Lab Canada

Ontario’s Food Safety Network begins new season of farm food safety programs and research

Guelph, ON April 16, 2003 Researchers at the University of Guelph are launching another season of an evidence-based, peer-reviewed on-farm food safety program with Ontario’s fresh fruit and vegetable growers.

“We are continuing to work with partners along the farm-to-fork chain to reduce microbial risks” says Dr Douglas Powell, associate professor and scientific director of the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph. “Ontario producers are proactively implementing programs to increase the safety of our food and back up their statements with data.”

The Food Safety Network on-farm food safety program partners include the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers; Ontario Tender Fruit Producers & Fresh Grape Growers as an integral component of their Partners in Quality initiative; and the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers through Agricultural Integrated Management Services. All programs are supported by the Ontario government through the Healthy Futures for Ontario Program.

The Food Safety Network’s on-farm food safety programs are based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), a system to examine food- related risks and reduce bacterial contamination on the farm. Data gathered from each farm is analyzed and strategies for prevention and control are developed to refine the program. Areas that the programs address are water (irrigation, wash water, etc), equipment (crates, boxes, contact surfaces, etc), transportation, general sanitation within the operation and worker hygiene (handwashing facilities, etc) Food safety co-ordinators provide producers with documentation checklists and conduct on-site visits engaging producers in a dialogue about food safety issues.

The programs also include the microbiological testing of produce samples and water. The tests look for total coliforms, Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp.

The Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph provides research, commentary, policy evaluation and public information on food safety issues from farm-to-fork.