New tool helps food service buyers evaluate on-farm food safety practices
AMES, Iowa — Institutional buyers of fresh, whole produce need assurances that growers followed safe food handling practices during production, harvest and delivery. These buyers could include the food service staff at schools, hospitals, care facilities and others.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers guidelines for farmers to follow, known as Good Agricultural Practices, which can be found at https://bit.ly/3trN9t5. But third-party verification of GAP is uncommon in Iowa.
One reason: Not all produce growers in Iowa are large enough to require compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. Another barrier is cost; many produce farms in Iowa choose not to become GAP-certified or certified organic, even though they may follow those practices.
The “Checklist for Retail Purchasing of Local Produce” from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach helps document food safety practices on produce farms. It can be found at https://bit.ly/2RIQi9R.
“Both farmers and food service buyers use the checklist to guide decisions on food safety,” said Teresa Wiemerslage, food systems coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach.
“Food service directors are well-versed on food safety in the kitchen,” she noted. “But they aren’t always confident in how food safety plays out on the farm. Food service directors who use the checklist often ask, ‘How do I know if the answers are right?’”
In response, Wiemerslage recently developed a free tool as a companion to the checklist. The new tool is called “Evaluating the Retail Checklist: A Guide for Food Service Buyers” and can be found at https://bit.ly/3tqHKT0.
It walks producers through each question on the checklist and identifies areas of concern, or red flags.
“By using this tool, food service directors should be able to quickly evaluate the farm’s answers on the checklist,” said Wiemerslage.
If red flags arise, the food service director can ask the farmer for more information. They also can ask to visit the farm or turn to the ISU Extension and Outreach Food Safety Team for more information.
For more information, contact Wiemerslage at 563-794-0599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.