Wash Water Management

FAQ:  Can the used water draining from the hand- and produce-washing sinks flow via gutters in the concrete floor to an exterior outlet?

100_2154Wastewater drainage should not promote cross contamination. If you are using an open gutter or tube, the water could splash and contaminate the floor or other surfaces. People or equipment could contribute to the contamination by walking or moving through the wet areas.

If the wastewater is moving through a closed pipe or channel, then the potential for contamination is greatly reduced. Be sure any piping is not a tripping hazard for workers.

Perform regular maintenance on floor drains to make sure they are free from debris.

dry wellWhere is the wash water going after the packing area? Local governments may require that wash water be put through a septic system, but avoid hooking it up to your home’s septic. The huge amount of water you use in the packing shed may overwhelm your septic system. Most growers just run the water from the packing shed off to a non-production area, storage tank, dry well, or settling area. Think about traffic flow and make sure that people and equipment are not crossing through wet areas.

GroupGAP Webinar, Feb 18

GroupGAP: USDA’s New Cooperative Approach to Farmer Food Safety Certification
Thursday, February 18
3:30 – 5:00pm ET (12:30 – 2:00pm PT)
Free! Register Now

GroupGAP is a new service (available Spring 2016) from USDA to audit farmers to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Small farmers are feeling the pressure to get third-party certified as more buyers are requiring GAP certification, and as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) puts them under new regulatory oversight.

In GroupGAP, a food hub, support organization, or central business entity collaborates with producers to establish site-specific best practices for complying with a food safety standard. The group develops and implements a quality management system (QMS) built to an international standard that can be measured, analyzed, reviewed, and continually improved.

Come hear the experience of a few of the trailblazers – pilot Groups who have already received GroupGAP certification. Why did they seek this certification? How much did it cost? Will they keep up their certification next year? What supports are available? What makes group a good candidate for GroupGAP? What were challenges and successes?

Answers to these questions and more!
Reserve your spot – click here

This session is NOT intended to give you all the details on the GroupGAP requirements from USDA. We suggests that you review the excellent USDA webinar that fills you in on that before this session. This webinar will illustrate, with a few case studies, what the GroupGAP certification experience is like, to give you a sense for the kinds of groups who have found it to be useful.

USDA GroupGAP webinar recording >>>


The Iowa Food Hub was a GroupGAP pilot site. They learned that in order for GroupGAP to be sustainable, the group needs to have over 20 members. Iowa Food Hub is willing to be the Group Host for other farms interested in this method of GAP certification. Farms do not need to be vendors of IFH to participate. Call Teresa at 563-794-0599 for more information.

Am I Certified?

Question: If I attend an Iowa Level 1 or Level 2 GAP class, is my farm GAP certified?

No. While attending a class is a great way to learn about food safety, it does not make your farm certified. Three things need to happen in order for a farm to become “GAP-certified.”

  1. The farms need to implement an on-farm food safety program with a manual containing policies, procedures (SOPs) and logs.
  2. The farmer needs to contact a certifying auditing agency like USDA AMS, Primus, NSF or other certifying body to come to the farm and audit the farm’s food safety program. Because Iowa does not have a state GAP inspection program, auditors usually come from out-of-state and audits will cost $600-$2000 depending on the audit used.
  3. They need to pass the audit (for example, a score 80% or higher on a USDA GAP audit).

While it is highly recommended that farmers attend a Level 1 and Level 2 GAP class to learn about food safety principles and to receive assistance crafting a farm safety manual, attending class is not a requirement to become GAP certified. In fact, there are several templates available that can guide farmers through the process.

ISU Extension specialists are also available to assist with questions and to perform mock audits.

See also:

Will I be GAP certified if I come to your class?

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.

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: www.foodsafetynews.com, 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 http://bit.ly/IOWAGAP


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 http://bit.ly/producesafetyteam

Questions:  Email angelaml@iastate.edu  or call 515-294-0868.


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