Using Recycled Sinks

FAQ: Can we use a used fiberglass utility tub as a sink for produce washing?

102_4082All food contact surfaces in a packing area should be food grade in nature and easy to clean and sanitize. As long as the sink has not held chemicals then it should be fine. Other ideas for low-cost sinks include food grade barrels, used kitchen sinks, old dairy bulk tanks or even old bathtubs. If using a recycled item as a sink, be sure it is good condition.

If you are washing and sanitizing produce, you may want to have a two- or three-compartment sink so you can wash, rinse and sanitize.

100_1823Think about how you are going to keep the harvest and packing containers off the floor during washing and packing.

Finally, always use potable water for washing, and be sure there is a separate sink for handwashing.

GroupGAP helps small and mid-sized growers

GroupGAP is a new food safety certification option that will increase opportunities for the entire industry to supply and buy GAP-certified produce.  This robust certification process addresses certain challenges in complying with food safety audits, and meets the demands of the retail, food service, and institutional buying community.  The GroupGAP Audit Program will begin April 4, 2016.

GGAP partners 2015 (800x451)Iowa Food Hub was one of the 12 pilot programs for GroupGAP. Transitioning the pilot to a full program will increase the ability of small and mid-sized growers to obtain food safety certification, thereby improving market access opportunities throughout the produce industry.

“The GroupGAP program is a great example of AMS working with stakeholders to address market challenges,” said Anne Alonzo, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator.  “The Wallace Center at Winrock International and 12 grower groups provided feedback and insight that allowed AMS to develop a robust certification process. This collaboration allowed AMS to address the unique challenges that smaller producers and food hubs face in complying with food safety audits, while also meeting the demands of the retail, food service, and institutional buying community.”

The AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits, which are voluntary audits to verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Produce buyers, large and small, are increasingly requiring suppliers to be GAP certified.

GGAP certificate compThe pilot program was created because many small and mid-sized growers had trouble paying for traditional GAP audits.  Under the pilot, growers, food hubs, and cooperatives were able to work together to obtain group certification, helping them save money and leverage economies of scale in the marketplace.  This also benefited retailers and large buyers, who were better able to meet the increasing demand for local foods and broaden their base of suppliers to be more resilient in the face of supply challenges or disruptions.

The Iowa Food Hub is looking for more growers to join their group. Growers do not need to be IFH customers in order to participate. Contact Teresa at 563-794-0599 for  more information.

Learn more on the USDA GroupGAP page.

Iowa Food Safety Winter Trainings

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is offering workshops to address food safety Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The two, sequential,  all-day workshops will be held as listed below.  Producers can register for and attend one or both workshops.  Many places that serve food to Iowans away from home may request some type of food safety assurance – completion of GAP training provides this assurance to those buyers of your fresh produce. A Certificate of Completion is given at the end of each workshop, which provides documentation that a fruit and vegetable grower has taken the training.

Registration deadlines are fast approaching! Information about the workshops and registration information can be found at links below.

Union County Extension Office, 811 N. Sumner Ave., Creston, Iowa 50801

  • Level 1 – Feb. 4, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Jan. 25)
  • Level 2 – Feb. 11, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Feb. 1)

Northwest Iowa Community College (Sheldon, IA, Building A, Room 117)

  • Level 1 – Feb. 15, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Feb. 5)

ISU Extension and Outreach Davis County Office, 402 E. North St., Bloomfield, Iowa

  • MarketReady – Feb. 25, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Feb. 15)
  • Level 1 – March 3, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Feb. 22)
  • Level 2 – March 10, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Feb. 29)

North Iowa Area Community College, Pappajohn Center, Room 117, 500 College Drive, Mason City, IA

  • MarketReady – March 5, 2016 (registration ends midnight on Feb. 24)

Fresh Produce Responsible for Most Foodborne Illnesses in the U.S.

Fresh produce is the cause of most foodborne illnesses in the U.S., reports the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

In a study of outbreaks that occurred between 2004 and 2013, the consumer advocacy group found that fresh produce, such as cilantro, cucumbers, cantaloupes and peppers, caused 629 outbreaks and almost 20,000 illnesses.

But that doesn’t mean you should skimp on fruits and vegetables.

“You are twice as likely to get sick from eating a serving of chicken as from eating a serving of vegetables,” said CSPI Senior Food Safety Attorney David Plunkett, co-author of the report. “The data support improving the safety of our produce supply but don’t support eating less fruits and vegetables, which provide valuable nutrients.”

Over the period studied, there was a total of 193,754 illnesses reported from 9,626 outbreaks. Of the total number of reported outbreaks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was able to identify both the food source and the contaminant in fewer than 40 percent. CSPI only reviewed the 3,485 solved outbreaks.

The report also found that seafood caused more illnesses per pound consumed than any other food category, while fruits, vegetables and dairy caused the fewest illnesses per pound consumed.

In addition, the number of outbreaks appears to decline sharply in 2009, but that may be due to changes in how norovirus is classified and not an actual reduction in illnesses from foodborne causes.

CSPI recommends that CDC continue to work with state and local health departments to standardize and maintain the consistent reporting rates seen since 2010, while also addressing the disparities in reporting rates among different states.

And Congress should fully fund improvements to the surveillance system, including providing more assistance to state public health efforts, the group stated.


Source:, December 8, 2015

Food Safety Decision Tools

The National Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) website has added farm food safety “decision trees” to help farmers identify risks and implement food-safe practices. Nine decision trees are available, including worker hygiene, soil amendments, wildlife management, and postharvest handling. Each decision tree includes samples of recordkeeping logs and standard operating procedures, as well as template farm food safety plans.

The purpose of the Decision Trees is to:
1.    Help you identify risks and practices that reduce risks;
2.    Prioritize the implementation of practices to use limited resources wisely;
3.    Familiarize you with the terms and methods necessary to understand and follow requirements and expectations for food safety from buyers, farm markets, schools, and federal regulations.

Begin with “How to Use the Decision Trees” and reviewing the Checklist to identify which Decision Tree you should complete first.
When you are ready to begin writing your farm food safety plan be sure to check out the the How to Write an SOP document and Recordkeeping Sheets. There is a Glossary in case any terms are unfamiliar.

Spring Workshops

The Iowa State University On Farm Food Safety Team will be hosting workshops this Spring 2015 from 9am to 4:00pm.  Materials, Breaks, and Lunch is provided.
Date        Level             Location
2/12/15         1                 ISU Armstrong Research Farm/Wallace Foundation ( Lewis, IA )
2/20/15         2                ISU Armstrong Research Farm/Wallace Foundation
2/17/15         1                Iowa Lakes Community College- Spencer Campus (Spencer, IA)
2/24/15         2                Iowa Lakes Community College- Spencer Campus
3/2/15         1                Linn County Extension (Cedar Rapids, IA)
3/24/15         2                Linn County Extension

a.    First person for Level 1 is $25, each additional person is $10.  For example: 2 people from 1 farm come then it is $35
b.    First person for both Level 1 and 2 is $40, each additional person is $20.  For example: 2 people from1 farm come to both sessions then it is $60

Registration Ends 10 days prior to session
All Payments due at the time of workshop!

Register Today at


Nov. 19 GAP Workshop Cancelled

The Good Agricultural Practice workshop scheduled for Nov. 19 in Sioux City has been cancelled. Those who registered for the workshop may transfer their registration to another upcoming workshop, said Angela Shaw, a food safety specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Registration is open for all of the workshops that will be offered this spring,” Shaw said.

GAP workshops will be offered in Lewis on Feb. 12 (Level 1) and Feb. 20 (Level 2), in Spencer on Feb. 17 (Level 1) and Feb. 24 (Level 2), and in Cedar Rapids on March 2 (Level 1) and March 24 (Level 2). Registration and details are available at For more information, please contact Shaw at 515-294-0868 or

Level 1 training is for growers who provide food to consumers through community-supported agriculture or farmers’ markets, or are considering retail foodservice sales. Training covers good agriculture best practices and market considerations.

Level 2 workshops guide farmers in the development of a written farm food safety plan. Farmers considering sales to retail foodservices such as grocers, restaurants, hospitals and other institutions, and those interested in adding value to fresh produce and selling products in a convenience form will have the tools to demonstrate GAPs are in place after attending the workshop.

ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and specialists instructing the workshops include Angela Shaw, food safety; Catherine Strohbehn, food safety and local foods systems; and Linda Naeve, value added agriculure. The workshops are funded through a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

First Group GAP Certification

I was very fortunate to spend two days sitting next to Diana Endicott at a meeting of the GGAP pilot projects in Salinas, California. Her food hub has been a model for the Iowa Food Hub (IFH) since its inception and we continue to get great feedback and support from her on how to make this all work.  Congratulations to GNFF on their milestone! We are working on the IFH QMS with a goal of certification next summer.


From the Wallace Center Monthly Newsletter, 10/24/14.


Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a food hub located in Kansas City, has been a pioneer in a collaborative food safety protocol called Group GAP (GGAP). Based on a Quality Management System (QMS) individually designed and implemeted by a “central entity”, Group GAP is able to provide growers of all sizes with appropriate support and guidance needed to ensure compliance with food safety guidelines. GNFF and a handful of other food hubs and support organizations have been working with USDA as pilots of this innovative approach to food safety.


A new milestone was reached when GNFF was the first group to successfully pass their Group GAP audit. There are three parts to a USDA Group GAP audit: 1) The USDA analyzes the group’s system of oversight (codified in the QMS), ensuring that it contains the necessary procedures and plans for documentation, 2) The USDA visits the central entity to ensure that the procedures outlined in the QMS are being followed properly and 3) USDA performs some spot checks on farms within the group to make sure on-farm practices are appropriate, further verifying the proper functioning of the system of oversight. Because the organizing central entity must perform regular internal audits of the group’s farms, if USDA determines that the system is functioning properly then not all farms need to be individually audited by USDA.


GNFF’s group of seventeen Rich Hill farmers (5 of which were directly audited by USDA) were determined to be in compliance, and were granted a GAP certificate as a group, enabling them to sell into markets where third-party food safety certification is demanded. A hearty congratulations goes out to GNFF and their growers for this achievement, helping to pave the way for other groups interested in pursuing a Group GAP certification.

Seeking Farmer Research Partners

Do you have questions about food safety that you would like answered? The Iowa State University On-Farm Food Safety Team is seeking growers interested in being involved in research related to fresh produce and value added product safety.  Because of past support from growers, our team has been successful with obtaining grants to answer questions and develop materials useful and relevant to you. We are recruiting growers who are willing to 1) contribute their skills and knowledge to our research team; 2) participate in research projects; and/or 3) advice plans for future research. Commitment is based on your comfort level – there is no minimal participation requirement!!  Benefits of participation include: 1) first view of project results; 2) reimbursement for travel and time on projects; and 3) opportunity to network with other producers and researchers.

How does it work?  First – sign up and fill out a short survey – this will enroll you in our pool of growers. When a grant opportunity comes up, we contact those growers with interest in that area and/or we may ask you for a brainstorming session. You decide yes or no to the opportunity. If you say “no”, you will receive no more emails for this project and we will contact you when another opportunity comes along OR if you say “yes”, we will send a follow up email with more details.   You make the decision to say YES or NO. You can ask to be completely removed from the list at any time.  Email will be a primary method of communication!  An example of a current need: We are seeking growers to assist with a Flood Food Safety Project.  Your commitment would be a letter of support and a commitment to attend 2 (in person-paid travel or via phone) meetings, provide feedback on a quarterly report of the research, and accepting an honorarium for your efforts.

Interested?  Sign up today

Questions:  Email  or call 515-294-0868.

Upcoming GAP Workshops: Level 1 and 2

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) workshops will be Mandatory under the new FSMA Produce Safety Act for those that qualify.  The ISU Extension and Outreach GAP Education program aligns with the new program, and we will offer a supplemental session to ensure those who previously attended are in compliance with new ruling and their names are on the national registry.

The one-day workshops are offered as Level 1: KNOW and Level 2: SHOW.

Level 1 is training for growers who provide food to consumers through community–supported agriculture or farmers’ markets, or are considering retail foodservice sales. Training covers good agriculture best practices and market considerations.

Level 2 workshops guide farmers in the development of a written farm food safety plan. Farmers considering sales to retail foodservices such as grocers, restaurants, hospitals and other institutions, and those interested in adding value to fresh produce and selling products in a convenience form will have the tools to demonstrate GAPs are in place after attending the workshop.

2014/2015 GAP workshop schedule (Last discounted workshops)
Warren County Extension Office (909 E 2nd Ave # E, Indianola, IA 50125)
Level 1: October 4
Level 2: October 18

Woodbury County Extension Office (4301 Sergeant Rd, Sioux City, IA )
Level 1: November 19
Level 2: November 25

ISU Armstrong Research Farm/Wallace Foundation  (53020 Hitchcock Ave, Lewis, IA )
Level 1: February 12
Level 2: February 20

Spencer, Iowa (Location TBA)
Level 1: February 17, 9-4 pm
Level 2: February 24, 9-4 pm

Linn County Extension (383 Collins Road NE, Suite 201,Cedar Rapids)
Level 1: March 2, 9-4 pm
Level 2 March 24, 9-4 pm

Workshop Fees
Level 1: First person is $25.  Each additional person from the farm is $10.

Level 2: First person is $40 and each additional person is $20.

Attendees will receive a certificate of completion following the program.

Registration can be made directly online at If you have questions, please contact Angela Shaw at 515-294-0868 or email at