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Section IV. Applying food safety principles to the fresh fruits and vegetables chain


General information



This section covers:


20 hours


The trainer conducts workshops, team work and field visits.


Section IV has two parts. The first is introductory, the trainer defining the relevance of the concept of safety, illustrating with cases of chemical and, mainly, microbiological contamination in horticulture. A case study shows the consequences on demand and trade of problems resulting from food contamination. Codex standards (codes of practice and other documents) concerning safety assurance for fresh fruits and vegetables are also studied.

Part II gives guidelines to implement safety assurance programs for fresh fruits and vegetables. The trainer points out the relevance of implementing safety assurance programs, including prerequisite programs and the HACCP system. With practical exercises, the trainer demonstrates the HACCP approach for safety assurance, applied to horticulture produce, followed by a case study and field visits.


Participants will:


Material 4.1

Case study. Importance of safety in horticulture: implications for demand and trade.

Material 4.2

Reference reading. Importance of food safety in horticulture.

Material 4.3

Worksheet. Codex Food Safety Standards.

Material 4.4

Worksheet. Supplementary standards.

Material 4.5

Reference reading. Programs for safety assurance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Material 4.6

Hazard analysis in production and post-harvest handling of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Material 4.7

Case study. Action plan to assure safety of Physalis (Cape gooseberry) as fresh produce for export markets.

Material 4.8

Reference reading. Guidelines for action plans to assure safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Material 4.9

Hazard identification and control measures. Field visit.


Presentation 4.1

Importance of safety in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Presentation 4.2

Codex Standards on safety.

Presentation 4.3

Contamination hazards in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Presentation 4.4

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

Presentation 4.5

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Presentation 4.6

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Presentation 4.7

HACCP applied to primary production.

Presentation 4.8

Case study. Safety assurance of Physalis (Cape gooseberry) for export purposes.

Part I. Introduction

Activity 1. Importance of safety in horticulture: implications for demand and trade


The trainer introduces the concept of safety, the impact of contamination in fresh fruits and vegetables (with examples) and the implications on the overall demand and produce trade (Presentation 4.1). Participants should become involved in the brainstorming and in the questions/answers approach.

Material 4.1, relating to fresh produce contamination, concludes the section assessing impact on consumers, exporting countries and trade in general.

Material 4.2, assists the trainer in developing the item.



- Background information:

In 1995/1996, Guatemala was the major supplier of raspberries to the United States, with sustained growth in production for this market. In 1996, contamination with Cyclospora, affecting 1 465 people in the USA and Canada was reported (Herwaldt and Ackers, 1997). Californian raspberries were initially blamed, resulting in US$20 million to US$40 million sales losses. Subsequently, Guatemalan raspberries were identified as responsible by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. After a new outbreak in 1997, exports from Guatemala to the USA market were preventively stopped and the USA government published in 1998 an alert on these raspberries. Canada, another significant market, followed a ban on imports after an outbreak on 305 people in Toronto in 1990.

- Response of Guatemala:

Guatemalas Exporters Association, with government support, began evaluating, together with the US Food and Drug Administration, possible answers. All producing farms were surveyed for possible contamination risks and an Excellence Model Plan was enforced to assure safety from the producing area to the importing country port of entrance. This plan was backed up by the importing countries’ food surveillance agencies, the government, supermarkets, exporters, producers, etc. The plan provides for training inspecting personnel, strengthening inspection and farm qualification systems, analytical procedures (clinical and microbiological laboratories), traceability plans and good agricultural and manufacturing practices.

- Consequences:

- For the importing country:

In 1999, the USA again allowed imports of raspberries from Guatemala as a result of the approval of the safety assurance program implemented. Estimated losses of some US$10 million for producers and exporters resulted from closed markets. Current demand is only one-third of that before the outbreaks (Calvin et al., 2000) with the Canadian market still closed. Calvin et al., 2000 also report a significant reduction in the number of producers, following the crisis.

- For competing countries:

Mexico, in particular, benefited from the situation, becoming the leading exporter, while the safety assurance plan was enforced and exports were closed for Guatemala.

- For demand:

With the outbreak, demand for all berries, and raspberries in particular, diminished. Once Guatemalan berries were identified as causing the outbreak, demand for other

Guatemalan produce also decreased. raspberries, no matter its origin showed a slowdown. Even if the situation has now been overcome, consumer’s confidence in Guatemalan raspberries and other produce is yet to be restored and even if evolving slowly, some buyers are adamant. (Calvin et al., 2000).


Buzby, J.C. 2001. Effects of food-safety perceptions on food demand and global trade. Chapter 7. Changing Structure of Global Food Consumption and Trade. Economic Research Service. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture and Trade Report. WRS- 01-1.

Mooney, D. 2000. El Aseguramiento de la Calidad e Inocuidad, una condición para permanecer en los mercados hortofrutícolas frescos: el Caso de Guatemala. Memorias III Simposio Internacional de Competitividad en Frutas y Hortalizas. SENA. Bogotá, Colombia.


1. What lessons can be learned on demand and trade in general from the case study presented?




- The concept:

Food safety may be defined as the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared or eaten according to its intended use. (FAO/WHO, 1997). This guarantee means reducing risks that may result from the production and handling of produce.

Public concern about food safety has increased dramatically in the last years as a result of food-borne diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO, 1999) estimates in the hundreds of millions the number of people suffering from diseases resulting from contaminated food or water. Even if reporting this data is difficult, statistics show that both in developed and developing countries, food-borne diseases are rising (resulting from more trustable reporting of data and occurrence). In developed countries, more than 30 percent of the population suffers every year from food-borne diseases, with 70 percent of worldwide diarrhoea resulting from biological contamination of foods. Contaminated food is also responsible for cholera, which together with various types of diarrhoea, contributes significantly to malnutrition problems. Incidence of food borne diseases can be 300 to 350 times higher than that actually reported worldwide. Not all diseases resulting from contaminated food become evident as intestinal difficulties, Clostridrium botulinum causes severe cerebral paralysis, usually terminal. Effects of Listeria monocytogenes range from influenza to meningitis and meningo-encephalytis. This micro- organism is particularly relevant to pregnant women, with infections leading to abortion, intrauterine death or premature births; while infections for individuals with immunodeficiency may result in severe diseases and even death (WHO, 1999).

Risks associated to chemical contaminated foods, such as pesticide residues, although less dramatic and immediate in their outcome, are a permanent concern for customers. With enhanced awareness of the presence of pesticides in fresh fruits and vegetables resulting in occasional intoxications, their long-term effect is important. Agrochemical intoxication of workers and infants is a risk associated with their use, with scientific evidence pointing to other direct and indirect risks. Pesticides residues, throughout the food chain, resulted in reduced pelican and eagle populations. Toxicological research shows pesticides to be responsible for cancer and birth defects and for damaging the interphase between the nervous, endocrine, reproductive and immunological system in mammals.

- Diseases caused by fresh fruits and vegetables:

Even if the figures for diseases resulting from fresh produce are low (in 1996 only 6 out of some 200 UK reports on diseases were associated to consumption of fruits and vegetables), increased consumption results in rising incidence. For example, for the USA (Guzewich and Salisbury, 2000) report 2 percent (from 1973 to 1979) and 6 percent (from 1990 to 1997) of outbreaks associated to fresh agricultural produce. Some outbreaks concern imported produce. Nevertheless, food-borne diseases from imports are not larger than those resulting from local crops in the importing countries.

In developing countries, diseases resulting from contaminated fruits and vegetables can be higher in some areas and result in a higher percentage of affected population.

However, many outbreaks are not officially reported and only 2 percent are related to fruits and vegetables in Latin America.

- Implications:

Activity 2. Codex Food Safety Standards


The trainer distributes Document 1 and Document 2 to different teams.

Document 1. International Recommended Revised Code of General Practices Principles of Food Hygiene. (CAC/RCP 1 1969, Rev. 1997).

Document 2. Code of Hygiene Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.

Each team reviews these documents, to understand:

1. What is a Code of Practice?
2. What are the main objectives of the Codes of Practice?
3. What is the scope of these codes?
4. How do they complement with other Codex standards and documents?
5. What is the structure of the code?
6. What points should be considered to apply the codes and meet their requirements?

Each team answers the questions in 30 minutes for later discussion in plenary.

Trainer uses Material 4.3 (to be handed out later) to conduct the discussion and to clarify doubts. Backed by Material 4.4, he points out the importance of the International Code of Conduct for Distribution and Use of Pesticides (, of the International Recommended Code of Practice for Packaging and Transport of Fresh Tropical Fruits and Vegetables (CAC/RCP 44-1995), as supplementary Codex documents concerned with quality and safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.


Question 1. What is a Code of Practice?

Voluntary documents, providing general recommendations on practices, operations or specific agricultural products and for hygiene codes of practice, to reduce to a minimum the contamination risks of foods.

Questions 2, 3, 4 and 5

Material 4.3 answers these questions, showing objectives, scope, components, etc.
Material 4.4 explains Codex documentation (shown in red) on food safety issues such pesticide contamination and general recommendations for packaging and transport of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Question 6. What points should be taken into account to apply the codes and meet their requirements?

Considering the diversity of activities and risks associated to food production and in particular for fruits and vegetables to be consumed fresh, codes of practice are flexible enough to encompass different contamination control and prevention systems for diverse products and production procedures. The scope must basically define what is necessary and appropriate both for food safety and for aptitude for consumption. To decide on the appropriateness or necessity of a requirement, a hazard assessment based on the HACCP approach is recommended.

Chapter 2 from Food Quality and Safety Systems: Training Manual on Food Hygiene and HACCP (FAO, 2002) and Presentation 4.2 should be used by trainers to conduct the teams, lead their discussions and elaborate on answers produced.





Identify the essential principles of food hygiene throughout the food chain, to achieve the goal of ensuring that food is safe and suitable for human consumption.

Mainly identifies the general principles of hygiene specific for primary production and packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables, resulting in safe products, suitable for human consumption.

Provide a guidance for specific codes which may be needed for sectors of the food chain.

Provide guidelines to prepare specific codes for specific products and for a country horticultural sector.

Recommend a HACCP-based approach.

Covers Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices that will assist controlling the microbiological, chemical and physical hazards associated with production and packaging, emphasizing microbiological hazards.

Baseline structure for country standards for food processing.

Provides a general framework of recommendations to be implemented uniformly in the sector.


The food chain, from primary production to the end consumer. Including government, producers, processors, traders. (Annex. Guidelines for the Application of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System) ALINORM 93/13a, Appendix II)

Primary production and packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables (Annex precut fruits or germinated seeds).








To reduce the likelihood of introducing a hazard which may adversely affect the safety of food. Includes general remarks on GAP and GMP.

Identify hazards and measures to reduces these hazards to a minimum. Recommends the HACCP approach.

Includes specific information

Hygienic production of food sources (inputs)

Principles are broadened. Includes specific recommendations on incoming

Good Agricultural Practices/Good Hygiene Practices/Codex Directives on Pesticides

Handling, storage and transport

materials: water, manure-biosolids and other natural fertilizers, soil, Includes specific information

Cleaning, maintenance and personnel hygiene

Includes specific information


Location, premises and rooms, equipment and facilities

Adequate facilities to enable hazards to be effectively controlled.

General recommendations on Good Practices

Refers to the General Principles of the Code of Food Hygiene.

General recommendations on good practices.


Control of food hazards

To reduce the risk of unsafe food by taking preventive measures to assure the safety and suitability of food at an appropriate stage in the operation by controlling food hazards. (Identify any steps in their operations, implement, monitor, review). Codex General Standard for Labeling of Prepacked Foods (CODEX STAN 1-1985).

Apply safety assurance programs, (HACCP whenever possible).

Refers to the General Principles of the Code of Food Hygiene and covers specific operations for fresh fruits and vegetables in post harvest (packaging). Code for Packaging Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.

Recommendations for GAP/GMPs.

Key topics in hygiene control systems

Incoming materials requirements



Management and supervision

Documentation and records

Recall procedures


Maintenance and cleaning

To facilitate the continuing effective control of food hazards, pests, and other agents likely to contaminate food. Cleaning and Sanitation

Cleaning programs and Standard Operation Procedures.

Refers to the General Principles of the Code of Food Hygiene.

Cleaning programs and Standard Operation Procedures.

Cleaning programs

Pest control systems

Waste management

Monitoring effectiveness


Health status, illness and injuries, personal cleanliness, personal behavior, visitors.

To reduce the risks of contamination associated to personal hygiene or diseases in operational personnel.

Persona! cleanliness

Refers to the General Principles of the Code of Food Hygiene.

Personnel cleanliness.


General, requirements, use and maintenance

Take effective hazard control measures

Recommendations on transport

Refers to the General Principles of the Code of Food Hygiene and to the Code of Hygiene for Transport of Bulk Foods and Semi-packed Foods.

Recommendations on transport.


Lot Identification, information to consumers

Provide appropriate information on handling and origin of products, to avoid mishandling in later stages in the food chain.

Information and clear labeling.

Information and clear labeling, traceability.


Awareness and responsibilities, training programs, instruction and supervision, refreshment training

Increase knowledge of all personnel responsible for production and adaptation on the risks to product safety.


Refers to the General Principles of the Code of Food Hygiene.





Recommendations to maintain product quality in packaging and transport


The code recommends transport and packaging procedures for fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain quality throughout transport and marketing


Not exclusively a code of hygienic practices, it covers other production topics and its recommendations can be grouped in three categories

1. Design, conditions and loading methods for transport

2. Adequate packaging to maintain quality throughout transport and marketing

3. Prerefrigeration practices



Starting point for developing country programs for pesticide control and to promote the safe and efficient use of pesticides, to minimize their possible effects on people and the environment


Using CCDUP, farmers and others in primary production commit to comply with practices to protect human health and the environment above any other commercial or economic concerns


Emphasizes the responsibilities of governments, manufacturers and users of pesticides to preserve human health and the environment; recommends scientific research to assess residual effects from pesticide use; assess continuously the toxicity of pesticides; produce standards for preparation and use; propose safe measures for handling, storage, transport and distribution; standards for use and preparation; instructions in case of intoxication or accident, coupled with a strong training and extension service to producers in use of pesticides, including danger of death signs on labels, honest publicity restricted to areas where this information is required and unbiased, exchange information between experts, in particular from developed to less developed countries.


Database on Maximum Limits for Pesticide Residues

Pesticide Specifications and Quality Control Standards

Prevention and Elimination of Obsolete Pesticides

Safe Use of Pesticides

Part II. Programs for safety assurance of fresh fruits and vegetables

Activity 1. Hazard analysis in production and post-harvest handling of fresh fruits and vegetables


a. Introduction

Trainers stress the importance of implementing safety assurance programs addressed both to the internal and export markets.

A detailed explanation will follow on the component parts and on the application of fresh fruits and vegetables safety assurance programs, including:

Reference reading Material 4.5 and Presentations 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7 will assist trainers to develop the theoretical foundations.

b. Practical considerations

Participants assemble in teams of no more than 5 persons each, to have enough time to complete the practical exercises.


1. The trainer invites each group to choose a particular crop in which the group is experienced, both in production and post-harvest handling.

2. Each team goes through steps 1 to 5 of the HACCP system. Time permitting, each group includes field and packaging procedures. If not, some teams cover production and others post-harvest operations. (Worksheets Material 4.6).

3. Each team makes a brief presentation, in less than 5 minutes, of the results of item 2 (above).


Teams will:

1. Identify hazards associated to activities described in the flow diagram.

2. Identify methods of control for each hazard (including hazard prevention, reduction and elimination methods should the hazard be present).

3. Establish critical control points (if any) or control points relevant for prevention. Prioritize, for each control point, control methods to be implemented.

4. Establish for each control point or for each critical control point, levels of acceptance.

5. Establish corrective measures.

6. Each team presents their results.

The trainer concludes, pointing out the importance of the HACCP approach for safety assurance programs of fresh fruits and vegetables, using the case study handed out: Presentation 4.8 and Material 4.7 to assist participants. Reference Material 4.8 helps trainers in developing the case study.

Questions allow the trainers to evaluate understanding of Part 2.

Required materials

Expected result

Strengthened aptitudes for hazard analysis and for identifying control measures for hazards detected.



Background Information

No matter where food is produced, consumers expect it to be wholesome. Very few people are responsible for foods produced by themselves and consumers must, therefore, put their trust in producers, distributors, processors and regulators for the safety of foods consumed.

Expected increases in trade of foods in a globalized world as a result of higher incomes, improvements in transport and distribution systems and a growing population demanding nutritious and safe foods, imply:

Each country has its own health priorities and concerns. Consumer’s perception on food safety risks changes and is influenced by previous experiences with diseases resulting from contaminated products, information on hazards and other related topics. Some societies would regard diarrhoea-causing diseases as normal and naturally occurring and resulting from new teeth in children, eating very spicy foods, indigestion and even superstition, instead of as symptoms of food-borne diseases resulting from the food or its handling. (Buzby, 2001).

Strategies to assure quality and safety rely on guaranteeing and certifying, with processing and production standards, the attributes produce must conform to. This entails verifying that the standards’ provisions are met and conformance made apparent through marks, labels or certifications.

Public and private strategies addressing risk of contamination and their controls may differ from country to country. Public strategies usually direct institutional efforts and regulations to both locally produced and imported foods. For fruits and vegetables, National Codex Committees strive to align national regulations with Codex recommended codes of practice. These codes rely on implementing GAPs, GHPs and GMPs to prevent and control contamination hazards in primary production and post-harvest handling by using the hazard analysis approach.

The objectives of safety assurance programs are to:

These objectives apply nationally, regionally, locally, for a group of producers/exporters or at the company level (farm, trading company, service company, etc.) and result in programs, national/local projects, action plans and projects that meet specific company needs for a product or group of products. Implementing quality assurance programs means:

Safety hazards for fresh fruits and vegetables

The production chain for fresh fruits and vegetables has several links: production, harvesting, post-harvest treatments, packaging, transport and storage, each with its own contamination hazards and, depending on size of operations, of production and of processing systems in use. Safety assurance programs identify these hazards throughout the entire produce production and handling chain.

Three different types of hazards can be associated to product safety: biological, chemical and physical (Presentation 4.3). For further information on hazards associated to fresh fruits and vegetables visit: Improving safety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables: a training manual for trainers. University of Maryland (2002) at the following link, or see the complete document listed on the references to this Manual.

Different methods or practices allow for the dissemination of hazards in the production and handling stages.

Primary production and harvest

Post-harvest handling

Programs for quality assurance of fresh fruits and vegetables

Programs for quality assurance of fresh fruits and vegetables concentrate in identifying hazards, prioritizing their importance according to the risks represented for produce safety and identifying appropriate prevention and control practices.

1. Prerequisite programs

Include Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Hygienic Practices. These are the backbone for quality assurance and safety programs.

Good Agricultural Practices

Include practices improving conventional production and produce handling methods - starting from the selection of the soil to be cultivated - and activities related to production and handling of produce in the field, always stressing SAFETY. Practices also aim at reducing negative impacts of production systems on the environment, fauna, flora and workers’ health. GAP in primary production, relies on hazard identification and detection of appropriate prevention and control practices. Specifically for a farm or a production system, Best Practices should be identified within the Good Practice options as those more suitable for production conditions and the environment in the area and in the farm (Presentation 4.4).

Applying GAP supposes identifying different production hazards, selection of recommended practices avoiding produce contamination, protecting the environment and workers health. Applying GAP relies on the previous implementation of Integrated Crop Management (ICM) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs, pointing to practices producing economically and viable foods, not affecting natural resources (NRI, 2003). Main components for these systems are:

To enforce ICM and IPM programs, practical research on pests and diseases biological cycles, infestation levels, propagation ways, economic damage thresholds, most appropriate and effective control practices, etc., is required.

Further information on GAP may be found at: Improving safety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables: manual for training the trainers. FAO/University of Maryland.

Good Manufacturing Practices

Include practices preventing and controlling post-harvest hazards affecting produce safety and having minimum effect on workers and the environment (Presentation 4.5).

From the chain standpoint, hazard prevention and control in stages previous to production and harvest of produce using GAP are essential to assure success of implementing Good Manufacturing Practices programs. The objective is to ensure that safe raw materials go into the packaging plants with assured safety resulting from using Best Practices in post-harvest handling. Enforcing GMP programs supposes identifying associated hazards in post-harvest handling and suitable preventive and control practices.

Further information can be found at: Improving safety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables: manual for training the trainers. FAO/University of Maryland.

Good Hygienic Practices

Include all those measures and conditions required to prevent and control produce contamination hazards, mainly biological. In practical terms, the implementation of GAP and GMP (at primary and post-harvest stages) already include all recommendations regarding hygiene practices to produce and handle safe products. (Reference reading: Code of Hygienic Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables).

Good Practices as programs for safety assurance of fresh fruits and vegetables

Standard operating procedures (SOPs)

A written, detailed and accessible description for use by personnel explains how each operation in the flow diagram is performed, including cleaning and maintenance procedures. All are known as SOPs.

Operating programs for sanitation and maintenance are put in place to assure that maintenance and sanitation (cleaning) of facilities, tools and equipment, as well as pests’ control and waste handling, are efficiently and appropriately done (Presentation 4.6). These programs include:

a) Procedures and methods for cleaning and disinfection: Cleaning, hygiene and disinfection programs, should be designed considering existing facilities where product production and adaptation is completed, as well as sanitation facilities, offices, equipment, tools, etc., are available. Cleaning programs must include name of responsible person, working schedules, chemicals and concentrations used for cleaning (equipment and facilities), temperature requirements, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, etc.

Non-contaminating products and chemically and microbiologically acceptable water, properly used, must be employed.

b) Pests’ control: Pests are a serious threat affecting safety and life of foods and result in quality losses and increasing chances of food-borne diseases. Programs precluding access, infestation and monitoring for their appearance and eradication are necessary preventive measures.

c) Waste handling or management: Appropriate measures should be taken to remove and store waste and trash produced; these should be absent from areas where fruits and vegetables are handled and stored or from working zones and outlying areas.

d) Monitoring: Procedures checking the efficiency of the maintenancesanitizing systems should be applied and sampling of outlying areas; areas in contact with produce should be implemented and examined regularly to reflect possible changing conditions. For further information on these procedures see: Recommended International Code of Practice-General Principles of Food Hygiene: (CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev.3 1997). For practical examples, see SOP Manual for Melons.

e) Recall procedures: Efficient procedures should be used, allowing for the complete and fast recall from the market of fruits and vegetables showing safety hazards. Until a decision is taken, recalled products should be kept under surveillance to be either destroyed, not used for human consumption or declared safe. See: Recommended International Code of Practice-General Principles of Foods Hygiene: (CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev.3 1997)

f) Training: To assure the proper implementation of preventive and control measures for identified hazards, the commitment of personnel involved in the process is required as they are responsible for compliance. Success highly depends on the understanding by each of the players in the chain of specifics of food safety and their role in its maintenance. Therefore, training programs aimed at enhancing awareness of the proper application of practices along the processes, are essential and should encompass all actors playing a direct role in production (producers, packing and transport personnel, etc.) and those supporting the chain (technicians, extension workers, researchers, etc.).

Training programs must be periodically updated to ensure that all players are aware of all procedures to maintain safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is therefore necessary to articulate efforts between research institutions and the private sector (producers, packing and transport personnel, etc.) to ensure that all are aware of advances in product safety. See: Recommended International Code of Practice- General Principles of Food Hygiene: (CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev.3 1997)

Traceability: consumers’ tracking and information procedures

Traceability is the capacity to identify a product origin: where it was produced, inputs received, tracking post-harvest handling, and through appropriate records, following it along the supply chain. These records must be kept for some time (two years) as proof of its history. In quality and safety assurance programs, traceability allows proving conformance to specific standards.

Traceability, more than just being a label identifying production, origin and price, is a system promoting customer confidence and useful to settle quality and safety disputes (Opara, L. U. Mazaud, F. 2001).

To allow for efficiency, traceability schemes rely on an adequate coordination of the many actors in the production and post-harvest handling chain. Proper information must flow easily from link to link, enabling the adoption of actions resulting in safe handling and storage. Consumers should also have this information available to ensure maintaining the required hygienic and use aptitudes.

Personnel hygiene

This is covered by Recommended International Code of Practice General Principles of Foods Hygiene (CAC/RCP 1-1969, Rev.3 1997) and in the Code of Hygiene for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. Personnel may become a safety risk for fresh fruits and vegetables if they have inadequate personal cleanliness, if they suffer from or carry diseases or have an inadequate personal behavior. Training programs and other measures to avoid contact between produce and personnel representing a safety risk must be enforced. Strategies to improve personal cleanliness (protective clothing, hand washing) and practices promoting adequate behavior at work forbidding eating, smoking or spitting should also be adopted to safeguard safety. These strategies and procedures are usually covered in the general hygiene protocols available in the company/plant (See: SOP Manual for Melons).

2. Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points System (HACCP)

What is it? Is a control and systematic recording methodology, originating at the USA food processing company Pillsbury and in the North American Space Administration (NASA) to prevent food contamination in space flights and to avoid the effects of astronauts suffering food poisoning in a space mission. With time, the system evolved into a useful tool for the food processing industry, substituting the old-fashioned quality control systems relying on end product inspection and testing and destroying defective products; for quality assurance procedures where processing and production is adjusted along the way to avoid defective products by anticipation and adoption of prevention and control measures. HACCP performs a detailed analysis of the whole production system to identify physical, chemical and biological hazards and those points where control measures should be applied to minimize or reduce risks to acceptable levels. Steps taken to minimize risks should be properly registered and kept as proof of actions adopted.

Advantages. HACCP is applied to food safety management and uses a methodology to identify and control critical points in food handling, to prevent safety problems. It is science-based and applies a systematic approach, identifying specific hazards and measures for their control to ensure food safety.

Foundations of HACCP. HACCP is based on hazard analysis, a series of logical steps to identify and provide answers to potential problems. Hazard analysis is the process of data gathering and evaluation on hazards associated to a particular food and of deciding which are significant and should be approached with a safety assurance program. HACCP consists of:

Hazard analysis can be simple or very complex depending on the safety assurance program enforced. Sometimes safety programs in primary production and post-harvest result in voluminous records supporting the HACCP system. However these programs, depending on the scale of primary operations and the producers’ resources, must concentrate in applying good practices backed up only by essential records.

Establishing a HACCP system

The General Code of Hygiene for Foods. Supplement to Volume 1B-1997, has as an annex document Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP), guidelines for its application. The document specifies that Before applying the HACCP system to any sector of the food chain, it should be working according to the Codex General Principles of Hygiene, relevant Codex Codes of Practice and to legislation relating to food safety. Prior to applying the HACCP system, prerequisite programs (GAP, GMP, GHP, training programs, traceability, standardized sanitary programs, etc.) should be in place.

Establishing a HACCP program relies on the application of the seven HACCP principles:

Applying these seven principles requires the following 12 steps:

Step 1. Assemble the HACCP team.

Step 2. Product description.

Step 3. Identify intended use of product.

Step 4. Establish a flow diagram.

Step 5. On-site confirmation of flow diagram.

Step 6. List all potential hazards, conduct a hazard analysis and consider any measures to control identified hazards.

Step 7. Establish CCP.

Step 8. Establish critical limits for each CCP.

Step 9. Establish a monitoring system for each CCP.. Step 10. Establish corrective actions.

Step 11. Establish verification procedures.

Step 12. Establish documentation and record keeping.

Steps 1 to 5 are preliminary to the plan, steps 6 to 8 apply the 7 principles and define the plan and steps 9 to 12 support the implementation.

A detailed description of each step can be found in A training manual on food hygiene and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, FAO, 2002.

Difficulties defining critical control points and critical limits make HACCP not mandatory for the primary sector.

A critical control point as defined in the HACCP system is a phase in the process where an essential control may be applied to prevent or eliminate a hazard or to reduce this hazard to acceptable levels.

In primary production, for instance, it is not possible to establish just one control ensuring hazard elimination. Internationally, mechanisms establishing barriers along the chain to prevent and control were attempted. These controls, or good practices, together with proactive control and record keeping strive to keep out of the food chain hazards such as physical, chemical and biological contaminants.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, it is also difficult to establish an acceptable level for biological contaminants and efforts are directed to have pathogen free fresh foods. Relatively few steps during processing are addressed at reducing or eliminating biological contamination in already contaminated foods; measures aim at preventing hazards as a result of GAP, GMP and GHP in place.

In post-harvesting, some handling procedures may reduce the occurrence of pathogens: cooling temperatures, thermal processing, irradiation and water sanitizing procedures. But, except for irradiation, there is no guarantee of hazard reduction to acceptable levels, or elimination. New technologies, difficult to access for small producers, are currently being tried.

These constraints should be considered by producers contemplating adoption of a HACCP system. They should always remember that hazard reducing actions (biological in particular) are more preventive than established CCPs.

In any case the systematic approach involved in HACCP (steps in logical sequence, hazard analysis and control points) is valuable to apply safety assurance programs for fresh fruits and vegetables. (Presentation 4.7).



Step 1. Assemble the team


Diversity in scales of production for fruits and vegetables, regional and local handling practices, the environment, specifics of soils and many other production factors with their various interactions, dictate a multidisciplinary approach to safety assurance.

When considering assembling the HACCP team for a product, candidates conversant with the following should be included:

Small teams supported by specific external consultants when required (academia, private consultants, producers, exporters, etc.) must be favoured. The team will produce the plan (collect and evaluate technical data, determine hazards and control points) and conduct its implementation and verification.

A team leader coordinates, suggests changes and makes sure that objectives are accomplished. Sometimes training, in food hygiene in general and for fresh fruits and vegetables in particular, to ensure a common language among all the members of the team may prove very useful.

Responsibilities of the team.

The purpose and scope of the safety assurance program is point number one for the team to consider:

In the first place, safety assurance programs should be planned according to financial resources available (a private company) or assigned (a country). The team should be concerned with hazards significant for safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Excessive resources could be wasted if unnecessary hazards were selected, bearing only marginally on production or on final product safety, and in particular when small producers are concerned. The working team should always take into consideration what is appropriate and what is necessary to assure safety of fresh fruits and vegetables in the context of market requirements.

Steps 2 and 3. Product description and use

The team must produce a clear description of produce in a safety assurance program. The description will include composition, packaging, transport conditions, distribution requirements, handling instructions and instructions for use.

Handling requirements for maintaining product quality, such as storage temperature, are of value for players involved in distribution and retail sales. Consumers that may be prone to particular biological hazards should be properly identified: children, pregnant women, senior citizens, etc.

Use of produce is also important to identify hazards, for example, fresh produce whose periderm is consumed, represent higher risks for the consumers than if the product had not been properly produced and handled.

Steps 4 and 5. Establish a Flow Diagram and in situ confirmation

Steps and operations involved from production in the farm to shipping to the target market need to be identified to assess the risks involved in production and post-harvest. Besides characterizing each activity, a responsible individual and times of operation should be identified as key information to establish the standard operating procedures supporting personnel job descriptions and training.

The Flow Diagram must be logical and include all steps. It must be verified in situ to ensure that key steps were not left out.

If the same product is produced in different areas with different production systems, the working team will carefully identify key steps and operations to maintain safety. The Flow Diagram must reflect production areas and any specific operations taking place in particular areas. As part of the process flow, in situ verification is important to identify water resources, storage areas for agrochemicals, places for composting, facilities at the farm and for post-harvesting. This will assist in identifying product hazards.

Step 6. List all potential hazards, conduct a hazard analysis and consider measures to control identified hazards

This step identifies product safety hazards for each stage in the process and possible measures that could be implemented to prevent, control or reduce them.

It is suggested that the Code of hygiene practices for fresh fruits and vegetables, is followed, identifying hazards in:

Once possible hazards associated to each activity are identified, preventive, reducing or controlling measures are established. These appear in the GAP, GMP, GHP, or in support programs such as SOPs.

Step 7. Prioritize critical process steps for maintaining safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Establish control points

In those steps, where established hazards would have a significant impact on product safety, there is a need for prevention and control measures. These points are known, in codes of practice for primary production, as "Control Points".

The following should be considered:

Step 8. Establish critical limits

Even if one of the difficulties in applying the HACCP approach to primary production is establishing critical limits, it is important in methodologies similar to HACCP to define acceptance levels for hazards associated to each control point, for example: number of qualified people, preharvest intervals, maintenance of equipment routines and calibrating equipment routines. These parameters, even if they will not specify the hazards for fruit and vegetables contamination, once contamination takes place are basic for the acceptance of the prevention and control measures implemented, as well as for implementing corrective measures.

Implement the plan

When implementing the action plan it is important to have:

This last point, ensures or not, the success of the plan.

Step 9. Establish a monitoring system for each control point

A simple and easily applied monitoring system must be established to define the efficiency of the control or the preventive measures for each control point. The system should consider data to be collected and collection frequency, a responsible individual and actions to be taken should the objectives of the established program not be met.

Keeping records for implemented actions is essential, for example, to support future certification processes, to evaluate the plan and to adjust processes as required. Record keeping is equally important for traceability plans, allowing tracking a product back to its origin, should safety problems appear.

Records should be kept for training personnel, pesticide applications, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, fruit collection, cold rooms’ temperatures, drying temperatures, gas concentration in modified atmospheres, microbiological tests, etc.

Step 10. Establish corrective actions

The company must have a self-evaluation program, allowing through a continuous review of records for each control point, an assessment that the control measures are being met or not, and implementing actions for their compliance. Some corrective measures are: more specific records, the strengthening of training programs, establishing strict personnel hygienic measures and strategies to commit personnel in applying measures.

Step 11. Establish verification procedures

This consists in auditing all records and verification procedures, microbiological, chemical and physical analysis to verify if the safety assurance program is performing satisfactorily. Following audits, a period of time for correcting nonconformities applies. For proper verification, adequate indicators and appropriate verification means are required.

Indicators: allow for quantitative measurements to determine if criteria are met. For example, laboratory analysis and water analysis. These results are compared with the levels set for total coliforms and fecal coliforms in water, pesticide residues in products, etc., in conformance with national standards, target market requirements or Codex standards.

Verification procedures: information obtained through observation that can be used to demonstrate that a control measure is being effectively implemented, for example, field visits or reviewing records. Good verification procedures must be included in the follow up system, must be relevant, accepted by all actors, be practical and possibly integrative.

Results of the verification process must be recorded through analytical results, record keeping, frequency of verification and clear sampling procedures.

Step 12. Establish documentation and record keeping

Safety assurance programs, being regulatory, require complete record keeping. These records permit external audits, traceability and certification. Field and packaging registers kept electronically or in a notebook are valid records. Documents supporting hazard analysis, records of verification procedures and planned corrective actions are also program documents.

Activity 2. Hazard identification and control measures. Field visit


The trainer, together with the organizers of the workshop, identifies fields and packaging plants, in areas were safety assurance programs are implemented for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Each team will visit production and post-harvest activities in packaging plants. Funding and logistics permitting, each team will visit different places to feed back on the final discussion of results.

Each participant will receive a guideline format, Material 4.9, to be completed after the field visits. The teams share experiences and discuss results, all resulting in a single report detailing hazards found and prioritized with recommendations on applying control methods. Each group will present its own results and in the discussions somebody responsible for implementing safety assurance programs will also participate to enrich the analysis both ways.


Participants will develop skills to identify hazards in primary production and to implement possible preventive and control measures, applicable according to technological, economic, cultural and social aspects of production.



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The case study from Section III of this manual is continued in this section emphasizing hazards associated to produce safety

Step 1. Assemble the team

Developing the plan requires:

Specific support from:

a. Objectives:

Microbiological, chemical and physical hazards will be considered in this case study. Hazards will be assessed along the chain up to shipment to the target market. The principles set forth in the Code of Hygiene Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables will be used throughout the case study as well as the protocols required by the target market.

Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5. Product description, intended use and flow diagram with in situ confirmation

Product description

Product name

Physalis in 100 g baskets


Physalis as fresh fruit


Direct consumption


Plastic baskets covered with a pre-labelled plastic cover or paper

Packaging instructions

Lot, origin, day packaged

Post-harvest life

45 - 60 days

Instructions for distribution

Inventory rotation (first in first out), first to come, first to sell.

Keep in well ventilated rooms, temperature 10C

Selling points

Retail stores

Instruction for retailers

No refrigeration required, keep in ventilated places


Fruits are marketed with calyx on (leaves covering the fruit) at international markets. Production is done in small farms, often as an associated crop (semester crops, with Physalis as the main crop).

Step 6. List potential hazards and control measures

Tables 1 and 2 show the significant activities covered in the flow diagram, both for production and post-harvest, as well as possible contamination hazards for each step. Tables 3 and 4 reference good practices to prevent and control identified hazards. Field visits allow in situ verification of the operative, informal meetings with farmers, visits to packaging plants and meetings with training organizations operating in the area and are the basic tools to define the hazards associated to production and post-harvest.

Step 7. Establish control points

As mentioned, control points are prioritized according to the requirements of the target market, product characteristics and production conditions (Physalis traded with calyx on reduces contamination risks to the surface of the fruit; washing the product increases the risks of contamination, should the water not meet requirements for this use). Physalis is not highly perishable, this rendering it less prone to losses in handling, transport, grading and packaging, as well as reducing microbiological risks. Chemical hazards are the more significant.

Tables 3 and 4 list prioritized control points as major, minor and recommended in consideration to the market, production and post-harvest. Major requirements are:

The action plan should consider, first, major measures, followed by minor measures and adopting, last, recommended measures.

Prioritized measures must involve all actors in the chain and their commitment to implement these measures. This last point is the real challenge.

Exporting companies, backed by other institutions, should support producers with adequate implementation strategies such as:

Programs will be successful only if all actors in the chain are actively involved. In particular, when reference is made to Tables 3 and 4, research institutions, testing laboratories and extension services have important roles to accomplish. Presentation 4.8 includes an example of training in the safe use pesticides.

Step 8. Establish acceptance levels

For a successful program the following acceptance levels, among others, must be met:

Step 9. Establish a monitoring system for each control point

Tables 4 and 5 list records required to monitor the successful implementation of the program. Presentation 4.8 gives information on the contents of records. At first, significant support will be required to ensure record keeping in the farm.

Records must be easily understood, even by producers with writing and reading problems, and several family members should be involved in record keeping after adequate training.

Step 10. Establish corrective actions

Corrective actions should result from the self-evaluation procedures contained in the plan (Presentation 4.8). Monitoring and corrective actions should have the technical support of local specialists or from exporting companies. However the producers directly must establish field records and appropriate corrective measures. For packaging plants, exporters will have a person responsible for monitoring the system and for the control measures.

Step 11. Establish verification procedure

Presentation 4.8 illustrates verifications based on criteria defined in Table 3 and includes indicators and verification procedures for the control point. Auditing in orchards is to be done by technical representatives from the exporters. A responsible individual should be nominated for auditing in exporting companies, assisted by a checklist accounting for all identified control points. The frequency of audits should be also specified.

Step 12. Establish documentation and record keeping

All information supporting actions implemented, monitoring and corrective actions, and audit findings should be properly filled. GAP records will be kept by producers in a notebook. Exporters may produce simple software for record keeping of the safety assurance system and for traceability of the product.

[6] The information presented illustrates a methodology to implement safety assurance programmes (GAP, GMP, GHP, SOPs), but it does not represent specific recommendations for the sector, as these must be the result of the consensus among the different food chain actors.

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