) determined there was a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses.

PigJoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times writes the oddly named strain of salmonella, common nationally but never before seen in Washington, now has sickened at least 167 people in 11 counties with confirmed illness since April, health officials said.

People who fell ill consumed whole hogs at private barbecues and at several King County restaurants that served dishes containing the tainted meat. At least 24 people have been hospitalized; several lawsuits have been filed.

Dr. Scott Lindquist, state epidemiologist, wants to knowwhether swine sent to Kapowsin Meats in Graham, Pierce County, were colonized with the strain associated with the outbreak. Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a public-health alert because of the problem, and Kapowsin has now recalled more than 520,000 pounds of pork products and closed its doors until the issue is resolved.

“What I’m trying to figure out is, did it come from all the farms that fed into Kapowsin? Was this very specific strain in each of those farms, or was it just one? What if all of these farms test negative?” Lindquist said. “It would be helpful for me to know: Are those pigs carrying this specific salmonella strain?”

Agriculture officials in the two states and at the USDA say they don’t have authority to require or refuse testing.

Kirk Robinson, deputy director for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said it’s not clear how the tests would be conducted or who would give the go-ahead to begin.

‘’What would be the protocols around doing that testing?’’ he asked.

“We really don’t have jurisdiction to go on the farm and do some sampling.’’

He added, however, that department officials would be happy to work with farmers and other agencies once any decision is made.

In Montana, a spokesman for Dr. Gregory Holzman, the state’s new medical officer, said his department has broad authority to investigate sources of illness and that Holzma is considering the issue, although there’s no timeline for an answer.

The move by Lindquist also is drawing concern from pork-industry representatives in Montana and at the national level. Montana’s state veterinarian said he has no authority to agree to on-farm testing and he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

“We want to assist the public-health agencies in finding the cause and prevent future incidents. Unfortunately, sampling farms for salmonella will not accomplish this goal,” Dr. Martin Zaluski, state veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock, said in an email. “Sampling farms is of limited value to confirm what we already know.”

Dr. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, and Anne Miller, executive director of the Montana Pork Producers Council, sent Washington health officials letters raising questions about the value of on-farm testing. There are no consistently effective methods to control salmonella on farms, Wagstrom noted.

“The main reason for sending the letter was to ask WADOH (Washington State Department of Health) to reconsider its intent to conduct on-farm testing, which in my scientific opinion would produce no demonstrable benefit to public health,” she wrote in an email to The Seattle Times.

Lindquist said he plans to vigorously pursue the testing, despite any opposition.

“I am here to protect the public’s health,” he said. “It’s the information coming off the farm that’s going to be the key to solving this.”

Denton Hoffman: Champion of on-farm food safety

My longtime friend and mentor, Denton Hoffman, has fallen on hard times.


He slipped on some icy stairs in Guelph, had brain swelling and a subsequent stroke (that’s Denton on the right, with my asparagus baron grandfather, about 15 years ago).

At the suggestion of Gord Surgeoner, I met with Denton as a newly minted prof back in 1998 to devise an on-farm food safety program for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. At least three of my grad students went through the drill, and there was this time, we thought we’d killed Chapman.

Ben and I went along with Uncle Denton to the Canadian Horticulture Council meeting in Montreal in Feb. 2003. I had chaired a national committee on on-farm food safety program implementation – and the advice was completely ignored – Chapman and I had done years of groundwork with Denton and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, and we agreed to share a room at the annual meeting to cut down on expenses.

There was a couple of receptions and I still remember Ben and I asking Uncle Denton for drink tickets. We then retired to a hotel lounge and I knew trouble was ahead when Chapman asked for a cigarette.

He then went to the bathroom.

He didn’t return.

He showed up a few hours later, seemingly intact.

In 2009, Denton wrote:

As you journey through life you meet the occasional person who makes a real difference.  Dr. Douglas Powell is one of those – to say the least.

Doug called me recently to talk about the early years.  He was new in the On Farm Food Safety business when I was working with the Ontario Greenhouse vegetable group.  Doug was at the University of Guelph and I would talk to him about the phone call I didn’t want to get.  This would be the imaginary call from a senior’s residence wondering why all the occupants were very sick after consuming a fresh salad, and if the cause may have been the greenhouse tomatoes. I never got that call—thank God–but I wanted to be ready.  And that readiness included a strong response indicating we had an On Farm Food Safety program and proof we were capable of tracing our greenhouse product. We’ve seen several incidences in the past few years with certain fresh veggies and berries that almost ruined the industry and certainly crippled those markets for a year or so.

From the University of Guelph and the beginning of the On Farm Food Safety program, Doug has moved to Kansas State University where he is associate professor of food safety. He is still very much in the industry – just relocated to a different university — and still writing newsletters, hence the reputation of “the guru” of On Farm Food Safety.

Doug has remained a good friend over all these years. We developed a bond as we developed an On Farm Food Safety program for greenhouse vegetables and more.  Doug’s philosophy was to keep it simple.  He could relate to growers, and had an uncanny ability to make the complicated science of bacterial contamination simple and understandable. Early on, he received a little help from Dr. Gord Surgeoner.  These were the seeds of the On Farm Food Safety program in Canada, spreading from Ontario Greenhouse to CHC and to most vegetable growers across Canada.

I can still see Doug in an old T-shirt and jeans, holes in both, and running shoes–that was his fashion statement. Of course, his description of toilet paper “slippage” resulting in fecal contamination on your finger was priceless, but his crude description helped to break down the mystery of bacterial contamination by food handlers with dirty hands. Seems to me I got a T-shirt from Doug with “Don’t Eat Poop” written on the front.  Doug continues to be a great communicator, a fair goalie, poor at politics but great at On Farm Food Safety and raising little girls.

Thanks, Doug.  I am proud to say I knew you back when.

And as Ben said yesterday, Denton was a great mentor on how to deal with crazy industry folks.

Denton’s brain still works, and he can be contacted at: 222 Mountainview Road North suite 217

Georgetown,On L7G 3R2

phone: 905-877-1828×1217


This guy was a champion of on-farm food safety, long before it was fashionable.

Hazelnut growers target food safety

Heavily shaded hazelnut orchards may discourage salmonella from lingering on the ground, but the conclusions for growers remain uncertain, according to an orchard researcher.

hazelnut.tree.oregonGround temperatures in heavily shaded hazelnut orchards appear to fall below the temperature range in which salmonella thrives, compared to orchards with less shade cover, said Bruce Lampinen, a tree nut specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Lampinen presented his findings during a recent summer tour of the hazelnut industry in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which was organized by the Nut Growers Society.

The results in Oregon hazelnut orchards were greatly different than in California almond and walnut orchards, where heavy shade cover seems to improve conditions for salmonella, he said.

Those crops are grown in warmer regions where heat can discourage the pathogen, so heavy shade cover in California actually “pushes” temperatures into the ideal range for salmonella, Lampinen said. In cooler Oregon, temperatures were pushed below that range.

However, the findings are based on limited data and need more s

Does E. coli persist in strawberry fields (not forever)

Irrigation water quality is one of those nagging issues for on-farm food safety and fresh produce: it’s difficult to model how persistent E. coli is and just how much of a threat is present. Or as my farmer friends say, if I’m going to lose the crop, I’m going to irrigate.

beatles-strawberry-fields-foreverA two-year field experiment was conducted in order to evaluate the persistence of generic Escherichia coli in strawberry after irrigation with naturally E. coli-contaminated surface water. Sixteen experimental plots representing actual field conditions were set, including two methods of irrigation (overhead and subsurface drip) and two mulch types (straw and plastic). Two irrigations were performed each year with water having an E. coli content varying between 460 and 2242 CFU per 100 ml. Strawberries were harvested before irrigation and 1, 4 and 24 h following irrigation. E. coli counts could not be determined in any of the 256 strawberry samples. Enrichment procedure revealed more positive samples under straw mulch (6.4%) compared to plastic mulch (4.3%), but this difference was not statistically significant (P = 0.3991). Higher strawberry contamination was also observed in overhead irrigation treatments (8.6%) compared to drip irrigation (2.1%) (P = 0.0674). The risk to detect E. coli in overhead-irrigated strawberries was 4.5-fold higher than in strawberries under drip irrigation. Four hours following irrigation, the risk to detect E. coli in fruits was 4.0-fold lower than the risk observed 1 h after irrigation. Increasing the delay to 24 h led to a 7.4-fold lower risk. In actual conditions that may be encountered in strawberry productions, this study showed a limited persistence of E. coli in strawberries following irrigation.

Persistence of Escherichia coli following irrigation of strawberry grown under four production systems: Field experiment


Mylene Genereux, Michele Grenier, Caroline Cote

Food Control, Volume 47, January 2015, Pages 103–107, DOI: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2014.06.037

Relative sensitivity of Escherichia coli O157 detection from bovine feces and rectoanal mucosal swabs

Heh, heh. They said rectoanal in title of their paper.

But it’s important because figuring out how to reduce loads of E. coli O157 entering food service and home kitchens, it’s necessary to do buttheadtextsurveillance and figure out where the most bang for the buck is on the farm.

The need to quantify the potential human health risk posed by the bovine reservoir of Escherichia coli O157 has led to a wealth of prevalence studies and improvements in detection methods over the last two decades.

Rectoanal mucosal swabs have been used for the detection of E. coli O157 fecal shedding, colonized animals, and those predisposed to super shedding.

We conducted a longitudinal study to compare the detection of E. coli O157 from feces and rectoanal mucosal swabs (RAMS) from a cohort of dairy heifers. We collected 820 samples that were tested by immunomagnetic separation of both feces and RAMS. Of these, 132 were detected as positive for E. coli O157 from both samples, 66 were detected as positive from RAMS only, and 117 were detected as positive from feces only. The difference in results between the two sample types was statistically significant (P < 0.001). The relative sensitivities of detection by immunomagnetic separation were 53% (confidence interval, 46.6 to 59.3) from RAMS and 67% (confidence interval, 59.6 to 73.1) from fecal samples. No association between long-term shedding (P = 0.685) or super shedding (P = 0.526) and detection by RAMS only was observed.

Journal of Food Protection, Number 6, June 2014, pp. 872-1042, pp. 972-976(5)

Williams, K. J.; Ward, M. P.; Dhungyel, O.; Van Breda, L.