BROOKINGS, S.D. — Equipment and containers used for harvesting, transporting, and displaying produce can pose a risk for contamination of food if not properly cleaned, sanitized, and maintained.
Following are some ways that equipment and containers may be exposed to contamination:
- Allowing animals and birds in the area where equipment and containers are stored
- Not covering or otherwise protecting containers when stored
- Using a pickup bed or cart used to haul nonfood items or animals
- Allowing contact with waste water, or water that is not tested for safety
- Workers handling containers or equipment without first washing hands
- Workers placing containers or equipment directly on the ground or floor
Harvest & Post-Harvest Handling
When harvesting, produce should be placed in clean and sanitary field containers, rather than on the ground. Ideally Field containers should be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis, as well as be free of contaminants such as mud, industrial lubricants, metal fasteners, or splinters. To reduce pathogens spread by shoes, do not allow workers to stand in field bins during harvest. For more information on harvest and post-harvest handling of produce, see:
- Best Practices for Harvesting Leafy Greens
- Food Safety: Cleaning or Washing Produce
- Cleaning and Drying fresh produce
- Post-harvest Handling
- Keep your garden’s produce clean & safe
- Producer Post-Harvest resources, including portable cooler plans
Sanitizing Food-Contact Surfaces & Containers
Properly maintaining a clean and sanitized environment for handling of produce is critical to maintaining produce safety through post-harvest handling and storage. The following publications explain how best to sanitize food-contact surfaces:
- Sanitizing with Bleach
- On-farm Food Safety: Cleaning and Sanitizing Guide
- Cleaning and Sanitizing Food Contact Surfaces
- Postharvest Sanitation: Cleaners, Sanitizers and Disinfectants
Health, Hygiene & Handwashing
Much of food contamination occurs through human contact. Workers must be trained and how to minimize transfer of disease during handling of produce. To learn more about proper worker practices, check out the following resources:
You are welcome to contact Dr. Rhoda Burrows (SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist and FSMA lead trainer) for assistance with produce safety concerns, or Curtis Braun (SDSU Extension Food Safety Specialist) for general food safety questions.
Thanks to South Dakota Department of Agriculture for support through a Specialty Crops Block Grant to help fund food safety education and assistance for producers!
— Rhoda Burrows, SDSU Extension
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