chapman whole thesis by Jh87QR

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                               A Thesis

                             Presented to

                   The Faculty of Graduate Studies


                      The University of Guelph


                     BENJAMIN J. CHAPMAN

                 In partial fulfillment of requirements

                           for the degree of

                          Master of Science

                            February, 2005

                      Benjamin Chapman, 2005




Benjamin J. Chapman                                Advisor:
University of Guelph, 2005                         Professor Douglas A. Powell

Fresh fruits and vegetables have been increasingly linked to cases of foodborne illness.

Many produce farmers have implemented on-farm food safety strategies, employing good

agricultural practices focusing on water, handling and sanitation to reduce risk. An

illustrative case study to examine implementation trends was developed through the

examination of current on-farm food safety issues and programs, with specific focus on

the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers' (OGVG) hazard analysis critical control

point (HACCP)- based initiative. In 2003, OGVG's 200 members had a combined farm-

gate value of $350 million and represented 41 per cent of North American greenhouse

vegetable production. Program implementation barriers identified included: perceived

costs of participation, the priority of food safety management; and,

management/employee relationships. Effective implementation was size-neutral and

value was obtained through market access. Produce industry stakeholders can apply the

results of this research and create a template to be used in similar extension activities.

For the past four years of my life, food safety conversations followed me wherever I go.

I've discussed it at the dinner table with family at Thanksgiving; on a road trip to Atlantic

City with friends; at a bar following a pick-up hockey game; and even on the golf course.

Produce-related outbreaks; BSE; how to cook a turkey; GE food production policy; and

how often Emeril washes his hands have all come up. This is something I think I have a

true (and sometimes unhealthy and annoying) passion for.

Food safety research is not something I had set out to do when entering my

undergraduate years at the University of Guelph. I wasn't all that sure what I was

destined for, but I stumbled upon a research group lead by a long-haired goalie, straight

out of a Coen brothers movie, who called me 'dude' from the first day I met him: Dr.

Doug Powell. He gave me job that I was destined for: surfing the Internet all day, for a

whole summer. He called this "pulling news"; collecting much of the raw data that would

eventually form a portion of this thesis. This employment also provided me with a unique

opportunity to read and digest all the food safety dialogue that was in the public realm,

and begin to form some opinions about on-farm food safety policy and implementation.

During that summer and into the fall I was fortunate enough to be introduced to four

individuals who have all acted as mentors to me (whether they know it or not). This

thesis would not have been possible if it wasn't for the support and friendship of Shane

Morris, Amber Bailey, Katija Blaine and Justin Kastner. On numerous occasions each of

them have challenged me to become a better graduate student, learn as much as I could

about my research and produce something that the group would be proud of. As clichéd

as it may sound, my experiences exploring food safety questions while working at the

Food Safety Network under the direction of Doug Powell have been invaluable.

My mom and dad have always encouraged me to find something I liked, and stick with it

to the end. Thanks to their guidance, they are indirectly responsible for much of what is

in this document.

You could say that my soul mate, Dani, and I are getting pretty serious at this point. Dani

has been extremely supportive and caring through this project, even on those frustrating

not-so-productive days. Not once did she complain about my lack helping out around the

house: skirting the laundry folding, dinner preparation and dish washing; all of which I

blamed on this document. And she was always there when I needed her the most.

I recently wrote in an op-ed for the International Association for Food Protection's

student group that "there is an increased need for competent graduates with food safety

specialties to enter the work force into industry or regulatory positions. Our generation of

scientists will be charged with building safer systems to protect public health and charged

with laying the foundation for everyone along the farm to fork continuum to engage in

food safety dialogue." Much of this work will be supported by generous funders, such as

this project was, through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Healthy Futures,

and the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. It is imperative that industry and

government alike continue to fund real-world practical research and continue to develop

the food safety professionals of tomorrow.

                                                                       February 6, 2005


                                                         TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRODUCE IN CANADA. ............................................................................................................................ 1
    INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................... 1
    MICROBIAL FOOD SAFETY .......................................................................................................................... 2
    RISK ANALYSIS ........................................................................................................................................... 5
    RISK ........................................................................................................................................................... 7
    RISK-BASED FOOD SYSTEMS ......................................................................................................................14
    MICROBIAL FOOD SAFETY RISKS AND PRODUCE ........................................................................................18
    FACTORS OF PATHOGEN CONTAMINATION IN PRODUCE .............................................................................24
       Soil .......................................................................................................................................................24
       Irrigation and surface run-off waters ..................................................................................................25
       Birds .....................................................................................................................................................26
       Disinfection of produce ........................................................................................................................27
       Internalization of pathogens by produce..............................................................................................29
    CONSUMERS ..............................................................................................................................................29
    ON-FARM STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING MICROBIAL RISKS ..........................................................................30
GOVERNMENT RISK MANAGERS .......................................................................................................34
    HYPOTHESIS AND OBJECTIVES: ..................................................................................................................34
    INTRODUCTION ..........................................................................................................................................35
    MEDIA AND PUBLIC POLICY .......................................................................................................................38
    FOOD SAFETY REPORTING..........................................................................................................................39
    METHODOLOGY .........................................................................................................................................42
       Article collection and coding ...............................................................................................................42
       Outbreak records .................................................................................................................................43
       Data analysis .......................................................................................................................................44
    RESULTS ....................................................................................................................................................46
    DISCUSSION ...............................................................................................................................................54
    FACTORS AFFECTING THE PROFILE OF MEDIA-MAKING ARTICLES ..............................................................54
       Large outbreaks; illnesses ...................................................................................................................54
       Widespread outbreaks; more than one cluster of illnesses ..................................................................54
       Imported produce .................................................................................................................................54
       Management practices can be employed to contain/reduce exposure .................................................55
       Complete story of investigation ............................................................................................................55
       Stigma of established pathogens/vehicles ............................................................................................56
    RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ON-FARM FOOD SAFETY IMPLEMENTATION TEAMS............................................57
       Employ proactive risk communication strategies ................................................................................57
       Promote the use and expansion of surveillance and inspection programs ..........................................58
       Credible and complete good agricultural practices management programs .......................................59
    RESEARCH LIMITATIONS ............................................................................................................................59
PROGRAM ..................................................................................................................................................61
    HYPOTHESIS AND OBJECTIVES ...................................................................................................................61
    INTRODUCTION ..........................................................................................................................................61
    OGVG INDUSTRY PROFILE ........................................................................................................................64
    OGVG ON-FARM FOOD SAFETY PROGRAM SUMMARY ...............................................................................68

    COMPONENTS OF THE OGVG ON-FARM FOOD SAFETY PROGRAM..............................................................70
       Documentation of practices .................................................................................................................70
       On-site visits ........................................................................................................................................70
       Microbiological sampling ....................................................................................................................73
    METHODOLOGY .........................................................................................................................................74
       Case study data sources .......................................................................................................................74
       Microbiological analysis methodology ................................................................................................75
       Interview evaluation methodology .......................................................................................................78
       Survey methodology .............................................................................................................................80
    RESULTS ....................................................................................................................................................81
       Microbiological analysis .....................................................................................................................81
       Survey results .......................................................................................................................................83
       Interview results ...................................................................................................................................86
       Employee issues ...................................................................................................................................86
       Drivers for food safety .........................................................................................................................87
       Food safety priority changes with other production factors ................................................................87
       Initially cost was perceived to be a limiting factor ..............................................................................88
       Technology ...........................................................................................................................................88
       Necessity ..............................................................................................................................................89
       Pesticide water issues ..........................................................................................................................89
    DISCUSSION ...............................................................................................................................................90
       Microbiological analysis .....................................................................................................................90
       Survey analysis ....................................................................................................................................92
       Interview analysis ................................................................................................................................92
    CASE STUDY CONCLUSIONS .......................................................................................................................96
    RESEARCH LIMITATIONS ............................................................................................................................98
PROGRAM ..................................................................................................................................................99
    HYPOTHESIS AND OBJECTIVES ...................................................................................................................99
    INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................100
       Branding quality and food safety programs .......................................................................................104
       Liability/crisis ....................................................................................................................................106
       Buyer demand for verification ...........................................................................................................108
       Food safety program implementation research .................................................................................109
    METHODOLOGY .......................................................................................................................................111
    RESULTS ..................................................................................................................................................113
    A) GUIDELINES/DOCUMENTATION ...........................................................................................................114
       Water maintenance ............................................................................................................................115
       Location information .........................................................................................................................116
       Sanitation programs...........................................................................................................................117
       Growing inputs ..................................................................................................................................118
       Pest control program .........................................................................................................................119
       Equipment maintenance program ......................................................................................................119
       Employee training and sanitation facilities .......................................................................................120
       Transportation ...................................................................................................................................121
       Traceability ........................................................................................................................................122
       Biosecurity .........................................................................................................................................123
    B) IMPLEMENTATION AIDE ......................................................................................................................124
       OGVG yearly producer training ........................................................................................................124
    C) VERIFICATION ....................................................................................................................................125
    D) COMMUNICATION PROGRAM ..............................................................................................................126
    E) CRISIS MANAGEMENT .........................................................................................................................127
    COST COMPARISONS ................................................................................................................................128

    DISCUSSION .............................................................................................................................................129
       Documentation and guidelines...........................................................................................................129
       Implementation aide...........................................................................................................................130
       Verification ........................................................................................................................................131
       Communication ..................................................................................................................................131
       Crisis management.............................................................................................................................132
       Costs ..................................................................................................................................................132
       The passionate champion ...................................................................................................................133
    RESEARCH LIMITATIONS ..........................................................................................................................133
CONCLUSIONS ........................................................................................................................................134
    INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................134
    PROGRAM DESIGN TEMPLATE ..................................................................................................................134
       Industry-led, regulator supported ......................................................................................................134
       Dynamic program based on the best available science .....................................................................136
       Involve stakeholders...........................................................................................................................137
       Employ transparent external proactive risk communication strategies .............................................138
       Employ program-specific multi-dimensional internal communication strategies..............................139
    CONCLUSION ...........................................................................................................................................141
REFERENCES ..........................................................................................................................................143
FOR FRESH FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WORLDWIDE ..............................................................159
APPENDIX 2.1. PRODUCE RELATED OUTBREAKS FROM 1990-2003 .......................................170
ARTICLES APPEARING IN REPRESENTATIVE MEDIA SOURCES ...........................................182

                                  LIST OF TABLES

Table 1.1 Six most prevalent North American outbreak associated foods          4

Table 1.2 Canadian perceptions of specific foods linked to foodborne illness   4

Table 1.3 Sources of pathogenic microorganisms for produce                     23

Table 2.1 Coding variables used for media analysis of produce-related articles 44

Table 3.1 Roles of OGVG members, 2003                                          66

Table 3.2 Distribution of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Grower program          72
          materials and visits 2001-2003

Table 3.3 Characteristics of interview participants and their operations       79

Table 3.4 Summary of OGVG program produce samples; 1998-2003                   82

Table 4.1 Application of HACCP to wash water procedures for greenhouse         102
          tomato production

Table 4.2 A comparison of program components of reviewed groups                113

Table 4.3 OGVG on-farm food safety program costs and on-site visit totals      129

                                LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1.1   WHO integrated framework for risk analysis                         8

Figure 1.2   The risk management cycle                                          11

Figure 1.3   Cycle of pathogens in fresh fruit and vegetable production         22

Figure 2.1   Coverage of North American microbial food safety issues in         40
             representative sources from 1996-2003

Figure 2.2   Coverage of E. coli O157:H7 in representative sources, 1982 -      41

Figure 2.3   Produce-related media coverage 1995-2003                           47

Figure 2.4   Primary and secondary produce-related articles from                48
             representative sources 1996-2003

Figure 2.5   Average number of articles on outbreaks and produce-related        50
             illness averages 1996-2003

Figure 2.6   Total produce-related illnesses (actual documented outbreaks)      51
             and illnesses covered in representative sources

Figure 2.7   Actual documented produce outbreaks 1995-2003 (N=188)              53

Figure 2.8   Produce outbreaks reported in representative media 1995-2003       53
Figure 3.1   Combined farm gate values of OGVG members                          65

Figure 3.2   North American greenhouse vegetable area distribution 1066 total 67

Figure 3.3   Results from respondents' answers to: Rank the hazard of the       84
             following food items (responses with "serious hazard" marked)

Figure 3.4   Results from respondents' answers to: What do you feel are the     85
             greatest threats to the safety of the food you eat

Figure 3.5   Results from respondents' answers to: How confident are you that   86
             the food in your supermarket is safe?

Chapter 1. A Review Of Current And Relevant Publications Relating To The
Development Of Risk-Based On-Farm Food Safety Practices For Produce In


There have been over 400 foodborne illness outbreaks since 1990 related to produce

consumption in North America (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2004). The

media coverage of these outbreaks has also increased and this represents a risk to the

viability of the horticulture industry. With each reported outbreak there is a potential for

the erosion of trust in the safety of fruits and vegetables and the credibility of the industry

that produces them. In 1998, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers' (OGVG), led

by their general manager Denton Hoffman, recognized this risk. In conjunction with Dr.

Douglas Powell of the department of plant agriculture at the University of Guelph they

designed an on-farm food safety program with the objective of reducing on-farm risks in

a scientifically credible manner. The costs of a large outbreak are estimated to exceed the

punitive damages from lawsuits and can eliminate an entire industry.

Following two outbreaks of Cyclospora cayetanesis in 1996 and 1997 the Guatemalan

raspberry industry was reduced from 85 producers exporting to Canada and the U.S. to

three (Calvin, 2003; Herwaldt and Ackers, 1997; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention, 1997). Without an on-farm food safety program employed to reduce food

safety risk and supported by documentation it was estimated that California strawberry

growers lost $16 million in revenue even though they were falsely implicated in the 1996

raspberry outbreak (Mischen, 1996). According to Mexican growers, the market impact

of a 2003 outbreak of hepatitis A traced to their exported green onions lasted up to 4

months while prices fell 72 per cent (Calvin et al., 2004). This industry is still rebuilding

as the U.S has imposed import restrictions on Mexican green onions.

By examining factors impacting the implementation of the Ontario Greenhouse

Vegetable Growers on-farm food safety risk management programs and evaluating their

effectiveness it is hypothesized that a generic template of an ideal on-farm food safety

program can be established for risk managers to consider. A triangulation of methods has

been employed in the evaluation, including qualitative and quantitative data sources.

Factors that were explored included:

      media coverage of produce-related outbreaks compared to actual reported


      on-farm food safety program participant knowledge and attitudes; and,

      external program comparisons and common program components

Microbial food safety

Foodborne illness outbreaks, traced to a variety of different foods, can be found

worldwide. In Canada, Health Canada tracks these and statistics are published in their

annual report Foodborne and Waterborne Disease in Canada (Todd, 1998). Researchers

have determined that the number of reported cases of foodborne illness vary from year to

year and have estimated that for every 1 case reported up to 350 are unreported (Mead et

al., 1999). It has been estimated that there are 76 million incidents of foodborne illnesses

in the United States each year (representing approximately one in every four citizens);

Australian authorities support this estimate as being correct for developed countries

(Mead et al., 1999; OzFoodNet Working Group, 2003). The World Health Organization

(WHO) suggests that in industrialized countries incidence of foodborne illness could be

as high as 30 per cent (WHO, 2002). Canada has been identified as one of the eight most

developed countries in the world yet one-quarter of its citizens suffer foodborne illness

each year costing an estimated $1 billion in medical bills and productivity losses (Todd,


Various foods have been identified as vectors in the spread of foodborne illness. Because

temperature, water activity and potential contamination points are factors in the growth

and support of microbiological pathogens, virtually every food source is susceptible to

contamination. The most prevalent vehicles described in Table 1.1 represent 80 per cent

of outbreaks. From 1990-2002 there were a total reported 2,472 outbreaks with 90,355

recorded cases of foodborne illness (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2002; U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002a). There is a gap between actual

outbreak statistics and the public perception of what foods have the highest incidence of

illness from microbes. In 1999,When ranking the most dangerous food in response to the

question "As far as you know what specific foods may cause food poisoning or foodborne

illness", Canadians listed in the order shown in Table 1.2.

Table 1.1. Six most prevalent North American outbreak associated foods 1990-2002

(Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2002; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention, 2002a).

Food                                 Outbreaks                   Illnesses

Seafood                              539                         6,781

Mixed Dishes (Pizzas,
                                     330                         11,500

Produce                              293                         18,084

Eggs                                 277                         9,349

Beef                                 251                         9,195

Poultry                              235                         9,612

Table 1.2. Canadian perceptions of specific foods linked to foodborne illness (Environics

Research Group Limited, 1999).

                                                Percentage Of Respondents Identified
                                                Vehicle As Hazard

Chicken                                         53

Meats                                           43

Ground Meats                                    31

Fish                                            29

Seafood                                         25

Produce was listed last, with only 10 per cent of respondents signifying that there was a

potential for risk (Environics Research Group Limited, 1999). This illustrates a

divergence between what the public thinks makes them ill, and what actually does.

This difference, and reported consumer behavior, provides an incentive for farm-to-fork

food safety practices for a number of reasons: consumers seek to protect themselves

through liability lawsuits and purchasing behavior; ; consumers avoid purchasing foods

they perceive as unsafe; and, shifts in demand can have a large impact on producers (U.S.

Department of Agriculture, 2002).

Risk analysis

World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that a risk-based approach should be

applied to food production and distribution systems worldwide (WHO, 2003a). This

system strives to reduce human exposure to foodborne pathogens by recommending that

regulators scrutinize the critical control points in the production process; points where

food safety hazards can be prevented, reduced to an acceptable level, or eliminated

(WHO, 2003a). Food safety management strategies such as the increased use of risk

analysis are a response to the increasing global priority of food safety. Historically many

of the factors contributing to the global emergence of food safety as a significant issue


          increasing burden of foodborne illness and new and emerging foodborne


          rapidly changing technologies in food production, processing and marketing;

          developing science-based food control systems with a focus on consumer


          international food trade and the need for harmonization of food safety and

           quality standards;

          changes in lifestyles, including rapid urbanization; and,

          growing consumer awareness of food safety and quality issues and increasing

           demand for better information (WHO, 2003a).

During the Fifty-third World Health Assembly in May 2000, participants adopted a

resolution calling on WHO and its Member States to recognize food safety as an essential

public health function, taking it from the realm of production, processing and distribution

to a farm-to-fork responsibility (World Health Assembly, 2002).

WHO has stated that food safety must be addressed along the entire food chain by

measures based on sound scientific information at both national and international levels.

The following approaches should be used all along the farm-to-fork continuum to reduce

the burden that unsafe food places on national and international communities (WHO,


      surveillance of foodborne diseases;

       better risk assessment;

       safety of new technologies;

       public health in Codex;

       risk communication;

       international cooperation; and,

       capacity building


Risk has been defined as a combination of something that is both undesirable and

uncertain. Kates and Kasperson (1983) defined risk as simply threats to people and the

things that they value. More specifically, Covello and Merkhofer (1994) added to this

definition "the possibility of an adverse outcome, and uncertainty over the occurrence,

timing or magnitude of that adverse outcome." When relating to food and technology,

Starr (1969) found that individuals within Western society were more likely to tolerate a

risk when there was a perception of control over the exposure and management of the


Risk analysis was first formalized by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences through its

U.S. National Research Council in 1983. This model distinguished between three stages

of risk analysis: risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. WHO

(2003b) has developed a visualization of the suggested integration of risk analysis

activities (Figure 1.1).

Risk assessment: identification of known or potential adverse health effects resulting

from human exposure to a hazard such as food borne hazards.

Risk management: the process of weighing policy alternatives to accept, minimize or

reduce assessed risks and select and implement appropriate actions

Risk communication: the exchange of information and opinions concerning risk and

risk-related factors among risk assessors, risk managers, consumers and other interested

parties (FAO/WHO, 1995; U.S. National Research Council, 1983).

Figure 1.1. WHO integrated framework for risk analysis (WHO 2003b).

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The three components of risk analysis cannot be separated and are, in fact, integrated, and

that communication involves the multi-directional flow of information.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences/U.S. National Research Council model, risk

assessment has four components (U.S. National Research Council, 1983)

      hazard identification;

      dose-response assessment;

      exposure assessment; and,

      risk characterization

These components of risk assessment have been endorsed and incorporated into the

principles of risk assessment adopted by the U.S. National Advisory Committee on

Microbiological Criteria for Foods (1998).

Soby and colleagues (1993) developed the concept of the risk management cycle. In this

model, public and other stakeholder concerns are actively sought at each stage of the

management process, including assessment. Pidgeon and colleagues (1992) suggest that

important aspects of risk perception and acceptability involve judgments, not just of the

physical characteristics and consequences of an activity but also social factors such as

credibility and trustworthiness of risk management and regulatory institutions, and this

should be included in risk assessment decisions. Personal biases or value judgments are

present even in risk assessments. Lathrop and Linnerooth (1982), describe a situation

where three separate risk assessments produced using the same data differed widely in

assumptions, presentation and implied conclusions.

The U.S. Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk

Management (1997) developed an integrative framework to help all types of risk

managers (government officials, private sector businesses, individual members of the

public) make good risk management decisions. The framework has six stages (Figure


       define the problem and put it in context;

       analyze the risks associated with the problem in context;

       examine options for addressing the risks;

       make decisions about which options to implement;

       take actions to implement the decisions; and,

       conduct an evaluation of the action’s results.

In particular, the framework is conducted in collaboration with stakeholders and requires

iterations if new information is developed that changes the need for, or nature of, risk

management. Employing this framework as opposed to reactive measures is beneficial in

managing risk situations as current solutions may become irrelevant if new scientific data

are discovered. An iterative cycle that includes evaluation of past actions improves the


Figure 1.2. The risk management cycle (U.S. Presidential/Congressional Commission on

Risk Assessment and Risk Management, 1997).

The commission also recommended that risk analysis guidelines (including policies on

value judgments) were a risk management responsibility and were to be carried out along

with risk assessors to preserve the scientific integrity of a risk assessment.

This proactive system offers more control than end product testing as it is multifaceted

and does not rely on just one data set and the effectiveness of microbiological

examination in assessing the safety of food, particularly in fresh produce is limited

(International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods, 1986;

FAO/WHO, 1995).

The current state of risk management and communication research suggests that those

responsible for management of food safety must be seen to be preventing or at least

minimizing a particular risk. Many on-farm food safety program developers have

considered this, though national media coverage of risk reduction steps has not appeared

to be targeted. Those responsible must be able to effectively communicate their efforts

and they must be able to prove they are actually reducing levels of risk. Otherwise,

stigma (where a negative label is applied to foods or technologies that are perceived to be

the cause of risk) is a powerful shortcut consumers may use to evaluate foodborne risks.

Gregory and colleagues (1995) have characterized the criteria that can lead to the

formation of a stigma:

      the source is a hazard;

      a standard of what is right and natural is violated or overturned;

      impacts are perceived to be inequitably distributed across groups;

      possible outcomes are unbounded (scientific uncertainty); and,

      management of the hazard is brought into question.

The fundamental goal of risk communication is the exchange of meaningful, relevant and

accurate information, in clear and understandable terms with a specific audience. This

information is provided so decision makers and the public can make informed choices

about the risks involved in undertaking certain activities. Risk communication may lead

to more widely understood and accepted risk management decisions. Effective risk

communication should have goals that build and maintain trust and confidence. It should

facilitate a higher degree of consensus and support by all interested parties for the risk

management option(s) being proposed. The components for managing the stigma

associated with any food safety issue involve the following factors (Powell, 2001):

      effective and rapid surveillance systems;

      effective communication about the nature of risk;

      a credible, open and responsive regulatory system;

      demonstrable efforts to reduce levels of uncertainty and risk; and,

      evidence that actions match words.

Fischoff and colleagues (1981) suggest that acceptable risk cannot be discussed in risk

communication activities with the public without the acknowledgement and discussion of

alternatives. Risk alternatives should be described as a decision problem and include the

decision values and assumptions.

The communication of effective food safety risk management strategies can influence

public perception and be a factor in changing consumer purchasing behaviour. Following

the loss of export markets to Canadian beef producers in May 2003 due to a case of

bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an eight year old beef cow, measures to

boost Canadian consumption became a secondary component of what Alberta Premier

Ralph Klein termed Plan B: tactics to help the cattle industry survive (Brethour, 2003). A

risk communication campaign by industry, government and academia focused on the

safety of Canadian beef, inspection regulations, and improved practices. This campaign

coupled with lower prices left Canada as the only country to increase domestic beef

consumption after discovering case of BSE, even gaining market share at the expense of

other commodities (MacArthur, 2003). This is contrasted by a poor focus on risk

communication by regulators and industry following a publication of a paper discussing

PCB contamination of farmed salmon (Hites et al., 2004). The national association

representing fish farmers reported that sales fell 20 per cent, and some markets reported

that salmon sales plummeted by half immediately following the publication, impacting

economics and potentially public health (Picard, 2004).

Risk-based food systems

Credibility of an on-farm food safety program is paramount in the public acceptance of

risk reduction practices. A risk-based system provides a structured framework to build

this credibility. The U.S. National Research Council (NRC) (1998) recommended that a

model food safety system must be science-based, with a strong emphasis on risk analysis,

to allow regulators, industry and other stakeholders to prioritize the allocation of

resources based on available data. The NRC recommended that food safety risk

management activities be developed to address the risks deemed to have the greatest

potential impact (U.S. National Research Council, 1998).

The NRC (1998) suggested that because limited resources are available to address food

safety that regulatory priorities should be based on risk analysis, which includes

evaluation of prevention strategies where possible.

The NRC approach enabled regulators to estimate the probability that various categories

of susceptible persons might acquire illness from eating specific foods. This allows

regulators to place greater emphasis and direct resources on those foods or hazards with

the highest risk of causing human illness. Risk analysis provides a science-based

approach to address food safety issues. Comprehensive human and animal disease

surveillance must be an integral part of any risk analysis in order to estimate exposure.

With increasing knowledge, many rational, science-based regulatory philosophies have

been adopted, some of which rely on quantitative risk assessment. Adoption of such a

science-based regulatory philosophy has been uneven and difficult to ensure given the

fragmentation of food safety activities, and the differing missions of the various agencies

responsible for specific components of food safety. This philosophy must be integrated

into all aspects of the food safety system, from federal to state and local (U.S. National

Research Council, 1998).

To encourage the private sector to produce safer meat and poultry, U.S. Food Safety and

Inspection Service (FSIS) issued the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical

Control Point systems (HACCP) rule, which took effect in stages starting in 1997 (U.S.

Food Safety and Inspection Service, 1996).

Federally regulated livestock and poultry slaughter and processing establishments were

required to:

        develop a HACCP plan to identify and control pathogens in their products;

        meet targets for microbial pathogen reduction;

        conduct microbial testing to determine compliance with the targets; and,

        establish and follow written sanitary standard operating procedures.

Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), a commission created by the Food and

Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the WHO has produced guidelines

and principles that they state should lay a firm foundation for ensuring food hygiene and

are to be used in conjunction with other specific practices. CAC's general hygiene

document (Codex Alimentarius Commission , 1999) suggests that food safety be

addressed along the food chain, from farm-to-fork and it recommends a HACCP-based

approach wherever possible to enhance food safety (Codex Alimentarius Commission,


CAC has provided an example of these guidelines though they are presented simplistic,

and vague. CAC's guidelines provide little substance or direction on how to accomplish

the objectives; this it seems is left to the implementing countries.

The 1999 CAC document highlighted the key factors for general hygiene from farm to

fork (Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1999):


Depending on the nature of the operations, and the risks associated with them, premises,

equipment and facilities should be located, designed and constructed to ensure that:

      contamination is minimized;

      design and layout permit appropriate maintenance, cleaning and disinfection and

       minimize air-borne contamination;

      surfaces and materials, in particular those in contact with food, are non-toxic in

       intended use and, where necessary, suitably durable, and easy to maintain and


      where appropriate, suitable facilities are available for temperature, humidity and

       other controls; and,

      there is effective protection against pest access and harbourage.


Attention to good hygienic design and construction, appropriate location, and the

provision of adequate facilities, is necessary to enable hazards to be effectively controlled

FAO also stresses that microbiological criteria may be used to formulate design

requirements and to indicate the required microbiological status of raw materials,

ingredients and end-products at any stage of the food chain as appropriate. Microbial

sampling can be done to verify that a HACCP-based system or good hygienic practices

are being followed. They also suggested that microbiological criteria may be applied to

define the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable products by regulatory

authorities and/or food business operators (Codex Alimentarius Commission, 1997).

Microbial food safety risks and produce

Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable producers (which does not include the production of

sprouts, which have routinely been associated with outbreaks) have only been implicated

as the source for only two outbreaks of foodborne illness since 1981 (Sewell and Farber,

2001; Strauss et al., 2002). However, the lack of identifiable outbreaks in the past

provides little in the way of protection against future detection of outbreaks, given better

surveillance and increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Researchers have

stated that pathogens can contaminate at any point along the food chain, at the farm,

processing plant, transportation vehicle, retail store or foodservice operation and the

home. By understanding where potential problems exist, it is possible to develop

strategies to reduce risks of contamination (Tauxe et al., 1997).

Specifically, there has been a continued rise in reported outbreaks of foodborne illness

associated with the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables since 1990 in North

America though there has been a recent decline since 2000 (Center for Science in the

Public Interest, 2004) Bacteria, viruses and parasites on fruits and vegetables have been

linked with illness. In Canada, 18 outbreaks were documented from 1981 to 2000, with

approx. 2000 people affected and 18 deaths (Sewell and Farber, 2001). Cantaloupe,

lettuce, raspberries and parsley have been implicated as vehicles for illness. The very

nature of produce that makes it healthy, that it is fresh and consumed raw, is what makes

it a high-risk food for bacterial contamination. Without the kill step provided by cooking,

produce is vulnerable to pathogen contamination from farm-to-fork.

While there have been over 400 known produce-related outbreaks in North America since

1990, resulting in over 21,000 illnesses (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2004),

there are probably thousands of unknown outbreaks. The growing desire by consumers in

developed countries to consume fresh fruits and vegetables coupled with the expanding

global nature of produce distribution has led to an increase in the reported pathogens,

outbreaks and incidence of contamination. Laboratory studies have found that fresh

produce can support the growth and survival of organisms such as Salmonella spp.,

Shigella spp., Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, enteric viruses and

parasites.(Beuchat, 1998; Beuchat, 2002; Bracket, 1999; Center for Science in the Public

Interest, 2004; Geldreich and Bordner, 1970; Konowalchuk and Speirs, 1975; Reina et

al., 2002; Sewell and Farber, 2001; Tauxe et al., 1997).

Many recent outbreaks are representative of a growing trend of large geographically

dispersed outbreaks caused by sporadic or low-level contamination of widely distributed

food items (Hedberg et al., 1999). Most recently, epidemiological and traceability

investigations determined that cases of cyclosporiasis in Pennsylvania were caused by

contaminated snow peas sourced from Guatemala (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention, 2004). Analysis of the surveillance of foodborne pathogens has revealed that

there is a significant increase in reporting of outbreaks in the summer months and this

may be due to greater consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables during the season

(Beuchat, 1998).

Enhancing the safety of agricultural commodities that are also ready-to-eat foods,

particularly fruits and vegetables, presents a major challenge to industry, regulators and

public health officials (Hedberg et al., 1999). Risk management strategies are difficult as

potential pathogen sources in fresh fruit and vegetable production are numerous

(Beuchat, 1998). The source of many human pathogens associated with produce was once

thought to be only of animal origin. Figure 1.3 illustrates the cycle of pathogens from

humans and animals to the environment and how this impacts on produce. Efforts need to

be made all along the farm-to-fork continuum (in production, harvest, processing,

transport, retail and home) to reduce potential food safety risks Researchers have reported

that the use of pathogen-free water for washing will minimize risk of contamination

(Suslow, 1997; Beuchat, 1998). Efficacy of disinfectants varies with commodities,

surface characteristics, temperature and pathogen (Beuchat, 1998). Listeria

monocytogenes is more resistant to disinfectants than Salmonella spp., E. coli O157:H7

and Shigella spp. (Beuchat, 1998). Little is known about parasites and viruses in terms of

pathogen removal or disinfection, though there has been an increase in research in this

area in recent years (Beuchat, 1998). Rafferty and colleagues (2000) demonstrated that E.

coli could spread on farm in plant production cuttings from one contaminated source,

magnifying an outbreak to a whole farm (Rafferty et al., 2000).

Allwood and colleagues (2004) examined 40 items of fresh produce taken from a retail

setting in the U.S. that had been preprocessed (including cut, shredded, chopped or

peeled) at or before the point of purchase. They found fecal contamination indicators (E.

coli, F-specific coliphages, and noroviruses) were present in 48 per cent of samples.

Although it is uncertain where the contamination originated, this suggests that fecal

matter does persist despite the employment of risk management strategies at the

processing sites. Parasites have also been shown to exist on produce at retail. In 2001

researchers tested 475 samples in Norway for Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia

cysts. Six per cent of the samples were positive; this was the first time parasites had been

detected without an outbreak occurring (Robertson and Gjerde, 2001).

Figure 1.3. Cycle of pathogens in fresh fruit and vegetable production

                    (Beuchat, 1996)

Pathogens can contaminate at any point along the food chain, at the farm, packing shed,

processing plant, transportation vehicle, retail store or foodservice operation, and the

home. By understanding where potential problems exist, it is possible to develop

strategies to reduce risks of contamination (Tauxe et al., 1997). Raw produce can become

contaminated with pathogenic and non-pathogenic microorganisms at a number of

different stages, by several means, from production through to consumption. Pre- and

post-harvest risk factors are outlined in Table 1.3. Consequently, methods of growing,

handling, processing, packaging and distribution of fresh produce have received

increased attention in terms of identifying, and minimizing microbiological hazards

Table 1.3. Sources of pathogenic microorganisms for produce (Beuchat and Ryu 1997).




              Irrigation water

              Water used to apply fungicides, insecticides

              Green or inadequately composted manure

              Air (dust)

              Wild and domestic animals (including fowl and reptiles)


              Human handling



              Human handling (workers, consumers)

              Harvesting equipment

              Transport containers (field to packing shed)

              Wild and domestic animals (including fowl and reptiles)


              Air (dust)

              Wash and rinse water

              Sorting, packing, cutting, and further processing equipment


               Transport vehicles

               Improper storage (temperature, physical environment)

               Improper packaging (including new packaging technologies)

               Cross-contamination (order foods in storage, preparation, and display


               Improper display temperature

Factors of pathogen contamination in produce


It is thought that the presence of many pathogens in soil is from historical application or

environmental presence of faeces or untreated sewage (Beuchat and Ryu, 1997).

Pathogens existing in soil or water can be the source of both pre- and post-harvest

contamination. These organisms remain viable until consumption and can be protected by

surface features of the fruit or vegetable. Flesh scarring can provide a suitable

environment for pathogen growth, and decreases the value of employing sanitizers, either

in the packing shed or by consumers (Xuan et al., 2002). E. coli O157 can survive in soil

for over 3 months thus making manure application within three months of harvest risky

for many crops (Kudva et al., 1998; Maule, 2000). E. coli O157 has also been recovered

from aerosol sources such as soil and sawdust up to 42 weeks following contamination by

animals (National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, 2003). Researchers in

Minnesota recently conducted a small-scale comparative study of organic versus

conventionally grown produce. They found that while all samples were virtually free of

pathogens, E. coli was 19 times more prevalent on produce acquired from the organic

farms (Mukherjee et al., 2004). They estimated that this was due to the common use of

manure aged for less than a year. Use of cattle manure was found to be of higher risk as

E. coli was found 2.4 times more often on farms using it than other animal manures

(Mukherjee et al., 2004).

Irrigation and surface run-off waters

Production water can be a source of pathogenic microorganisms that contaminate fruits

and vegetables in the field. Irrigation water containing raw sewage or improperly treated

effluents from sewage treatment plants may contain hepatitis A, Norwalk viruses, or

enteroviruses in addition to bacterial pathogens such as E.coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp.

and Shigella spp. (Beuchat, 1998). Solomon and colleagues (2002a) discovered that the

transmission of E.coli O157:H7 to lettuce was possible through both spray and drip

irrigation. They also found that the pathogen persisted on the plants for 20 days following

application and submerging the lettuce in a solution of 200ppm chlorine did not eliminate

all viable E.coli O157:H7 cells. This suggests that irrigation water of unknown microbial

quality should be avoided in lettuce production (Solomon et al., 2002a). In a follow-up

experiment, Solomon and colleagues (2002b) explored the transmission of E. coli

O157:H7 from manure-contaminated soil and irrigation water to lettuce plants. The

researchers recovered viable cells from the inner tissues of the lettuce plants and found

that the cells migrated to internal locations in plant tissue and were thus protected from

the action of sanitizing agents These experiments demonstrated that E. coli O157:H7 can

enter the lettuce plant through the root system and migrate throughout the edible portion

of the plant (Solomon et al., 2002b). Researchers have described anywhere between 50

and 400ppm concentration of total available chlorine as adequate to eliminate viable

bacteria in water (either wash or irrigation, which is easily measurable with chlorine

strips) (Suslow, 1997). The occurrence of human pathogenic parasites in irrigation waters

used for food crops traditionally eaten raw has been found in the United States and

several Central American countries. The average concentrations in samples from Central

America containing Giardia cysts and Cryptosporidium oocysts were a magnitude of 10

higher suggesting that there may be a greater risk of infection to consumers who come in

contact with or eat these products from South American countries (Thurston-Enriquez et

al., 2002).

The risk of contamination of produce due to Salmonella spp. was found to be increased

when soil and water were present, and that soil and water actually act as reservoirs of the

pathogen. Xuan and colleagues (2002) found that soil and water were factors in the

infiltration of salmonella into the tissues of tomato. This supports the theory that

preharvest contact with contaminated soil or water increased the contamination potential

by certain pathogens and can lead to problems in pathogen removal and the efficacy of



Birds have been identified as a risk factor though it is difficult to quantify the impact.

Pathogenic bacteria are picked up as a result of birds feeding on garbage, sewage, fish, or

lands that are grazed with cattle or have had applications of fresh manure. Control of

preharvest contamination of fruits and vegetables with pathogenic bacteria carried by

wild birds would be difficult to implement and monitor (Beuchat and Ryu, 1997).

Disinfection of produce

Contaminated water used during post-harvest operations can transmit diseases that decay

the produce or adversely affect human health (Sanderson and Spotts, 1995). Chlorine has

generally been used as a disinfectant in wash waters to keep them potable. It is difficult to

set a standard guideline for wash waters to eliminate pathogens that may be present, and

that remain effective over 8 hours of fruit or vegetable washing. Suslow (1997) described

anywhere between 50 and 400 ppm of total available chlorine as adequate to eliminate

viable bacteria in water. Pathogens can be present in the water source (if ground or well

water is used) and can enter wash water on the product itself or through transfer from

workers with poor hygiene. Waxing of fruits may increase the adhesion potential,

decreasing the effectiveness of chlorine inactivation of pathogens; this has been

demonstrated with cucumbers (Reina et al., 2002).

Chlorine has been widely used as a sanitizer to maintain the microbial quality and safety

of fresh-cut produce; however, chlorine can lack efficacy for pathogen reduction,

especially when the fresh-cut processing water contains heavy organic loads (Beuchat et

al., 1998) . Organic matter reacts with chlorine in solution to lower its effective

concentration. During sanitation studies using chlorine spraying, Beuchat and colleagues

(1998) found that tomato disinfection was significantly more effective at 2000 ppm than

at 200 ppm., but was no more effective at 3000 ppm. Inactivation of microorganisms

occurred within 1 minute of the 200 ppm chlorine application. Chlorine has been shown

to be effective in reducing microbial loads in asparagus as well (Simon et al., 2004).

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective, though less practical, method for sanitation of fresh

produce. McWatters et al. (2002a) found that hydrogen peroxide at 40°C for 15 min was

effective in reducing foodborne bacterial pathogens on raw apples. However, the effects

of this treatment on an apple's sensory characteristics were not well explored. Further,

having to treat produce for 15 min is a limitation to the procedure.

Other sanitizing agents for wash water include acified sodium chlorite, however, like

chlorine, organic load in process water significantly decreases effectiveness (Gonzalez et

al., 2004). Acidic electrolyzed water has been demonstrated effective in its frozen form

for the inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 on lettuce as well as a

quality preservation step (Koseki et al., 2004). While combinations of lactic acid and

hydrogen peroxide have also been shown to be effective sanitizers, resulting in a 4-log

reduction of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella Enteritidis at a 60 second exposure time

(Lin et al., 2002). The hydrogen peroxide residue is also not detectable after a cold water

rinse, demonstrating a viable sanitizer alternative with no negative impact on quality (Lin

et al., 2002). Venkitanarayanan and colleagues (2002) demonstrated that apples, oranges

and tomatoes could be sanitized with a solution of 0.5 per cent lactic acid plus 1.5 per

cent hydrogen peroxide for 15 min at 40°C, which could be used at the packing level as

an effective sanitizer. Han and colleagues (2001) found that injured surfaces on green

peppers protected bacteria from treatment, reducing the effectiveness of all sanitizers due

to inaccessibility and a lack of contact time.

Internalization of pathogens by produce

Produce can also be contaminated with pathogens due to internalization of pathogens

both through the root system and flesh or stem scars. Evidence of infiltration of bacteria

into vegetables is reported in several articles (Bartz 1982; Bartz and Showalter 1981;

Burnett et al., 2000; Seo and Frank 1999; Zhuang et al., 1995). Clear evidence exists to

conclude that pathogens can be incorporated into fresh produce. So far, this evidence is

based on laboratory experiments, not actual real world situations. Past research suggests

that pathogens can enter lettuce plants through its roots and end up in the edible leaves.

Small gaps in growing roots through which plant pathogens infect tissue may also allow

E. coli entry (Solomon et al, 2002b; Warriner et al., 2003a, Warriner et al., 2003b).

The uptake of Salmonella spp. by roots of hydroponically grown tomato plants has also

been shown. Within one day of exposure to a high concentration mixture of Salmonella

spp. pathogen cells were found in the hypocotyls, cotyledons, stems and leaves of young

plants; though whether fruit is affected is not known at this time (Guo et al., 2002).


Consumer reduction of pathogens has been explored as a strategy to reduce foodborne

illness from produce. McWatters et al. (2002a) found in a small-scale survey in the U.S.

that many consumers (87 per cent) were concerned about fruit safety, and 53.2 per cent

were willing to try an antibacterial treatment at home. However, 74 per cent would not be

willing to use it if a 15-min heating-and-soaking step were required. McWatters and

colleagues (2002b) found that three-fourths of the participants indicated that they would

be willing to buy precut packaged lettuce that had already been treated at the with an

antibacterial solution, and of these participants, 62.5 per cent indicated that they would be

willing to pay 5 to 10 cents more per bag.

Lusik and colleagues (2003), evaluated chemicals readily available to consumers and

found that commercially available washes could lead to a 99 per cent reduction in

microbial populations though did not decrease viruses. Lin and colleagues (2002), found

that an treatment of lettuce with 2 per cent H2O2 at 50°C for 60 seconds is effective in

initially reducing substantial populations of foodborne pathogens and maintaining high

product quality, though not practical for many consumer settings. Beuchat and colleagues

(1998) found that the spray application of chlorine to raw produce by consumers may be

a suitable, and more convenient, alternative to treatment by dipping or submersion.

On-farm strategies for reducing microbial risks

Methods of growing, handling, processing, packaging and distribution of fresh produce

have received increased attention in terms of identifying, and minimizing microbiological

hazards. The HACCP system, a risk analysis supported strategy, focuses on reducing

evidence-based risks through a formal framework. Identified potential risk points along

the production line are established, controlled and monitored. The concept of HACCP

was developed in the early 1960s by National Aeronautics and Space Administration

(NASA) in conjunction with Natick Laboratories and the Pillsbury Company in an

attempt to supply safe food products to be used in space travel (Stier and Blumenthal,


The current state of risk-based food safety systems suggests that food producers follow

HACCP-based programs, employing the strategy to its limits where applicable

(International Fresh-cut Produce Association, 1997; United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable

Association, 1999; U.S. National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for

Foods Washington, 1999.). Researchers have identified three types of barriers to

successful implementation of HACCP -based programs including: knowledge barriers -

knowing about and understanding the program; attitudinal barriers - agreeing with the

principles of the program and believing their actions will have an impact on food safety;

and, behavioural barriers such as time, resources, money and staff (Luedtke et al., 2003;

Powell et al., 2002). It is not sufficient to provide a set of guidelines and expect growers

to learn and comply with standards. Industry organizations and their producer members

must be provided with ongoing information, a two-way dialogue and support that will

promote the adoption of new practices. Recent research from North Carolina State

University has shown that producers prefer to have on-site visits when learning about

production practices and will implement procedures correctly when shown in terms

specific to their site (Maddox et al., 2003). Communication with employees is an integral

part of an on-farm food safety program. Poor employee hygiene has been responsible for

over 40 per cent of source identified produce-related outbreaks (Bean and Griffin, 1990).

There are a variety of generic and specific guidelines for safe fresh fruit and vegetable

production in North America (for a summary of all on-farm food safety programs see

Appendix 1.1, they are explored in detail in Chapter 4). These programs are generally

based on HACCP and many are also based on the U.S. FDA’s Guide to Minimize

Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables published in 1998.

Basing programs on HACCP principles provides scientific credibility for the guidelines

only. Producers still need to prove they are implementing the guidelines and continually

monitoring all control points, including employee sanitation. The majority of on-farm

food safety programs for fruits and vegetables in Canada are composed solely of these

HACCP-based guidelines with little verification of producer implementation.

It has been suggested that produce farmers follow risk-based guidelines the U. S.

National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (1999) suggests that

that while HACCP should be used, not enough is known about the vectors of

contamination. Programs need to be flexible, but still based on what is known. They also

suggest that a formal HACCP system is too rigid for the farm, but the principles can still

applied to reduce risk. Translating HACCP-based strategies to the farm has resulted in a

set of generic guidelines described as good agricultural practices (GAPs) and include :

      equipment maintenance program

      sanitation program within facilities/packing areas

      end of season cleaning

      washroom facilities

      employee training

      pest control program

      storage maintenance program

      transportation program

      microbiological sampling

(U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 1998; Beuchat and Ryu, 1997; Powell et al., 2002;

Luedtke et al., 2003)

Good agricultural practices form the foundation for on-farm food safety programs and if

employed properly may aid in the reduction of foodborne illnesses. By evaluating current

on-farm food safety programs and designing a template for risk management teams to

follow greater efficacy in the system may be achieved.

Chapter 2. Analysis of media coverage of produce-related food safety and the
construction of recommendations for industry and government risk managers

Hypothesis and objectives:

Risk managers dealing with produce food safety must know and understand news trends

to fit their programs and communication strategies around media reporting. It is

hypothesized that there are trends in the reporting of produce-related outbreaks of human

illness that can be determined by analyzing media coverage compared to actual

documented outbreaks. From the defined trends a template can be created and used in

extension activities to support the need for on-farm food safety programs. The media’s

reach and influence on public perception make it an important tool for risk managers to

proactively use, as well as monitor and react to misinformation if presented.

The objectives of this investigation were to:

      collect and collate information about all produce-related outbreaks from 1995-


      collect and collate news articles from representative sources for the same


      code news articles for date, source, commodity, pathogen and action;

      analyze data for frequencies and common trends in reporting; and

      provide recommendations for on-farm food safety implementation teams.


Public concern and discussion of food safety and food-related risks has increased in

recent years. For North American consumers, most knowledge of food safety issues is

obtained through media outlets. The information gleaned from newspapers leads the

public discussion of food safety issues and contributes to what Covello (1992) described

as the four hit theory of belief formation. Covello argued that opinions are changed into a

concrete belief after an average of four credible confirmed cognitive recognitions within

48 hours of first hearing, either through media or conversation. Once a belief is formed,

individuals rationalize away information that conflicts with that belief. The speed in

identifying and responding to media hits that can negatively affect an organization is

crucial for risk managers dealing with food safety concerns. Government and industry

have effectively achieved dissemination of food safety information to the public through

the media; individuals have claimed to change food-handling practices after exposure to

media reports of foodborne illness outbreaks (United States Department of Agriculture,


Nelkin (1987) reported that media not only reflects public perceptions of an issue but

shapes public perception by telling society what to think about. Dunwoody argues (1993)

that while mass media tells people something about the risk present in a society,

interpersonal channels are used to determine the level of risk to individuals. Shaw and

Martin (1992) suggested that ―…the press does not tell us what to believe, but does

suggest what we collectively may agree to discuss and perhaps act on,‖ thereby moving

the public discourse in whatever direction the media promotes at the time. This suggests

that media influences the four-hit theory by impacting the number of times a new idea is

potentially discussed. Canadians have reported that news media is the primary source of

information for health risks (Slovic et al., 1993). Hoban and Kendall (1992) found that at

least nine out of ten U.S. respondents reported receiving 'a lot'(28 per cent) or 'some' (63

per cent) information about science and technology (including food production risks)

from television, with newspapers next in importance at 80 per cent.

Credibility of a source (a factor in Covello's four hit theory) is difficult to assess in media

studies due to varying definitions of credibility among individuals (Environics Research

Group, 2001). Source credibility confusion and the lack of focus prior to belief formation

may have lead to Johnson and Slovic (1995) to state that media accounts containing

details relating to health effects and exposure pathways to a dangerous chemical had no

apparent effect on risk perceptions. Research on health-related risk communication has

shown that the presentation of risk statistics has little meaning to a public audience, and

that attitudes about how science and technology are controlled are better predictors of

risk levels than are the cost-benefit considerations (Hornig, 1993). Mass media has also

been shown as a powerful tool for providing health risk information and advice to the

public, but there are many sources of misunderstanding and confusion (Jardine and

Hrudy, 1997).

The use of the verbal narrative in media reporting is much more effective risk

communication for an industry to employ as a proactive measure if emerging risks such

as produce-related microbiological outbreaks have occured. Caswell and Johnson (1991)

suggested that there is an increasing trend in the agricultural and food industry, where

firms seek to use regulatory policies and new information about the safety of certain

products to their strategic advantage. This can be strengthened through an effective risk

communication mandate and carried out in mass media.

The effect of health advisories in the media on the public depends upon many factors

including the hazard and the audience. Research on water-related outbreaks suggested

that the more worried people are about a risk, the more likely they are to seek out and pay

attention to warnings in the media (Griffin et al., 1998; Velicier and Knuth, 1994). By

creating a credible history through reporting risk management efforts, in anticipation of a

crisis such as an outbreak, the marginalization of actual food safety issues can be


Ten Eyck (2000) suggested that the unknown and crisis situations provides clusters of

reporting and may result in little media coverage of actual risks. In 1999, the increase in

coverage of the apparent risks and hazards of genetically modified organisms and the use

of biotechnology in the agri-food sector overshadowed other, potentially more harmful,

issues like foodborne illness (Powell, 2000a).

Without effective risk communication (both proactive and reactive) in the event of a

microbial outbreak, the potential for the stigmatization of food is enormous (Powell,

2000b). Further, the effective communication of food safety risk management strategies

can influence public perception and be a factor in changing consumer-purchasing

behaviour. The understanding of the public’s perceptions of food safety can lead to the

development of responsible risk management programs that incorporate an effective

communication component (Powell and Leiss, 1997). This information can also lead to

the development of effective public policies designed to address the concerns and

misgivings of the public with respect to these issues. A risk information vacuum arises

where, over a long period of time, those who are conducting scientific research and

assessments for high-profile risks make no special effort to communicate the results,

regularly and effectively, to the public (Powell and Leiss, 1997).

Media and public policy

Mass media has a role in facilitating communication among policymakers, scientific,

industrial and other relevant groups and the general public (Durant and Lindsey, 2000).

While each of these groups monitors, and is monitored by, the media, each also tries to

influence and at the same time is influenced by the media. Protess and colleagues (1987)

found that when examining the impact of reporting on toxic waste controversies, media

disclosures had limited effects on the general pubic but were influential in changing the

attitudes of policy makers. This trend was also was seen in Toronto in 2000, when media

coverage of failures in the restaurant inspection system led to the implementation of the

DineSafe restaurant inspection disclosure system (Cribb, 2000; Toronto Public Health,


The exact effect of media on public policy is not static but rather depends on a number of

factors. According to Durant and Lindsey (2000), the extent to which the policy process

is influenced by the media is partially determined by how sensitive policymakers are to

what the media is saying about an issue. This sensitivity is in turn influenced by

policymakers' perceptions of whose opinions relevant media articles represent. Further,

the public can exert pressure on the political process via the media directly when public

opinion resonates with media coverage on a particular issue as well as indirectly through

the opinions of other interest groups (Durant and Lindsey, 2000).

Food safety reporting

Media coverage of food safety situations have been increasing since 1986, and the

coverage of emerging or reoccurring issues is ubiquitous (Ten Eyck, 2000). It appears as

though there is a dedicated space for the coverage of food safety issues. whether

physical, microbial or chemical, and this space is increasing (Powell et al, 2004). Crises

situations create clusters of coverage but over time also increase the overall media space

dedicated to the overall food safety coverage (Figure 2.1). Food safety articles appearing

in representative sources (New York Times, National Post, Globe and Mail, Kitchener-

Waterloo Record and Associated Press) have increased in clusters and resulted in an

overall increase each year since 1993 (Powell et al, 2004).

Figure 2.1. Coverage of North American microbial food safety issues in representative

sources from 1996-2003 (Powell et al., 2004).

Durant and Lindsey (2000) suggested that the influence of media is dependant on the

issue being covered. Media attempts to raise issues or set agendas for public debate are

influenced by how well those issues resonate with wider public concerns. Where there is

little or no resonance, media coverage remains low key and has little influence. However,

where there is great resonance, media coverage of an issue can escalate rapidly and have

considerable influence. This may explain why, in some situations, media can contribute

to the amplification of public risk perceptions. A 1993 outbreak of an emerging pathogen,

E. coli O157:H7, resulted in the deaths of four children and was traced to Jack-in-the-

Box, a fast-food restaurant chain. The subsequent coverage of the pathogen became

more prominent in representative media sources (Figure 2.2). The coverage of this

outbreak contributed to E. coli being described in popular culture as hamburger disease

and also led to the revision of USDA guidelines and consumer education materials to

recommend that processed beef be cooked at a higher temperature to kill E. coli

(Schlosser, 2002).

Figure 2.2. Coverage of E. coli O157:H7 in representative sources, 1982 -1997 (Powell,


The context within which scientific and health issues are reported also have an effect on

perceptions of safety. Media coverage which addresses only technical issues and ignores

political and public sentiment may slip into an ideograph, or slogan-like, terminology

(Altimore, 1982). These ideographs may be mistaken as technical statements although

they are used in an attempt to simplify and assure, but conceal values, motives and ideals.

An example of this could be the iteration of the "only one cow" mantra by politicians

following the 2003 Canadian bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) discovery.

Instead of stating facts, a sound-byte ideograph was creating the potential for further

erosion of public confidence if an additional case had been traced to the Canadian system

shortly after. Nineteen months later, two more cases of BSE in Canada have led to the

potential for further restrictions on exports to the U.S., though it is maybe too early to

view any domestic public confidence losses (Brethour and Harding, 2005). By

examining reporting trends of food safety issues a template of what affects coverage can

be developed and used in risk management situations.


Article collection and coding

A database of print media articles (n=299) relating to microbiological safety of produce

were compiled daily from five representative North American newspapers and news wire

outlets from January 1995 to December 2003 through census sampling. The news

sources where articles were collected from were:

      Associated Press

      Globe and Mail

      Kitchener-Waterloo Record

      National Post

      New York Times

The science and medicine section of the U.S. based Associated Press (AP) wire service

was searched daily and the appropriate stories retrieved (AP is available as part of the

basic service of the electronic information provider Compuserve). The daily North

American edition of the New York Times (Times) was used because, as noted by Nelkin

(1987), this publication is considered critically important for setting agendas in the media

world. The Globe and Mail (Globe) as well as the National Post (Post) are recognized as

agenda-setting outlets in Canadian media. The fifth source included was the Kitchener-

Waterloo, Ontario Record (Record) to represent a local, medium-circulation newspaper.

To ensure comprehensive coverage, hard copy editions of the Times, Globe, Post and

Record were also reviewed. These media outlets were deemed representative of the

newspaper coverage of medical, food and health issues because of historical agenda-

setting effects and also because of the increasing homogeneity amongst news outlets

(Powell et al., 1999; Powell and Harris, 1997). Manual searches of these media outlets

were conducted to compliment electronic searches because electronic indices and the use

of keywords can be inconsistent, unreliable and can lead to erroneous results (Neuzil,

1994; Zollars, 1994).

Outbreak records

A database of all documented North American produce-related outbreaks from 1995-

2003 was also compiled to compare the representative source reporting to actual

occurrences. Records of outbreaks were culled from peer-reviewed journals, U.S. and

Canadian (federal, state/provincial and regional) government reporting systems and local

media articles. The database of outbreaks identified by these searches can be found in

Appendix 2.1. For the purpose of this research, outbreaks that are included are those

where the faltering of an on-farm risk management program could have been a causative

factor of the illnesses. Because of the lack of data surrounding outbreak investigations

only outbreaks that were linked positively linked to causes other than on-farm

contamination (such as incorrect handling at the retail or consumer level) by

epidemiological studies were not included.

Data analysis

Individual articles were evaluated using content analysis techniques. Coding categories

were initially developed using an open coding method, where researchers view trends and

define variables (Table 2.1). Subsequently, a final set of categories was established for

use during the coding procedure through merging similar categories. Each story collected

through these methods was tracked in a database to identify specific characteristics that

could be utilized in further study of the data. During the coding process, individual

articles were used as the unit of analysis and were coded by a researcher based on

categories defined below:

Table 2.1. Coding variables used for media analysis of produce-related articles

Variable                                          Values

Quantitative data

Commodity                                         Melon, Tomato, Lettuce, etc.

Date                                              Month, year

Location                                          Canada, US, International

Source                                              Times, AP, KW, Globe, Post

Pathogen                                            E. coli, Salmonella spp., hepatitis A,


Qualitative data

Prominence                                          Secondary, Primary

Action                                              Management, Outbreak, Consumer


Producer cited                                      Yes, No

Prior to initial it was assumed that defined commodity and pathogen themes would be

present for articles; however, many articles included secondary subject messages

constituting as little as a single sentence (or perhaps as much as a paragraph) about other

food safety issues within the article. As a result, prominence of produce food safety was

added to the coding scheme. Article subjects were recorded as being primary (where

produce safety, or outbreak reporting was the focus) or secondary (where the article focus

was on general food safety the risk of a pathogen where produce was mentioned briefly

as a vehicle) in terms of prevalence in the article. If an article was about a specific

outbreak it was categorized as primary; if the item was a general message about pathogen

infection rates, it was categorized as secondary.

From some of these categories, quantitative assessments were conducted and compiled

into graphic representations found in results. Observations were also made from the

articles that appeared during the given time period and were examined for reporting

trends. These qualitative data units were examined twice to define potential trends and

then confirm them.

A third sampling and the recoding of the full body of articles occurred upon completion

of the project to establish the study reliability. An intra-coder reliability value of 97 per

cent for prominence and 96 per cent for action were obtained for this study through the

tracking of changes and comparison to initial coding.

Quantitative analysis of media data included frequencies for each of the codes listed

above, distributions over the period of the study for each of the codes and both of these

paired with actual outbreaks. Analysis was used to observe what areas of an incident

were reported in a primary article so on-farm food safety programs can focus risk

communication strategies on them.


Produce-related food safety risks and outbreaks have been prevalent over the last century,

but media coverage of produce food safety in representative sources did not begin until

1996. In 1995 there were 16 recorded North American outbreaks, though there were no

articles reporting them. It was not until a Cyclospora cayatenensis outbreak in 1996

initially traced to California strawberries (and then correctly implicating imported

Guatemalan raspberries) that media articles began to appear. Though there had been

large-scale outbreaks prior to the 1996 raspberry-linked incident none of them had been

as widespread, a total of 1, 465 individuals were made ill in 14 US states and Ontario.

Outbreak reporting increased from 1995 to 1999, where the number of incidents peaked

at 71 (Figure 2.3). Articles covering produce food safety issues peaked in 1998 with the

flourish of two other berry-linked outbreaks and declined until 2001. Reported outbreaks

also declined following 1999 and have continued to stay almost constant, although

produce related-articles have steadily increased. This increase appears to be due to the

increased interest in food safety issues by the public, a concentration on biosecurity

following terrorism events of September 11, 2001 in the U.S. and the heightened

awareness of different regulatory regimes in developing countries that provide imports to

Canada and the U.S.

Figure 2.3. Produce-related media coverage 1995-2003

The initial media interest in the 1996 and subsequent 1997 raspberry outbreaks stretched

into 1999 with coverage policy-related, investigation and on-farm management articles

appearing. This outbreak appears to have also resulted in secondary article types for

produce, whereas articles mentioning unknown outbreaks include produce as possible

vehicles. Consumer-directed messages suggesting that food preparers wash their produce

in the home were also sparse prior to 1996 (Figure 2.4).

Figure 2.4. Primary and secondary produce-related articles from representative sources


Following the 1996 (Cyclospora cayetanesis;1,465 ill; 21 U.S. states, 2 Canadian

provinces) and the 1997 (Cyclospora cayetanesis; 1,012 ill; 14 U.S. states, 1 Canadian

province) raspberry outbreaks, the number of illnesses resulting from an outbreak did not

appear to affect the coverage of an outbreak, though the threshold of 1,000 cases has not

been surpassed since. It appears that after an initial outbreak generates coverage, a

subsequent outbreak will achieve similar distinction even if the numbers of affected are

lower. A 1997 (256 ill) Hepatitis A outbreak traced to strawberries resulted in 14

articles. Subsequent incidents in 2002 where food handlers at three grocery stores, with

no associated illnesses, generated 19 articles, signifying a higher sensitivity to reporting

the illness.

Below 1,000, illnesses alone do not dictate the extensiveness of reporting of an outbreak.

Although the average number of ill per outbreak has declined since 2000, there was an

increase seen in the average number of stories reported for each outbreak (Figure 2.5). A

1996 (650 ill) Salmonella outbreak associated with alfalfa sprouts generated no

representative articles, while the raspberry outbreaks dominated the national media. In

1998, although there were 2, 288 ill associated with 32 outbreaks representative media

did not report them, printing only follow-up stories on prior outbreaks from 1997 and

1998, including one (E. coli O157:H7 and lettuce, 61 ill) that had only been mentioned in

one article prior when the outbreak took place (Figure 2.6). This outbreak was revisited

by the Times in a series of produce-related food safety articles bringing more prominence

to on-farm strategies to reduce risk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also

released a set of guidelines for good agricultural practices that were designed following

the 1996 raspberry outbreaks. The trend of not reporting the majority of outbreaks

returned in 2000, with relatively few outbreaks occurring. Factors such as the stigma

(risks associated with certain commodities) and the perception of sufficient management

strategies may have contributed to this.

Figure 2.5. Average number of articles on outbreaks and produce-related illness averages


A 2001 outbreak of Shigella flexneri (886 ill) associated with tomatoes at 3 restaurants in

a New York City suburb was not reported in the representative sources. The outbreak

investigation was linked to just one restaurant site initially and it was not until a month

following that a causative vehicle was announced. Situations such as this, where an

unknown outbreak occurs may not be covered by national outlets because it may be

deemed that the story is incomplete without a cause and by the time it is found it is no

longer news. Many of the outbreaks that occurred in years of underreporting in

representative sources fit this profile (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.6. Total produce-related illnesses (actual documented outbreaks) and illnesses

covered in representative sources

Salad has been the most linked vehicle for foodborne illnesses within the produce-related

outbreaks (Figure 2.7). This is contrasted with the most reported vehicle: unpasteurized

juice and cider (24 per cent of articles, Figure 2.8). The most reported and largest

beverage-related outbreak occurred in October 1996, when a 16-month-old drank

Smoothie juice manufactured by Odwalla Inc. The juice contained unpasteurized apple

cider and was contaminated E. coli O157:H7. She died several weeks later; 64 others

became ill in several western U.S. states and British Columbia. The 1996 and 1997

raspberry outbreaks and green onions outbreaks linked to a hepatitis a outbreak in 2003

combined with juice and cider made up 65 per cent of produce-related articles linked to a

specific vehicle. The management of the hazard appears to drive the presence of stories,

linked with the newness or unfamiliarity of the risk.

As each of the selected articles were chosen from only the produce-related safety

database, the tone of the articles was not explored explicitly. By definition, selected

articles have a negative tone with respect to safety of the products (outbreak or risks

related to produce were criteria of selection). Not all articles had a fully negative tone

with respect to the management practices of producers. All articles mentioning

management actions by producer groups were though, reactive. No articles proactively

promoted the risk management strategy employed by producers, if one was in place.

Figure 2.7. Actual documented produce outbreaks 1995-2003 (N=188)

Figure 2.8. Produce outbreaks reported in representative media 1995-2003 (N=186)


Factors affecting the profile of media-making articles

Large outbreaks; illnesses

Only two outbreaks have been larger than the 1,000 cases during the sample period (1996

and 1997; Cyclospora cayatenensis, raspberries) and both contributed to defining how

media covers produce-related food safety issues. Of the 21 outbreaks ranging from 100

to 999 cases only 8 have appeared in the representative sources. Death also appears to be

a factor, especially when children are involved.

Widespread outbreaks; more than one cluster of illnesses

If the outbreak occurs in more than one geographic location, it is more likely to be

reported by representative sources. In 1996, two outbreaks associated with fresh sprouts

in California (650 ill from Salmonella montevideo and 150 ill from E. coli O157:H7)

received no national coverage; the 1996 raspberry outbreak, which is similar in size but

occurred in 14 states and Ontario, was reported on extensively. The much reported 2003

Hepatitis A outbreak linked to green onions was also linked to three other smaller, but

similar outbreaks that occurred a month prior.

Imported produce

If an outbreak is linked to a non-domestic source the likelihood of coverage is increased.

This appears to be magnified following heightened awareness of the potential for the U.S.

food supplies vulnerability to terrorism acts. Following 2001, the coverage of controls

over imported producers farming practices and links to a safe food supply have increased.

Regulators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of

Agriculture actively leave the U.S. to inspect farms suspected of being the source of an

outbreak. This has occurred extensively with Mexican melons and green onions. The

same information can not be determined from Canadian sources about Canadian

government counterparts.

Management practices can be employed to contain/reduce exposure

In the focus on unpasteurized juices as a source of produce-related outbreaks

management practices factor prominently within coverage. The use of fallen apples and

lack of pasteurization are reported as risk-enhancements and are questioned by media

sources. Irrigation and wash water -linked outbreaks were also reported on extensively

suggesting that if a farmer or processor has the ability to mitigate risks and does not there

will likely be more coverage. The very nature of these outbreaks affects the first factor of

a widespread outbreak as well. This may explain the lack of focus on norovirus

outbreaks, which usually appear in one local cluster, signifying a server or preparer.

Complete story of investigation

When rapid and clear link between illnesses and products appear, it appears that the

likelihood of a large amount of media coverage is increased. An unknown causative

vehicle or contamination route does not make a good article. Early on in produce-related

risk reporting (such as a 1995 outbreak with sprouts), months would pass after the actual

outbreak before an article appeared. Conversely, in 2003, it was two days after a cluster

of Hepatitis A illnesses appeared that the probable source was reported.

Increased surveillance and risk communication on behalf of regulators has changed in

those eight years. In 1996, although Guatemalan raspberries were eventually implicated,

the media cited California strawberries in attempt to complete the story, which was

missing a definitive link to what had caused the outbreak (investigation developments

was reported into 1998). There were five articles published that specifically state that

strawberries were the likely cause of the Cyclospora illnesses. After confirmation of

raspberries being positively linked with the outbreak, there were still reports of grocers

discontinuing the sale of strawberries and continuing to sell raspberries as belief

formation had probably already occurred. It was reported that this cost the California

growers $15 to 20 million in four weeks (Meyer, 1996).

Stigma of established pathogens/vehicles

If a type of produce has been established as being a risky food it is likely that any

subsequent outbreak coverage will be amplified. Following the 1996 E. coli O157:H7

Odwalla outbreak where 65 became ill including a child, a similar outbreak in 1997 with

just six confirmed illnesses appeared in representative sources. Following the initial

outbreak, Odwalla exercised exemplary risk communication. Odwalla officials responded

in a timely and compassionate fashion, co-operating with authorities after a link was first

made on Oct. 30, 1996 between their juice and an illness which was eventually linked to

65 people in four U.S. states and B.C. (Odwalla, 1996). Though reacting compassionately

to the situation the company failed to acknowledge the existence of risk, let alone efforts

to reduce levels of risk. Odwalla did not test for E. coli because they believed that the

acidity of the apple juice would prohibit pathogen growth and revealed that they simply

did not know the existing risk potential (Powell, 2000a). This perceived mismanagement

promoted the stigma that unpasturized beverages were risky in general, amplifying the

impact of a subsequent outbreak. A similar trend was seen with Hepatitis A linked to

strawberries in 1997 and 1998.

Recommendations for on-farm food safety implementation teams

Employ proactive risk communication strategies

An on-farm food safety program should include a proactive risk communication

component to influence belief formation of consumers and regulators. This

communication program should be in conjunction with other programs and make

reference to local, national and international guidelines.

Risk communication research suggests that being proactive about potential risks

associated with specific foods should be discussed with consumers, with mention of risk

mitigation strategies. It is difficult to gain trust and appear credible following a crisis

situation such as an outbreak. The head of the California Strawberry Commission stated,

―Once people are warned to avoid your product, it’s awful hard to tell them it’s OK‖

(Golden, 1996). Ontario growers faced similar problems and were not associated with

the outbreak. One Ontario grower told customers that his berries were from Ontario and

they were safe the reaction he would get was ― they think I lie to them‖ (Altman, 1996).

Growers should also be the source of statements about industry actions, not regulators.

Farmers have been identified as a credible source for food safety information; yet rarely

appear in articles surrounding produce-related issues.

Employing an effective risk communication program can reduce or even eliminate a

negative article in representative sources. A 2002 Salmonella outbreak linked to

tomatoes consumed at a Disney theme park (141 ill) received coverage in only two

articles. It is believed that the Disney Corporation, with a strong risk communication

program, provided information about food safety practices of employees, suppliers and

answered media questions before media articles appeared.

Promote the use and expansion of surveillance and inspection programs

Discrepancies between actual outbreak statistics and media coverage is a problem for risk

communicators and implementers of on-farm food safety programs, as belief formation

factors are not provided with all the information. In Canada, a factor influencing media

coverage is the poor public dissemination of surveillance program results and outbreak

investigations. It appears that media reports only outbreaks linked to U.S. clusters as the

Canadian regulatory regime is attempting to protect its producers from poor media

coverage. This can lead to a problem of public trust if there is an outbreak (not having

outbreaks reported to influence the four-hit theory can be counter-productive) but also

can have a positive impact and heighten awareness of produce-related risks in general. A

credible, open and responsive regulatory system is a key ingredient in managing risk.

U.S. media coverage of foodborne illness outbreaks suggests that officials with the Food

and Drug Administration or Centre for Disease Control are very aggressive in releasing

information. They appear to view outbreaks as puzzles, wanting to complete the story.

Credible and complete good agricultural practices management programs

Supported by previously discussed trends, a Hepatitis A outbreak associated with the

Canadian fresh-fruit and vegetable producers is more likely to become a large story. This

should be a concern for farmers who exporting Ontario produce farmers as many

seasonal workers are from countries where Hepatitis A is endemic. An employee could

shed the virus without any symptoms. Handwashing and equipment maintenance would

be the only barriers to a potential large-scale outbreak. This situation would likely

devastate an industry. Having an on-farm food safety program which concentrates on all

aspects of growing and transportation including employee-training programs would

strengthen the position of the industry and provide a proactive risk communication


Research limitations

Examining the media’s coverage of produce-related food safety via media analysis has

limitations. Evans and Priest (1995) noted that the Times and the Globe are targeted

towards an elite audience that may not be representative of the wider public.

Nevertheless, the stories that appear tend to set the news agenda, which leads to the

stories that will be told and in turn, the discussions people will have on the presented


A one-coder methodology was used here for consistency and to reduce value judgments

but an additional coder would solidify the reliability of the research. As the research did

not include the tone or other subjective factors in reporting the analysis this is not as

much of a problem as it could be in reporting a media analysis of other food safety issues

such as BSE or biotechnology.

The researcher and researcher's group have affected the reporting of produce food safety

items by contributing opinion articles to three of the representative sources (Appendix

2.2). This was carried out to increase the public dialogue about food safety and produce-

related issues. Of the 299-article population, nine fall into this category (3 per cent).

Chapter 3. An internal evaluation of a risk management strategy: the Ontario
Greenhouse Vegetable Growers' (OGVG) on-farm food safety program

Hypothesis and objectives

With the increase in demands for on-farm food safety strategies for fresh fruit and

vegetable growers it is necessary to continuously evaluate their effectiveness and adjust

program specifics. It is hypothesized that implementation trends such as cost, information

delivery preferences and communication strategies are common for participants of the

OGVG on-farm food safety program. These trends can then be used to evaluate program

effectiveness and applied to other similar strategies.

The objectives of this chapter are to:

      construct a illustrative case study of producers and their attitudes towards an on-

       farm food safety program and implementation;

      explore OGVG participant's implementation trends through multiple data sources;


      determine successful and failure aspects of the OGVG program implementation


Raw produce can become contaminated with pathogenic and non-pathogenic

microorganisms at a number of different stages, from the farm through to consumption.

Consequently, methods of growing, handling, processing, packaging and distribution of

fresh produce have received increased attention in terms of identifying, and minimizing

microbiological hazards. The produce industry has now focused on developing and

implementing programs aimed at preventing foodborne pathogens. Complete hazard

analysis critical control point (HACCP) systems cannot be implemented in fresh produce

operations, as there is no definite kill step for pathogens, such as pasteurization. Instead

these HACCP-based systems help to identify and reduce the potential of microbial

contamination along the entire production and distribution process. A successful program

helps to avoid recall campaigns, adverse publicity, and food scares, all of which can end

in reduced sales and/or profits.

Each food producer in conjunction with the other participants in a farm-to-the-fork food

safety system has a responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. This preventive,

proactive role played by the produce industry is a safeguard for the health and safety of


Researchers have identified three types of barriers to successful implementation of

HACCP -based programs including: knowledge barriers -- knowing about and

understanding the program; attitudinal barriers -- agreeing with the principles of the

program and believing that actions will have an impact on food safety; and, financial

barriers such as allocating resources including time, money and staff. It is not enough to

provide a set of guidelines and expect growers to comply with standards. Industry

organizations and their producer members must be provided with ongoing information, a

multi-dimensional dialogue of learning and support that may promote the adoption of

new practices. Recent research has shown that producers prefer to have on-site visits

when learning about production practices and will implement procedures correctly when

taught in terms specific to their site. (Maddox et al., 2003). On-farm food safety programs

should not waste money by putting producers in classrooms; funds need to be invested

into effective on-site visits.

Coaching producers through on-site visits provides the program requirements in specific

terms on individual farms, and encourages participants to ensure they are actively

implementing, monitoring and maintaining their own on-farm food safety program. Visits

should be on-going and occur on a schedule, ideally at least once or more per season

(Luedtke et al., 2003). During these visits, participants would receive materials for their

operations such as hand sanitizers and signage; receive training materials for farm

workers; have food safety put into terms that are specific to their site and; be provided

with a forum where potential risk issues can be discussed.

It is not enough to simply provide producers with a manual of food safety guidelines and

expect full implementation and documentation (Powell et al., 2002; Luedtke et al., 2003).

This research builds upon early evaluation of on-farm food safety programs found that

simple manuals were not effective in overcoming the barriers to implementing the on-

farm food safety program. Workable food safety programs must provide individual

support to growers. A food safety co-ordinator can provide the one-on-one support that is

needed and evaluation of such programs has indicated that this one-on-one support is one

effective tool to overcome these barriers to implementation.

Communication of program goals and risk reduction practices with employees is an

integral part of an on-farm food safety program. Agricultural employees are the frontline

barrier for food safety, and providing program ownership to them by setting a good

hygiene example, providing effective training and passively posting current food safety

information shows employees that it is important and can improve an employee's

practices. An external communications network is necessary to support the program

proactively, as well as reactively. Following food safety issues such as outbreaks or

potential contamination incidents, representatives need to be ready to respond to public

questions through the media.

OGVG industry profile

Greenhouse vegetable production started in Ontario shortly after World War II. The

centre of the Ontario greenhouse industry, with 145 producers within 25 km, is

Leamington, Ontario. The Leamington industry was started by a number of immigrant

families mostly from Italy and Holland, many of whom still operate farms today. Other

greenhouses are located across the province (55 producers), with many clustered in the

Niagara area (Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, 2004).

The industry uses hydroponic growing technology whereby plants are grown in water

with synthetic fertilizer substrates in either a glass or plastic greenhouse. These

greenhouses operate up to 12 months of the year, with the majority of producers growing

for 10 months (February to November). The Ontario greenhouse industry has grown

from 162 hectares in 1995 to just under 446 hectares with an increase in farm-gate value

from $65 million in 1993 to $350 million in 2002 (Figure 3.1), of which approximately

80 per cent of the tomato yield, and 55 per cent of cucumbers are exported to the U.S.

(Hoffman, 2003). The average size of an OGVG member facilities is 2 hectares.

OGVG members can have a combination of roles for the industry (member role

distribution is found in Table 3.1) Roles are defined as:

      Grower. A member who strictly produces either tomatoes or cucumbers;

      Packer. A member who packs his/her own product, or others'; and

      Shipper. A member who is responsible for marketing already packed product and

       selling it to wholesalers or retailers.

Table 3.1. Roles of OGVG members, 2003.

Role                                           Number of members

Grower                                         101

Grower/Packer                                  28

Grower/Packer/Shipper                          71

Packer/Shipper *                               7

Shipper *                                      16

* Non-growing roles are not voting members, but are licensed by OGVG

In a typical Ontario operation, vegetables are grown on plastic mulch or in rock wool

bags (very few still grow in the soil), stacked, and strung up to avoid contact with the

ground. The climate inside the greenhouse is carefully controlled to achieve uniform

growing patterns. The plants are fertilized by drip irrigation and workers handpick the

product into sterile crates for transportation to a packing shed (or packed on the premise).

Tomatoes are placed into a dump tank (large stainless steel tank filled with water) for

washing. The importance of water quality maintenance in post-harvest operations has

been recognized, and the washing of tomatoes has been found to promote the separation

of cells adhering to the surface of tomatoes, resulting in bacterial removal in rinse water.

Cluster tomatoes are picked with the vine attached and usually have five to six smaller

tomatoes per cluster. They are hand cut and placed in the box for sale immediately.

Therefore, they are not typically washed and minimally handled to ensure the tomatoes

remained intact on the vine. Cucumbers also remain unwashed, to prolong shelf life and

are wrapped in plastic.

OGVG is the largest (by hectarage) constituent of the North American greenhouse

industry. OGVG represents 42 per cent of all greenhouse vegetable production in North

America (Figure 3.2). As a proactive measure to meet potential export demands and to

protect their domestic markets, OGVG developed their own on-farm food safety program

in the summer of 1998. From 1998-2003, OGVG employed up to three food safety co-

ordinators with a mandate to visit all OGVG members and act as an extension resource

for any food safety issues that may arise, within the organization and externally.

OGVG members are located throughout Ontario in two separate Districts. District One is

the Leamington region while District Two encompasses the remainder of growers across

Ontario. District One growers primarily use treated, municipal water for all aspects in

their operations while District Two growers use a variety of water sources such as wells,

ponds and reservoirs. The majority of District One growers ship their product to large

sheds for packing while most District Two growers pack within their own operations.

Tomatoes are primarily washed in dump tanks in District One and primarily packed dry

in District Two. There was no differentiation between the two Districts for on-site visits,

wall checklists, manuals or any other information given to the growers for the program.

OGVG on-farm food safety program summary

OGVG has partnered with the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph on the

reduction of food safety risks since 1998, implementing Canada's first producer-driven

on-farm food safety program. The program has focused on increasing participants' food

safety knowledge, changing attitudes and impacting practices that reduces risk in

production and enhances the safety of the commodity. The on-farm food safety program

is comprised of a set of comprehensive, scientifically credible, HACCP-based guidelines

(Powell et al., 2002; Luedtke et al., 2003). Verification through on-site visits and

microbiological sampling demonstrates that standards are being met while open dialogue

with growers ensures the program is practical and provides growers with recent evidence-

based food safety information.

The OGVG on-farm food safety program is HACCP-based. Risk-reduction strategies

focus on water (source and wash water), equipment (picking crates, boxes, contact

surfaces), transportation, general sanitation within the operation, and worker hygiene

(hand washing facilities, etc.) while a food safety co-ordinator is available to growers and

packers as a resource 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Co-ordinators provide producers

with all documentation material while conducting regular on-site visits throughout the

production cycle. The co-ordinator does not act as an inspector but as support for the

grower so that together they can implement the program accurately and effectively.

HACCP-based systems for fresh fruits and vegetables help to identify potential

contamination sources along the entire production/distribution process with each set of

guidelines being commodity specific. The OGVG on-farm food safety program

guidelines were researched, designed and composed particularly for the OGVG

operations (OGVG, 1999). OGVG guidelines were designed based on specifications set

out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. Food and Drug Administration,

1998) because of the dependency on the U.S. market and are explored in Chapter 4. A

manual was distributed to each member through the mail, in 1999, and subsequent on-site

visits were used to determine the effectiveness of the guidelines in the manual.

Following the distribution of the manual, the on-site visits (similar to extension visits in

the U.S.) were established and were found to be essential to such a program to allow any

problems or questions to be addressed immediately (Powell et al., 2002). Subsequent to

manual distribution a wall checklist to reinforce documentation was distributed (Luedtke

et al., 2003). The wall checklist was prepared using all areas outlined in the manual,

however, a simpler, more comprehensive layout was developed and if growers required

more detailed information they would refer to the manual. The checklist was presented

to a number of producers in the winter of 2001 and comments and suggestions were used

to design the final draft. The checklists were printed in booklets of 12, one sheet (17‖X

24‖) for each month of the year they were producing (Luedtke et al., 2003).

Components of the OGVG on-farm food safety program

Documentation of practices

Program participants use a commodity specific manual as a reference guide and

document their food safety practices on a daily basis. Each month participants assess their

facilities and record the tasks that are being carried out to address the safety of the

product. Areas of emphasis include worker hygiene, facility/equipment maintenance, pest

control, and transportation and general site sanitation.

On-site visits

On-site visits by food safety co-ordinators provide support with the program

requirements and ensure that participants are actively implementing, monitoring and

maintaining the on-farm food safety program. Visits are on going and occur regularly

throughout the season. Visits involved a quick introduction of the production facilities,

with the goal of understanding the individual site so practices can be adjusted to reduce

risk. Interviews for this research project took place following on-site visits (Chapman et

al., 2003). During these visits participants receive materials for their operations such as

hand-washing signs to aid in the production of safe food. Visits involve a quick

introduction of the production facilities, with the goal of understanding the individual site

so practices can be adjusted to reduce risk. Follow-up visits focus on the monitoring of

food safety performance within the operation and updating practices where necessary.

During on-site visits the food safety co-ordinator distributed new materials including new

documentation templates, viewed current documentation, made recommendations of how

to improve documentation and, if required, sat down and filled out the documentation

with the grower (Table 3.2). If available, fruit and vegetable samples were also taken

during the visit for microbial testing (at the time of sampling the food safety co-ordinator

explained why the samples were taken and what the results meant). The only time

samples were not taken was when farms had finished their growing season, as was the

case for two farms visited. At the conclusion of the visit the food safety co-ordinator

provided contact information to each grower and explained that they were available at

anytime for any food safety related inquiries or issues.

Table 3.2. Distribution of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Grower program materials and
visits 2001-2003

Materials                             Number distributed/occurred
Handwashing signs

        2001/2002                     525

        2003                          360

OGVG hygiene posters

        2003                          218

Training sessions

        2002                          8

        2003                          18

Training videos distributed

        2003                          25

On site visits

        2001                          161

        2002                          75

        2003                          171

Researchers have demonstrated that the practices of food workers can contribute

significantly to foodborne illness outbreaks (Bean and Griffin, 1990). These findings

suggest that improving food safety knowledge on the farm is a necessary step in

improving on-farm food safety overall. In the summer of 2003, members of the Food

Safety Network developed a training video intended to raise awareness of safe food

handling amongst OGVG employees. The video was shown to 50 workers and its

effectiveness was evaluated using a pre- and post-questionnaire, assessing worker food

safety knowledge before, and after, viewing the video (Mathiasen et al., 2004). Focus

groups were also used to help the researchers achieve an understanding of how the video

was received amongst workers and what improvements should be made. Although the

training video only improved overall worker knowledge by 2 per cent, a significant

increase in knowledge occurred for specific topics covered within the video. After

viewing the video, workers demonstrated a significantly improved understanding of

germs and where they come from, hand sanitizers, and unsafe food handling. The focus

groups demonstrated that the video was easy to understand, was relevant to the intended

audience, and was a good reminder of the proper way to handle food. Ninety-six per cent

of the 217 OGVG members participating in the food safety program have been visited

and are reported to be actively participating in the program to some extent.

Microbiological sampling

Water source (in the case of non-municipal), dump tank or wash water and produce

samples were also taken during the visits and sent to accredited third party laboratories

for bacterial testing. The samples tested for target organisms included coliform, E. coli

and Salmonella spp. The results provide an idea of whether or not that member is in

compliance with the standards set by OGVG and allow for rapid identification and

resolution of any problems in the operation. If results or review of the documentation

indicate the program participant is not adhering to the program follow-up visits were

conducted to help the grower/packer overcome barriers to program compliance.


Case study data sources

Case studies are used in many settings as a research strategy including policy and

organizational management studies as they strengthen reliability of examined trends. The

research style is focused on employing multiple sources of evidence to corroborate

potential trends. This methodology was used in the evaluation to eliminate potentially

misleading inferences about program effectiveness and impact. The benefit of using this

method is that there will not be any time wasted on asking questions about efficiency

where it is felt that the results are not important. It was desirable to employ the opinions

of as many stakeholders as possible within the grower group who are actual beneficiaries.

External evaluation and program comparison are explored in Chapter 4.

The importance for this evaluation is placed on the repeatability and the completeness of

the final product. The use of a design as close to a truly experimental evaluation is to the

benefit of the accuracy of the task. With the information that is available it was felt that

a quasi-experimental design be employed (where comparison groups are used, when

available) with the inclusion of surveys from other grower groups.

The use of case studies is appropriate in this situation because they can easily concentrate

on meaning through verbal narratives and observation rather than through numbers

(McMillan, 1992). This method is most suitable for the examination in this context as it

allows description of the chronological events of an organization or program. Yin (1994)

suggests that a case study is used to investigate a contemporary phenomenon within its

real-life context when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly

evident by utilizing multiple sources of evidence. Illustrative case studies have been used

both in evaluations and historical food safety situations in the past (Datta, 1990; Kastner

and Pawsey, 2002a; Kastner and Pawsey, 2002b).

Microbiological analysis methodology

Different tomato varieties and cucumber samples were collected from individual packing

sheds affiliated with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetables Growers in the spring and fall of

2001. The samples were collected during scheduled appointments. Samples were

randomly selected from crates before processing or at the end of the packing line and

samples from each shed were considered one lot (10 tomatoes or 10 cucumbers).

Sampling plans for fresh vegetables recommended by the International Commission on

Microbiological Safety of Foods (ICMSF) were followed (Anonymous, 1978). A three-

class plan was followed to detect E. coli while a two-class plan was adopted for

Salmonella spp. The samples were labeled from 1-10 along with a code number

representative of the shed.

Dump tank water samples were collected from individual packing sheds affiliated with

the OGVG. The samples were collected during scheduled appointments. Water samples

were randomly collected and each shed’s sample were considered as one lot.

Microbiological limits for water recommended by Health Canada were followed in 2001

however; their sampling plan was varied. Although a 3-class plan was suggested with 10

sample units, only 2 samples were taken from each shed. Samples were numbered

accordingly along with a code number representative of the shed. All produce and water

samples were placed in coolers with ice packs and transported to accredited laboratories

for testing: in 2001 and 2002 Laboratory Services Division (University of Guelph,

Guelph, ON, Canada); in 2003, Maxxam Analytics (Toronto) was used.

Tomato and cucumber samples were stored at 4 ºC until processed. Sterile forceps and

scalpels were used to aseptically weigh 25g of sample into a stomacher bag (Fisher

Scientific, Nepean, ON) containing 225 ml buffered peptone water (BPW) (Oxoid

Unipath Inc., Nepean, ON) and stomached for 2 min. The 25 g sample, taken from

different sections of the product, was representative of both the surface and the core of

the product. Samples 1-5 were tested individually for E. coli and as one composite for

Salmonella (i.e. 5g from each were used to compose the 25g) and samples 6-10 were

used as the second composite for Salmonella. Tenfold dilution’s, in 0.1% Peptone

diluent, (Difco Laboratories, Detroit, Mich.) were then prepared immediately from the


For the enumeration of coliforms and E. coli on produce samples one ml of each dilution

(up to 10-3) was dispensed onto E. coli Petrifilm (3M Petrifilm, London, ON). Plates

were incubated at 35-37 ºC for 24 hr. Plates that had 15-150 of the typical coliform (red

with one or more gas bubbles) colonies were selected and enumerated along with any

showing E. coli colonies (blue with gas bubbles) (Health Canada, 1998).

For the detection of Salmonella on produce samples, a 1:10 food homogenate was

incubated in BPW (Oxoid) for 18-24 hr at 35-37 ºC. First, 1 ml of this pre-enrichment

broth was inoculated with 9 ml of TBG (Difco) (after adding 0.2 ml of potassium iodide

(Oxoid )). Secondly, 1 ml of the broth was inoculated with 9 ml of Selenite Cystine (SC)

broth (Difco). The TBG (Difco) was incubated at 43 ºC and the SC (Difco) at 35-37 ºC

for 24 hr. A loopful from each selective enrichment broth was streaked onto Brilliant

Green Sulfadiazine (BGS) (Difco) and Bismuth Sulfite (BS) (Difco). The selective plates

were incubated at 35 ºC and observed for typical Salmonella colonies at 24 and 48 hr

growth. Biochemical confirmation was performed on selected colonies using Triple

Sugar Iron (TSI) agar (Difco) and Urea agar (Difco) slants (Health Canada, 1997).

Water. Samples were stored at 4ºC until processed.For the enumerations of coliform and

E. coli in water a sterile, 0.45 um membrane filter (QA Life Sciences Inc., San Diego,

CA), grid side up, was centered on a filter holding base. One hundred ml of sample was

poured into the filter and vacuumed from the surface of the filter. The filter was

aseptically placed on a petri plate (Fisher) of 4-Methylumbelliferyl-B-D-

galactopyranoside Indoxyl-B-D-glucuronide (IBDG) (MI Agar) (Difco) and incubated at

35 ºC for up to 24 hr. Firstly, the colonies that appeared blue, under ambient light, were

counted; these were E. coli. . Secondly, the colonies that appeared fluorescent, under

longwave ultraviolet light were counted. The addition of these two counts was total

coliform per 100 ml of sample (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2000)

At each site, nine samples were taken and tested for total coliform, E. coli and

Salmonella. Five samples were taken from the packing line or packed box, and five were

taken from picking bins/crates. Water samples were collected from water sources (when

not municipal) and wash water. These samples were tested for total coliform and E. coli,

indicators of water quality. E. coli is primarily found in the intestines of warm-blooded

animals and is an indicator of recent contamination by sewage or animal waste on fruits

and vegetables. Salmonella is a human pathogen and if found may indicate ineffective

sanitation methods.

Interview evaluation methodology

In-depth interviews were completed with 20 individuals, representing 20 different

greenhouse businesses in southern Ontario. Participants had all been members of the

OGVG board for at least 10 years. A purposeful sampling strategy was used to obtain a

sample that represented the demographics of the board for size and water source (Table

3.3). However it resulted in interview participants being part of a convenience sample,

consisting of those who had agreed to participate when approached by the interviewer.

The average size of interviewed growers was 3.3 hectares. All but one interview was

conducted with male business owners.

Table 3.3. Characteristics of interview participants and their operations

       Sex of interview subject                      Number of participants

               Male                                          19

               Female                                        1

       Product Destination Characteristics

               Export mainly                         12

               Domestic mainly                               8


               > 8.1 acres                                   2

               0.8-8.1 acres                                 11

               < 0.8 acres                                   7

       Producer Profile

               Grower/Packer/Shipper                         11

               Grower/Packer                                 7

               Grower                                        2

       Water Source

               Municipal                                     11

               Well                                          9


               Cucumbers                                     6

               Tomatoes                                      9

               Both                                          5

Interviews were conducted between February 2002 and October 2003. A semi-structured

interview guide was used to ensure relevant content areas were discussed. During all

interviews notes were transcribed into field notes and one transcript was created for each

participant. After completion of the first 10 interviews, transcripts were reviewed to

explore preliminary themes and refine the interview guide. The revised interview guide

was used in the remainder of the interviews. Field notes consisting of the interviewers’

thoughts about the interviews, observations regarding participants' behaviour, and

insights that could promote an understanding of the experience were kept throughout the

process of data collection and were included in the data analysis. Using a content analysis

approach, a categorization scheme was developed and used to code the interview content

into meaningful data segments.

Survey methodology

A written survey instrument was used to explore OGVG growers’ perceptions of food

safety and the HACCP- based on-farm food safety program. The survey also was to

examine any change in perceptions between pre-program implementation and after four

years. Data from the 1998 survey was inherited and utilized in this research though it

was not pre-tested. Surveys in 1998 had been distributed by mail along with a self

addressed stamped envelope by OGVG. The exact survey was utilized again in 2002 for

consistency. In 2002, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association (OFVGA)

through the industry paper The Grower also distributed a similar survey. Data were

acquired from the OFVGA and answers compared. Both OGVG surveys were conducted

with the promise of anonymity to enhance the response rate. Response rate in 1998 was

24 per cent; response rate in 2002 was 19 per cent, both acceptable for a descriptive

statistical analysis for a 90 per cent confidence interval. The OFVGA survey response

rate was not available as the organization was unsure exactly as to the number of

producers the survey was distributed to; OFVGA estimated that surveys were distributed

to all 1800 of their members and 121 were analyzed (Representing a 90 per cent

confidence interval). Statistical analysis was carried out on survey questions. The Mann-

Witney test was used to distinguish significant difference between the OGVG surveys

sample and the OFVGA survey and the Wilcoxon's signed rank test was used between

the OGVG 1998 and 2002 surveys.


Microbiological analysis

Reasons for conducting microbiological tests have varied over the years since the

development of the OGVG program. In 1998, test results were used to determine where

critical control points should be within the greenhouse, to help construct the guidelines

and to establish a microbiological baseline for greenhouse produce. Microbiological

testing was done in 1999 to determine necessary operation changes and to better

understand exact testing procedures to meet the goals of the food safety program. In

2001, 2002 and 2003, appropriate testing was conducted to build and expand a

microbiological database and to verify that the procedures outlined in the on-farm food

safety program were effectively managing the risks associated with the growing and

harvesting of greenhouse product (Table 3.4).

Table 3.4. Summary of OGVG program produce samples; 1998-2003

Product                Sample sets Coliform over 100 cfu/g Positive for generic E.coli

Tomato Clusters             60                   0                              0

Tomato Beefsteak           241                   42                             2

Cucumbers                  178                   38                             2

Water Source               135                   64                            22

Wash water                  94                   33                             9

OGVG cucumbers were twice found to be associated with generic E. coli. Investigations

into the source of the bacteria found that packing lines and crates were not being

adequately or frequently cleaned. Growers bleached and sanitized these sufficiently and

retests were conducted. All retests were negative.      Cluster tomatoes (those sold on-the-

vine) have not been associated with any pathogens since testing began in 2000.

Beefsteak tomatoes have twice been implicated as carriers of generic E.coli. It is

believed that wash water is an increased risk factor.

Results showed that one OGVG member's wash water had coliforms in 2000 (N=13),

compared with thirty-nine percent in the spring of 2001 (N=20) and zero in the fall of

2001 (N=17). The observed fluctuation may be seasonal as greenhouses become

increasingly warm in the spring and summer. These high temperatures are ideal for

bacterial growth thus, crates, equipment and dump tanks provide a survival environment

if not sanitized frequently.

Survey results

The influence on knowledge and attitudes of producers through the participation in an on-

farm food safety program is eluded to through the changes found through surveying. The

recognition of microorganisms as hazards decreased by a significant difference between

the 1998 and 2002 surveys (Figure 3.3). This coupled with the significant increase in the

hazards of improper storage and handling, and the significant decrease in perception of

pesticides as a hazard suggest that the program may be impacting producers' attitudes.

By iteratively providing specific messages to growers the perception of what occurs

during food production appears to have changed the perception of where risk gaps are in

the farm to fork chain. 'Microorganisms' may not be descriptive enough as a term for

producers and this may have been discovered if the survey was pre-tested ('bacteria',

'bugs' or 'germs' may have been more appropriate).

As compared to producers not participating in an on-farm food safety program (OFVGA

surveys) the 2002 OGVG respondents felt that bacteria (used correctly in the survey 1998

and 2002 OGVG surveys) was significantly more of a risk to food than their non-

participating colleagues (Figure 3.4.). Results also indicate that producers have an

increased confidence in the safety of end-product at retail stores over the course of the

project's existence (Figure 3.5.). It is possible that the increased attention paid to food

safety practices by producers participating in OGVG's on-farm food safety program led

to this increased confidence. This is possible as OGVG's co-ordinators actively compare

OGVG's program to the processing industry's HACCP-standards and that resulted in

responding producers being more confident in food, in general.

Figure 3.3. Results from respondents' answers to: Rank the hazard of the following food

items (responses with"serious hazard" marked)

Figure 3.4. Results from respondents' answers to: What do you feel are the greatest

threats to the safety of the food you eat?

Figure 3.5. Results from respondents' answers to: How confident are you that the food in

your supermarket is safe?

Survey results indicate that the OGVG on-farm food safety program has made an impact

on participants by increasing knowledge and changing attitudes surrounding safe food

production in the greenhouse.

Interview results

Employee issues
Of the producers with migrant worker employees (10), three expressed that training

behaviour was a barrier to implementation. As the majority of migrant workers in the

Ontario greenhouse industry are from Mexico, the producers suggested that hygiene was

an ongoing issue because of a cultural difference. All three also reported that their

workers frequently discarded their used toilet paper in the garbage cans or on the floor.

The producers all felt that handwashing procedures were not always followed, and 14

suggested that they were not able to follow their employees around all day but ensured

the tools (hot water, soap, paper towels) were available.

Drivers for food safety

Of the participant group, 17 reported that their interest in food safety was influenced

directly by outside sources, either buyers (9 participants) the greenhouse board's threat of

making the program mandatory (6 participants) or liability concerns (2 participants). The

other three participants reported that they were interested in employing the program

because they felt that it made them more efficient and better producers. These producers

also all felt that the program helped differentiate them from competitors in British

Columbia, Florida and California. Four participants reported that although OGVG

recommends participation they felt that the microbiological data associated with program

should not be provided even in summary to retailers or consumers. They cited that

competitors did not provide data and there might be a negative reaction from consumers

if told the industry was testing products.

Food safety priority changes with other production factors

The cost of heating a greenhouse was mentioned as the largest priority in production by

17 of the participants. They cited this as the most important factor associated with

implementing any additional programs, not just food safety. Producers were concerned

about being able to sell their product at a reasonable price, but above the cost of

production. Five producers stated that food safety sometimes is forgotten when prices

fall, or cost of production increases.

Initially cost was perceived to be a limiting factor

Initially the cost of implementing the OGVG program was said to be a limiting factor

contributing to the likelihood that the program would be fully implemented on individual

farms. This was especially prevalent with the smaller growers (< than 2 acres; 7

participants). These growers felt that the cost of dedicating extra employee time, or

management time for documentation would hinder their ability to make money. In 2003,

6 participating growers had changed their answers on this topic saying that on-farm food

safety implementation was a managerial mindset and little cost was actually associated.


The use of technology in the greenhouse industry is growing, such as computers and

handheld Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) being used for plant disease tracking and

product yields. Fourteen participants suggested that the increased use of technology has

not extended to the food safety documentation or product tracking. Four participants also

suggested that they did not believe the use of technology would be employed in food

safety programs, as setting up programs is site-specific and has an upfront time

investment component which is not rewarded with increased efficiency. They expressed

that the optimum food safety activities have not been widely embraced as positive and

that the producer would do only the minimum required, excluding setting up a new



Within the participant group, 12 producers said that food safety was necessary but was a

nuisance to implement. The participants said that it part of an increasing trend of passing

more responsibility to primary producers that was not associated with any economic gain.

The producers suggested that they would do the absolute minimum requirements as

employing a program impacted on their ability to efficiently produce tomatoes and

cucumbers. The producers also said that they were unsure exactly what retailers expected

with regards to actual implementation on the farm. They were aware of documentation

requests and recommended guidelines but felt that all retailers wanted was for growers, as

one producer put it, "to be food safety certified." A definition of certified was not


Pesticide water issues

One producer reported that he frequently used known-to-be E. coli contaminated well

water for spraying pesticides within the greenhouse. The producer felt that the active

ingredients in any pesticide would kill potential human pathogens and thus render the

pesticide combination safe to use. No producer expressed concern with the quality of

water that was being applied to their crops.


Microbiological analysis

Low prevalence of pathogens and indicators was found on vegetables which may indicate

that the on-farm food safety program is being implemented correctly. A contributing

factor to the lack of pathogens or indicators found on cluster tomatoes could be the

minimal handling during picking to ensure the cluster stays intact and then are placed

directly into a box for sale with no contact with water. Cucumbers are also similar to the

cluster tomatoes as they do not encounter water but they are handled more throughout the

picking and packing system. Beefsteak tomatoes are conversely introduced to more

contamination potential as they are placed in crates, handled again in the shed, rinsed

with wash water and re-handled when packed into the box.

Spring and summer months are peak season for greenhouse production and large volumes

are processed in the beefsteak tomato dump tanks each day. Organic matter, accumulates

rapidly and if chlorine levels in wash water are not sufficient then bacteria will continue

to survive on the tomatoes. The compilation of this data proved useful in educating

growers on how and when to effectively treat their dump tanks. Once appropriate

chlorine levels were determined and established, retests were conducted and all results

were negative. The fall 2001 data also demonstrated that growers are successfully

controlling microbial risks in the tank as no bacteria were found. Wash water needs to be

controlled carefully to ensure that tomatoes are adequately washed and bacterial levels

reduced. Many OGVG members have automatic chlorinators that keep the free chlorine

levels constant and these can compensate for large volumes of product and organic

matter in the water. Dump tanks without automatic chlorinators have chlorine added

based on a chlorine conversion that calculates the amount of chlorine required in the tank

considering the volume of water, concentration of chlorine, production volume and time

the product is in the tank. Contaminated water used during post-harvest operations can

transmit diseases that decay the produce or adversely affect human health (Sanderson and

Spotts, 1995). Chlorine has generally been used as a disinfectant in wash waters to keep

them potable. It is difficult to set a standard guideline for wash waters to eliminate

pathogens that may be present, and that remain active over 8 hours of fruit or vegetable


Water sources tested throughout this project were wells (all drilled), ponds (stationary

surface water) and reservoirs (moving surface water), all untreated. The water was used

for handwashing, equipment and crate washing and for irrigation. As the results show,

these sources need to be mitigated or avoided to reduce the risk of bacteria. Growers were

advised to implement appropriate treatment methods that are practical and economical in

their operations. These include filters, UV light, and quick fixes such as chlorine, hand

sanitizers or individual bacterial wipes.

Microbiological results were also used as a communication tool to take to producers and

provide them with a reason to change practices. Although coliform is not an indicator of

pathogens on vegetables it was continually used as a communication device for the

program as producers were unaware that microorganisms were associated with fresh

fruits and vegetables at all.

Survey analysis

As the program concentrates on opening up a dialogue with producers it was expected

that results would show a difference in the perception of current food safety issues.

Response changes may be due to the concentration on providing messages on reducing

bacterial contamination and not focusing on pesticide residues as a risk. The program's

objectives concentrate on safely storage and handling as a focus point for producers to

reduce microorganism risk. Biosecurity concerns arising from September 11, 2001

attacks on the U.S. also appears to have registered with a few producers' as it was

suggested by 4 per cent of respondents that intended contamination was a serious hazard.

Interview analysis

The ability for pesticide formulations to support the growth of pathogenic

microorganisms was studied by Guan and colleagues (2001). They compared the growth

and survival of several pathogens (E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium, Salmonella

enteriditis, Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri and Listeria monocytogenes) in water and in

water mixed with several pesticides. They found that some pesticides promoted bacterial

growth (more so than plain water), some pesticides resulted the same survival rates as in

plain water and some pesticides resulted in a decline in pathogens that was greater than

water alone. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2001) cites unpublished research by

Suslow (2001) that examined survival of Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in late-season

fungicides. When used at recommended rates, with or without adjustment to neutral pH,

they found that none of the products had an inhibitory effect on pathogen growth and

survival and that some of the products permitted limited growth if held at 37C for 16h.

Further understanding of these factors is necessary before a full assessment of risk can be

completed. However, what little evidence there is suggests that the use of pathogen

contaminated water to mix pesticides can increase the risk of produce contamination.

Coaching producers through on-site visits provides the program requirements in specific

terms on individual farms, and encourages participants to ensure they are actively

implementing, monitoring and maintaining their own on-farm food safety program. Visits

should be on going and occur on a schedule, ideally at least once or more per season.

During these visits, participants would receive materials for their operations such as hand

sanitizers and signage; receive training materials for farm workers; have food safety put

into terms that are specific to their site and; be provided with a forum where potential risk

issues can be discussed.

While food safety is recognized as being important, it is not always viewed as important

as other farming issues such as selling prices or the costs of inputs. This is not surprising,

as a farmer will not receive any additional price premiums for a product that has been

produced following a program. The variability of food safety as a priority with producers

was realized when dealing with producers who had the same problems in consecutive

seasons, such as a poor equipment sanitation record, although they reported that they

were following procedures.

Conversely it was found that producers that did not have food safety issues (such as

microbial contamination) in prior years were less trusting of researchers suggestions to

change practices, citing that it has never been a problem in the past. Passively providing

information to support an on-farm food safety program was not widely utilized. The

majority of producers received the information but did not always read the suggestions or

make changes on their sites. This supports the need for various communication vehicles

when implementing on-farm programs. On-site visits, phone calls, use of a website,

newsletters, faxes and meetings should all be available to make the most impact; trust

was built with producers by being available for questions by all means.

Being too accessible and promoting safe food handling and the reasons behind a food

safety program was not always seen as positive. One farmer mentioned that the

implementation of the on-farm food safety program was a way for researchers to create

more work for themselves; that the program was an attempt to increase reliance through

fear. He also maintained that food safety was a myth and people have always dealt with

the problems with no consequence.

The ability for producers to effectively communicate with their employees is also a

significant barrier. Providing employees with the tools and a training program is not

enough. One farmer relayed an anecdote in which new bathrooms were installed; all the

employees had been provided with latex gloves and instructed on when to use them.

Within a week of the training an employee was seen urinating on the outside of a

bathroom (which was amongst product in a greenhouse) with gloves on. The producer

felt that he needed to increase his own vigilance in explaining the consequences of the

unhygienic practices, at all times, but could not watch his employees at all times.

An example of the costs of fully implementing the on-farm food safety program was

observed following a Salmonella positive sample taken from the Ontario food terminal

traced to one of the interview participants. An Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food

inspector suggested that the grower follow the program to its fullest and demonstrate that

risk reducing GAPs be followed.

The producer estimated that fully implementing the OGVG program and addressing the

situation cost the business a total of $1000. The grower estimated that $500 was spent in

lost time due to adjustment of documentation and implementing practices. $250 was

invested in new equipment (such as sanitation materials; plastic for walls and ceiling and

modification of the packing system), also $250 was lost due to product sampling and

better quality control (such as removing product that was visibly contaminated with

organic matter). The participant reported that food safety practices were engrained as part

of the culture of food safety on their farm and further microbiological sampling has not

revealed any other adverse results in subsequent years and all documentation has been

completed. The participant suggested that the business would not have followed the

program to its fullest had there not have been a driver present, such as the reported

Salmonella positive result.

Case study conclusions

There is a perception that large-scale farming in North America contributes to increased

foodborne illnesses through pathogen proliferation (Schlosser, 2002). Many large-scale

greenhouse producers set up their businesses similar to what would be seen in a factory,

but in food safety risk management relating to this project it was seen that the larger

producers (who may be termed as 'factory farms' if visited by opponents) were able to

address food safety concerns more consistently than smaller farms with few employees as

more resources could be dedicated. These large farms are still family run though the

magnitude of the workforce and factory-type settings in the packing areas would not be

construed as such. Smaller greenhouse operators can implement the on-farm food safety

program just as effectively as large ones but results indicate that there is a perception by

those operators to the contrary.

Since the commencement of the OGVG on-farm food safety program, the active

collaboration with individual growers has proven extremely valuable to help determine

what science-based protocols can and can not be effectively implemented in an on-farm

scenario. It is inevitable that fresh fruits and vegetables growers can never be fully

HACCP certified and that they will have to be constantly vigilant in controlling microbial

risks within their operations. Until there are specific standards or guidelines or

regulations for greenhouse growers, the program will always be an evolutionary process.

Producers need to be vigilant and constantly reminded about food safety. The results

suggest that they will rebel the managerial and mindset changes if not reminded of the

importance of risk management actions, as there is not an economic incentive.

Good on-farm food safety programs have a mechanism to keep records of risk-reduction

practices. The documentation provides a quick reference to specific practices for

interested buyers or and also for regulators in case of an outbreak without an in-depth

investigation. Documenting when equipment sanitation occurs, what chlorine levels are

in the wash water, or when an employee is sick demonstrates that food safety is a priority.

The documentation medium does not matter, whether it’s a checklist that is posted on the

wall, a computer spreadsheet or a notebook, as long as it is accessible, complete and is

kept up-to-date and on-file to demonstrate a history of compliance.

After three years of research with the same farming community, it was found that

producer understanding of food safety issues was dependant on a personal experience,

similar to previously reported agronomic information transfer (Maddox et al., 2003).

Anecdotally, it has been observed that if a producer has had incidents of foodborne

illness in the past or has witnessed the effects of such, they are more likely to implement

a food safety program vigilantly. The use of the verbal narrative in the form of recent

food safety media coverage was well received by many producers (Chapman and Powell,


Research limitations

Construct validity is often pointed to as the least defendable part of case study research as

it is difficult to take a set of measures that are repeatable. This is a limitation of the

research and could have been avoided if a structured experimental evaluation was

designed from the beginning of the project in 1998. An experimental evaluation would

have included a full control group who were not employing an on-farm food safety

program, not just for the written survey component. All data sources that were available

and may have provided insight to the case study were used, though they came from

convenient sources and were improperly designed and might be biased towards a positive

response. The interview participants were part of a convenience sample and also may not

be representative of the full population of participants. The written surveys (both OGVG

and OFVGA) were not pre-tested, and the results may be skewed, as some questions may

not have been answered as intended (due to potential misunderstandings). The OFVGA

survey was also poorly tracked and the distribution size is unknown and had to be


Chapter 4. An external evaluation of a risk management strategy: the Ontario
Greenhouse Vegetable Growers' (OGVG) on-farm food safety program

Hypothesis and objectives

With the increasing demands for on-farm food safety strategies for fresh fruit and

vegetable growers, it is necessary to evaluate guidelines and implementation strategies.

An external evaluation of reasons compelling the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable

Growers' organization to employee on-farm food safety systems and how a program

matches with other systems was conducted. This evaluation can aide in the examination

of program goals and to determine if objectives were met. It is hypothesized that the

OGVG on-farm food safety program provides a complete food safety system that exceeds

other available strategies in terms of quality and value.

The objectives of this chapter include:

      creation of a template of on-farm food safety implementation components

           o based on a review of on-farm food safety strategies available to the

               produce industry and as well as OGVG documents and an interview with

               the program facilitator; and,

      A review of OGVG documents for program costs and a comparison to outside



The most widely used food safety system adapted for produce growers is a risk analysis

supported strategy focusing on reducing evidence-based risks through a formal

framework. By basing operating procedures on the hazard analysis critical control point

(HACCP) system, guidelines for risk-reducing good agricultural practices (GAPs) can be

formed. HACCP-based GAPs are established by identifying potential risk points along

the production chain, and , controlling and monitoring these points (Bauman, 1990). The

concept of HACCP was developed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration

(NASA) in conjunction with Natick Laboratories in the early 1960s along with the

Pillsbury Company in an attempt to supply safe food products to be used in space travel

(Stier and Blumenthal, 1991). HACCP has gained recognition throughout the developed

world as the best safety assurance system developed to date.

Besides its preventive nature, the HACCP system exercises control over the

manufacturing process at critical stages which are known as critical control points

(CCPs), detecting or correcting defects which might impact on the safety and wholesome

ness of product before its packaging and distribution. Until the introduction of HACCP,

end-product testing was used as a means of assessing food safety, whereby a percentage

of samples were taken for microbiological, chemical or physical testing to determine if

the product met with the customer’s acceptance criteria. However, a number of

limitations to this approach have been recognized, such as the size of sampling strategies

required for statistical significance. The HACCP approach to food safety moves away

from testing of the final product, and instead emphasizes on raw material and process

control, providing a structured and systematic approach to the control of identified


Science-based food safety systems such as HACCP were built on a multi-step approach

to depart from endpoint verification such as testing (Pierson, 2003). Testing has a role in

verification of HACCP plans or in establishing critical limits for CCPs, but is limited by

sampling plans that are based on the probability of a fault being identified from a

representative number of samples being tested.

The HACCP approach is advocated for every stage in the produce-related food chain,

from primary producers up to the final consumer (International Fresh-cut Produce

Association and Western Growers Association, 1997; United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable

Association. U.S. 1997). Applying the principles of HACCP to wash water systems in

greenhouse vegetable production is explored in Table 4.1. Water is required to remove

potential contaminants (especially white fly excrement) on tomatoes for consumer

acceptance. Wash water has been identified as a control point to be addressed through the

application of GAPs. (International Fresh-cut Produce Association and Western Growers

Association, 1997). Some have suggested that actions controlled by human behaviour

(such as handwashing, or the application of agricultural chemicals) be considered as

CCPs (Hulebak and Schlosser, 2002). Others, however, have noted the difficulty in

monitoring human behaviour versus monitoring pasteurization temperatures or other

mechanically monitored activities(Gorny and Zagory, 2004; Mortimore, 2001)

Nevertheless, reliance on well-developed and consistently performed on-farm food safety

GAPs can simplify the HACCP-based plan and responsibilities. HACCP-based quality

systems are having a positive effect throughout the horticultural industry, however,

confusion relating to choice and the requirement for multiple systems is not conducive to

rallying support for such programs inside the farm gate (Bryar, 1999). Bryar (2002)

further suggested that HACCP implementation requires acceptance by individual

producers, which is a barrier, and if embedded in the day-to-day management practices

can encourage more creative quality processes.

Table 4.1: Application of HACCP to wash water procedures for greenhouse tomato


HACCP principle                               Supporting information

1. Conduct a hazard analysis                  - Microbiologically contaminated wash

                                              water can lead to illness through

                                              consumption (Centers for Disease Control

                                              and Prevention, 1993; Wood et al., 1993).

                                              -Organic matter is constantly added in to

                                              dump tank in form of dirt, leaves and

                                              tomato residue

2. Determine critical control points          Wash water quality is a CCP

3. Establish critical limits                  Chlorine

                                              -consistent level of 50ppm of total

                                              available chlorine will result in at least

                                       2ppm free chlorine, enough to reduce

                                       surface pathogens in contact with water for

                                       at least 2 minutes (Bartz, 1982; Beuchat,



                                       - coliform sampling must reveal 0

                                       cfu/100ml for water (Health Canada,


4. Establish monitoring procedures     Chlorine levels

                                       -chlorine is monitored at defined intervals

                                       daily using chlorine strips, and recorded.

                                       Microbial levels

                                       -microbial sampling of wash water is

                                       carried out annually to verify monitored

                                       chlorine is effective

5. Establish corrective actions        if chlorine/microbial levels are deemed

                                       inadequate (established through HACCP

                                       principle 4)

                                       -clean and sanitize wash water tank

                                       -clean and sanitize packing line

                                       -verify chlorine monitoring strip integrity

                                              -modify chlorine in tank and reestablish

                                              chlorine limit through further microbial


6. Establish verification procedures          -verified during on-site visits and

                                              microbiological sampling

7. Establish record-keeping and               -part of on-farm food safety grower

documentation procedures                      documentation guidelines

Factors influencing implementation of on-farm food safety programs

Branding quality and food safety programs

Establishing a method for branding and marketing food safety assurances directly to

consumers to differentiate similar-looking products is seen as a motivation to implement

on-farm food safety programs. Meat marketing has produced the biggest steps in labeling

with the introduction of branding programs. In 2001 it was reported that there were over

50 USDA certified branded meat programs in the United States, and 35 of these in beef

alone (Gerken, 2001; Smith et al., 2000). These branding programs have focused

primarily on quality, using the recognized breed of Angus beef as a starting point for the

branding. The Nebraska Corn-Fed Beef program was created four years ago, and

restaurants using the beef and promoting it on their menus have cited a 37 per cent

increase in sales of labeled beef (O'Hanlon, 2001). The National Cattleman's Beef

Association (NCBA) has also created a label that has been used as part of a marketing

scheme to increase sales and provide information on quality meat. Since its inception in

1997 the NCBA's Mark of Quality has been approved for use on 57 products (Murphy,

2001). The lamb industry has also been emphasizing quality of American-raised lambs

and conveying its message to consumers by introducing the Fresh Lamb Seal. The goal

of the program is to inform consumers about American-raised lamb and provide a seal to

identify it as a higher quality product than imported lamb (Salvage, 2001). Branding has

moved into Ontario as well and has had a positive effect on sales. The food safety and

quality assurance program of the Ontario Veal Association, VealT, has resulted in a more

than 10 per cent sales increase. The grocery outlet Longo's has attributed the increased

acceptance of branded veal to point-of-sale information material, a higher quality

product, and consumer satisfaction leading to repeat sales (Ontario Veal Association,


Similar to the branding of meat, In Florida there has been an increase in consumer

information on fruits and vegetables as a result of country of origin labeling. Country of

origin labeling in Florida was enacted in 1979; the success of the program has led to a

suggestion to label all fruits and vegetables in the U.S. (Meadows, 2001). Vidalia onions

are one example of the vegetable industry's labeling successes, gaining national status in

the 1970s and resulting in the produce being named the state vegetable of Georgia in

1991 (Vidalia Onion Festival, 2002). In New York State the introduction of the Onions

with Attitude branding campaign has focused on providing customers with information

on why their onions are a better choice than those grown elsewhere, citing that New York

onions are more flavorful. The branding program has increased the price of the labeled

onions by approximately 10 per cent but producers in New York State feel that

consumers will pay more for a more specialized product (Esch, 2001). The Canadian

province of Prince Edward Island has also initiated a labeling program for produce that is

exported from the island as a tourist promotion with the assurance that the product is of

the highest quality and has been produced in a sustainable way. The label, Foodtrust, was

created with the help of a marketing company and will attempt to give consumers

information on where their food comes from and how it was produced (Heinrich, 2001).


In the event of a food safety crisis, such as a microbiological outbreak linked to a

commodity, a robust food safety program can allow for the separation of potentially

contaminated product, from product whose safety has not been compromised. An on-

farm food safety program also provides producers with a communication base with which

to build messages directed at buyers and consumers in reactively following a crisis. This

separation and possible recall is paramount in managing a risk situation and conducting

this in a timely manner can help restore confidence in the system. Following a recall

announcement associated with Aylmer Meat Packers in 2003, traceability was difficult as

buyer lists and transaction tracking was not being carried out, leading to public outcry

that evolved into the Ontario government's Meat Inspection Review (Powell et al., 2004).

An outbreak within an industry without any on-farm risk management strategies could

lead to a similar loss of public confidence during a crisis if there is not a formal

infrastructure to track and separate product and describe risk reduction practices. A recall

from a supplier who does not employ a robust on-farm food safety program could affect

all producers associated with a specific commodity or industry if product cannot be

differentiated. An on-farm food safety program is only as good as the promises that can

be made about the industry as a whole. The weakest producers in terms of food safety

implementation can be a burden. Impmentation of Environmental Farm Plans in Ontario

is a good model for on-farm food safety compliance: liability concerns enhance the

probability that producers participate. In a government-established inquiry following an

Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak traced to municipal water in Walketon, Ontario. The

presiding judge stated that by employing an environmental farm plan, the owner of the

farm employed due diligence, following proper practices and should not have been

faulted (O'Connor, 2002).

Examples of where a crisis and resultant liability has occurred are seen annually in

microbial outbreaks. For example, Roma tomatoes on sandwiches were identified as the

source of a salmonellosis outbreak that resulted in over 400 cases in 2004. Sheetz

convenience stores, the company responsible for selling the sandwiches discontinued

purchasing product from Coronet Foods, which lead to its bankruptcy. Officials still do

not know where the tomatoes became contaminated (Snowbeck, 2004). California

strawberry growers put an estimated $40 million price tag on the erroneous linkage of

strawberries to the parasite cyclospora in 1996 (Meyer, 1996).

Crises that create the need for emergency response can sometimes be avoided if proper

monitoring systems are in place. In other instances, crises hit without warning, and all

that can be done is damage control to prevent the issue from escalating. Furthermore,

crises are events that require rapid decisions. If handled correctly, a crisis can enhance the

reputation and credibility of the organization. If handled incorrectly, a crisis can

irreparably harm the organization. Effective crisis communication is critical to effective

crisis management. Consumers, farmers, processors, retailers, regulators and media --

everyone in the farm-to-fork food safety system -- require rapid access to accurate,

evidence-based and relevant food safety information to better act upon and share such

information with others. This openness and transparency can enhance both public

confidence and welfare.

Buyer demand for verification

One of the primary incentives for on-farm food safety programs is to maintain market

share, and strengthen relationships with retailers by enhancing trust with a proactive

program. As buyers cannot constantly travel to farms to verify that on-farm risk

reduction practices are being employed, many have begun to require that producers have

an outside audit firm design and provide assurances that risks are properly controlled.

Verification provides a producer with a record of how well an on-farm food safety

program is being implemented, can reveal potential areas of concern and, over time, can

provide data that demonstrates continuous improvement in terms of risk reduction. As

fresh fruit and vegetable food safety management is in its infancy, there are many players

looking to capitalize on the potential for verification schemes, traceability

implementation and guideline design; all with various cost structures. Third-party

verification audits have been shown to reduce risks from accidents and disasters

especially in industries dealing with environmental impacts (Kunreuther et al., 2002).

One Canadian retailer executive stated in response to a question about on-farm food

safety auditing uniformity: "… it doesn't matter what the program is, or who administers

it, just that there is someone awake on the farm" (Grant, 2003). Large retailers in both

Canada and the U.S. including Sobeys, Albertson's and Wal-Mart, have recently required

large suppliers to submit food safety standards for packing and the traceability of product.

If this trend continues, all farms may be required to provide some assurances that their

product is produced in a safe manner. A list of buyer-recognized certification programs

is found in Appendix 1.1. The second-largest supermarket chain in the U.S. recently met

with suppliers and explained that it plans to roll out on-farm food safety programs

supported by radio frequency identification technology for traceability. Rather than

issuing a firm mandate, the company is taking a collaborative approach with suppliers

and plans to conduct a pilot in 2005. Albertsons plans to work with suppliers to determine

which product groups should be targeted first. The aim is to help suppliers identify,

categorize and adopt best practices that can be incorporated into guidelines for the entire

supply chain (Roberti, 2004).

Food safety program implementation research

Similar to this project, researchers have been exploring information provision and on-

farm food safety program implementation to design strategies to improve such programs.

Maddox and colleagues (2003) argued that producers prefer to have on-site visits when

learning about production practices and will implement procedures correctly when they

are demonstrated in terms specific to their site. Perloff (1993) also suggests that narrative

evidence is more compelling than statistics in risk situations. Vivid case histories provide

a stronger mental image and are more likely retained than abstractly presented

information. These images are easier to access from memory, and are more likely to

influence attitudes when the individual is trying to decide whether to accept message

recommendations (Rook, 1987). Fischoff and Downs (1997) suggest that in food safety

communication three concepts are true:

      people simplify;

      once people's minds are made up, it's hard to change them; and

      people remember what they see.

These concepts suggests that on-farm food safety program implementers should not

waste money by placing producers in classrooms; funds need to be invested into effective

on-site visits and developing compelling stories that focus on the actions and behaviours

targeted for change. Rangarajan and colleagues (2002) suggest that small and medium

sized horticulture farmers retain training information about food safety issues. They also

suggest that programs be tailored to farmer's individual needs rather than have then fit

into formulaic programs which are unobtainable economically. Communication with

employees is an integral part of an on-farm food safety program. Poor employee hygiene

has been responsible for over 40 per cent of source identified produce-related outbreaks

(Bean and Griffin, 1990). Providing extensive food safety training and evaluation of food

service personnel may be among the most fruitful food safety efforts (Kastner, 1995).

When communicating science-based risks to an audience like producers, risk managers

should employ communication methods that are not condescending and provide reasons

for information source choices (Shortland and Gregory, 1991). Mortimore (2001)

suggests that if a food safety program is to be truly successful then there must be an

overriding internal belief in the HACCP approach. The success of a risk reduction

program is dependant on the quality of management involved (Vaughan, 1997). Vaughan

suggests that those responsible for risk management strategies must be familiar with the

reasons surrounding the issues and act as an advocate against loss, removed from other

factors (such as cost or time loss).


An illustrative case study was developed to examine the OGVG on-farm food safety

program as an acceptable strategy to produce greenhouse vegetables safely in a cost

effective manner. Building a case study as a method of inquiry was appropriate for this

project because it allowed for the use of verbal narratives and description of program

trends in relation to outside comparables (McMillan, 1992). Illustrative case studies have

been used both in evaluations and historical food safety situations (Datta, 1990, Kastner

and Pawsey , 2002a, Kastner and Pawsey. 2002b). Evaluation differs from other methods

of social research through the use of resulting research answers (Weiss, 1972).

Triangulation has been considered a process of using multiple perceptions to clarify

meaning (Yin, 1994). In triangulation, multiple qualitative data collection methodologies

are used to examine the same phenomenon. Findings are corroborated in hopes they will

converge, decreasing the uncertainty of the interpretation. Berg (2001) also suggests

avoiding the use of one methodology and employing multiple gathering techniques to

enhance the transferability of results. Due to the qualitative nature of this research,

multiple data sources were used to verify the repeatability of the observations and

interpretations. By using program content analysis, a review of project documents and an

open-ended interview with Denton Hoffman, OGVG general manager, it was possible to

build a case description of on-farm food safety programs components, costs and drivers.

The interview with Mr. Hoffman was video taped on February 7, 2003, transcribed and

concepts categorized.

Additional on-farm food safety programs were searched out and categorized (Appendix

1.1). These programs were reviewed and program component trends compiled. Programs

were also reviewed for implementation strategies, and compared to available research on

best practices. The OGVG program was weighed against the implementation trends and

a best practices list devised. Similar evaluations termed as after-only with comparison

group employing program documentation review and interviews have been described by

Weiss (1972). Program records are used in this evaluation, as suggested by Weiss (1972).

Weiss says it is possible for records to be incomplete and do not represent

implementation. The use of two data sources (comparison of implementation strategies;

costs comparisons) was employed in this evaluation, as suggested by Mann (1972) to

strengthen reliability and validity. Content analysis was performed on program records

and an interview transcript. Concepts were used as a unit of study. Berg (2001) defines

concepts as ideas or clusters of themes that appear in similar forms acquired from the

study population. In this case they refer to cluster themes acquired from the review of

documents associated with programs in Appendix 1.1. Program costs were also

compared with available figures from similar comparison groups to determine the value

of program, related to the entire case study results.


There are a variety of generic and specific guidelines for safe fresh fruit and vegetable

production in North America. These programs are generally based on HACCP and

expand on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Guide to Minimize Microbial Food

Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (1998). Program components were

culled from three separate groups and are compared in Table 4.2:

      OGVG program;

      third-party auditing programs; and,

      government, producer group or institution guidelines.

Table 4.2. A comparison of program components of reviewed groups

Program Components                     OGVG          Third-party      Government,

                                       program       auditing         producer group or

                                                     programs         institution


A) Guidelines/Documentation

Water maintenance                          X               X                    X

Location information                       X               X                    X

Sanitation programs                        X               X                    X

Growing inputs                            X               X                X

Pest control                              X               X                X

Equipment maintenance                     X               X                X

Employee training and sanitation          X1              X                X


Transportation                            X               X                X

Traceability                              X               X                X

Biosecurity                                               X

B) Implementation aide

Operator training                         X               X2

C) Verification                           X               X

D) Communication program                  X

E) Crisis management                      X


1. Employee training is provided through the OGVG on-farm food safety program, and is

required or suggested by other groups.

2. Operator training is provided on-site through the OGVG on-farm food safety program

and is available for a fee by some third-party audit firms.

A) Guidelines/documentation

A fundamental requirement and common in all reviewed on-farm food safety strategies is

to employ a record keeping system documenting all steps that producers may be

employing for on-farm food safety. It is prescribed that these documents are complete

and are stored by the primary operator in the event that they are needed in a review (in

response to an incident or requested by buyers). Program participants may follow either a

program-specific manual or design their own as a reference guide and document their

food safety practices. Mr. Hoffman revealed in his interview that he saw the

documentation step as a simple hurdle, as much of the GAPs information was publicly

available for synthesis into a program by picking what fit for his organization. He also

suggested that retailers had not demanded any specific program or third-party audit

system and that any program designed by OGVG would attempt to stay ahead of buyers.

Water maintenance

Water is an essential element in the production and handling of produce and is used in

numerous operations, including: irrigation, application of fertilizers, crop protection

sprays, and produce washing. All reviewed programs suggested that producers have a

water control program that evaluates the quality of source. This component involves the

monitoring of all water used for production activities for safety. All programs reviewed

provide suggestions that all water used on a site for drinking, handwashing and cleaning

is designated potable, or of suitable source for the intended uses (a vague designation, as

no specifics are provided with this). The OGVG program contains guidelines for

temporary mitigation strategies such as the use alcohol-based sanitizers if non-potable

water was not present for handwashing. Water for washing produce was singled out by

all guidelines as being an important risk factor. Reviewed programs suggest through their

guidelines that wash water be free of microbial contamination through the use of

chlorination. These programs also suggest that chlorination effectiveness and potability

be determined through microbial sampling. The OGVG guidelines include at least annual

sampling of wash water for coliform and E.coli (though may not indicate the absence of

protozoa and viruses). Irrigation water quality was mentioned as a risk factor by seven of

the reviewed programs, and microbial sampling is suggested though no limits are

discussed. Pesticide application water quality was also mentioned by three of the program

guidelines but sampling was not suggested.

Common water source GAPs include:

      identify the primary and secondary sources of water, and explore sources for

       possible pathogen contamination;

      take necessary measures to prevent animal access to water sources;

      be aware of uncontrollable wildlife access and treat water accordingly;

      avoid manure storage near water sources;

      identify physical characteristics of landscape and its potential impact on water

       source; and

      periodically verify water quality through microbial sampling

Location information

Information about history of the land used for production as well as the land adjacent to

the production site is suggested by all reviewed program guidelines. This research is

suggested to identify potential contamination and establish precautions that need to be

taken to reduce the risk of contamination. This information can be used to identify

situations that can increase the risk of contamination of fresh produce. This information

would be useful in an investigation in the event of an outbreak. Site history is also

important in the event the site is acquired or rented by another producer. As part of the

site information, a diagram of the production site is desirable (for investigation ease).

Common location information GAPs include:

      premises are not in close proximity to any source of pollution;

      premises prevent access by pests, and provide adequate design required for

       thorough and effective cleaning and sanitation; and

      if adjacent fields are using untreated animal manure as fertilizer, they have been

       identified and product and water sources are protected.

Sanitation programs

Sites with poor sanitation in the packing area and with harvest equipment can

significantly increase the risk of contaminating fresh produce. Pathogenic

microorganisms can live on floors and in drains in the packing facility. They may also

remain viable and grow on the surfaces of sorting, grading, and packing equipment. If

proper sanitary practices are not present, any surfaces that come in contact with fresh

produce could be a potential source of microbial contamination. Reviewed

documentation suggested that producers should employ good sanitation practices as a

standard operating procedure to maintain control throughout the packing operation.

Reviewed program documentation also suggested that a written sanitation program be

developed and scheduled in order to ensure good hygienic practices.

Common sanitation program GAPs include:

       walls and ceilings are easily cleaned and free of debris;

       packinghouse equipment in contact with fresh produce is not used for other

        materials in order to reduce potential contamination;

       before production start-up, a visual inspection of processing equipment is

        conducted to ensure sanitation, and documented;

       no sanitation practices are observed which could potentially cause product


       all food, food contact surfaces and packaging are adequately protected from

        contamination during clean-ups;

       the use of hoses during production or mid-shift clean-ups is accomplished without

        contaminating food, food-contact surfaces and packaging materials with water

        droplets and aerosols or without direct contact;

       high-pressure hoses are not used during production or where food is stored; and,

       at the end of season ground cover and growth bags are removed or sanitized.

Growing inputs

All reviewed program documentation suggests that all inputs used in production should

be of highest quality and from reputable sources. These input materials include

packaging, sanitation chemicals, fertilizer and pesticides. Program documentation also

suggests that a "first in, first out" principle for materials be used for supplies so rotation

of stock occurs as old material may harbour pests or be less effective than if fresh.

Pest control program

It is suggested by reviewed programs that a written pest control program be developed

and carried out at the site. Program documentation suggests that growers should assess

the prevalence and likelihood of uncontrolled animal access to the site in order to reduce

the potential for contamination of crops by pathogenic organisms. Pests are unlikely to

spread contamination directly to product, but can harbour pathogens and increase the

likelihood that employees spread contamination.

Common pest control program GAPs include:

      no open pipes should be located close to the outside of packing or growing


      pest control monitoring procedures are available and followed;

      grass is kept trim and refuse is removed from site;

      pest control measures do not impact the safety of product monitored and


      all buildings are maintained in good condition to prevent access to pests;

      product is kept away from walls for pest visibility; and,

      product is kept off of the floor

Equipment maintenance program

Field equipment can easily spread germs to fresh produce. In all reviewed program

documentation, it is suggested growers use easily-maintained and cleanable equipment

for harvest and post harvest operations. Maintenance and sanitation of equipment can

reduce the risk of long-term harbouring and potential transfer of pathogenic organism.

All program documentation also suggests that systems are designed to frequently clean

and sanitize bins, containers, brushes, buckets, gloves or other harvesting material that

comes in contact with the product.

Common equipment maintenance GAPs include:

      equipment is cleaned on a schedule, there is supporting documentation;

      machines are cleaned/sanitized before and after each session;

      picking containers are cleaned on a schedule; and,

      a system for fixing and recording maintenance is in place.

Employee training and sanitation facilities

Communication with employees is an integral part of an on-farm food safety program.

Poor employee hygiene has been responsible for over 40 per cent of source identified

produce-related outbreaks (Bean and Griffin, 1990). Agricultural employees are on the

frontlines of food safety, and providing program ownership to them by setting a good

hygiene example, providing effective training and making available current food safety

information demonstrates to employees that food safety is important. Underlying forces

that may contribute to foodborne illness include insufficient training of food handlers

(Medeiros et al, 2001). All program documents suggest that producers consider the

importance of proximity and accessibility of sanitary facilities to employee areas and that

they should have the opportunity to use such facilities on an as-needed basis. Sanitary

facilities should be maintained in sanitary condition and good repair at all times.

Common employee training and sanitation facilities GAPs include:

      a procedure is in place to check and replenish toilet paper, soap, paper towels and

       fingernail brushes;

      employee instruction in proper hand and nail washing techniques, general hygiene

       and glove use is employed;

      signs are posted in the appropriate language(s) reminding employees to wash their

       hands and practice good hygiene;

      washrooms are not overcrowded (one bathroom for ~ 20 employees);

      handwashing stations are located in or near washrooms so that workers must pass

       them when returning to work area; and,

      if alcohol-based sanitizers are available they are stocked and documented when



Farmers involved in the transportation of produce are encouraged to scrutinize product

transportation at each level in the system, which includes transportation from the field to

the cooler, packing facility, and on to distribution and wholesale terminal markets or

retail centers. The proper transport of fresh produce helps reduce the potential for

microbial contamination. An active and ongoing discussion with personnel responsible

for transportation is essential for ensuring the success of any management program

designed to deliver safe foods to the consumer.

Common transportation GAPs include:

      vehicles have not been used to transport live animals, field product or other

       material that could contaminate fresh produce;

      workers practice good hygiene, have been part of training program;

      temperature is maintained and documented;

      a pre-transport review for cleanliness is performed and documented;

      produce is loaded in trucks or transport cartons in a manner that will minimize

       damage; and

      workers involved in the loading and unloading of fresh produce during transport

       should practice good hygiene and sanitation practices.


In the event of a food safety crisis, such as a microbiological outbreak a robust

traceability program can allow for the separation of potentially contaminated product.

This separation and possible recall is paramount in managing a risk situation and

conducting this in a timely manner can help restore confidence in the system. A written

program should be designed to outline the procedures a farmer would implement in the

occurrence of a recall. In the event of an outbreak, identification investigations can lead

to a specific site source, rather than an entire commodity, thus lessening the economic

burden on multiple industry operators not responsible for the problem. Though discussed

by all programs that were reviewed, implementation of this component appears to be at

an early stage.

Common traceability GAPs include:

      proper data storage and recording of transactions is the most important step, and

       failure of one participant jeopardizes the entire chain;

      a program must be developed to track individual units along the farm to fork


      traceability systems should be designed in conjunction with the retail sector; and,

      units of tracking should be common along the traceability line.


Addressing biosecurity, the risk of intentional contamination using a pathogen, was only

addressed by third-party auditing firms in GAPs. The biosecurity program components

required by third-party audits included tight site security (including locking premises at

all times) and background history safeguards on employees. A new U.S. Food and Drug

Administration regulation requires the establishment and maintenance of records by

persons in the United States who manufacture, process, pack, transport, distribute,

receive, hold, or import food, including produce (U.S. Food and Drug Administration,

2004). Though farms are currently exempt from the regulation, development will ensure

that records exist about GAPs being carried out by raw-material handlers (such as

packers or wholesalers) in the U.S. There has not been any announcement by Canadian

officials about this situation. Mr. Hoffman mentioned biosecurity risk in his interview,

and how it related to retailer issues in the U.S. as well. Mr. Hoffman expressed that it

was important for OGVG to dialogue with retailers around this emerging situation and

create a partnership; he felt that it also logically corresponded with traceability.

B) Implementation aide

On-farm food safety cannot be just a set of formulaic guidelines, but rather must be

specific to an agricultural site to make it work, as suggested by Rangarajan and

colleagues (2002). Implementation aide and modeling guidelines is a integral component

of the OGVG program, and is available from third-party auditing firms but at an

additional cost, dependant on farm size and how much training is required. Mr. Hoffman

suggested that he sees implementation assistance as a necessary component of the on-

farm food safety program, where buy-in was established and participating OGVG

producers learned the reasons for on-farm food safety and how to truly reduce risks.

This implementation assistance step appears to be missing for all other programs, where

producers are provided with a manual but are on their own on how to adapt the

suggestions to their farms. Mr. Hoffman also mentioned that many of the GAPs are

written in a language that is difficult for producers to understand, and that "… plain

English" was needed when trying to build trust and a program for producers.

OGVG yearly producer training

Mr. Hoffman stressed that the on-site visits differentiated OGVG from many other

programs and led to a fresh produce industry publication, The Packer, naming OGVG's

program the model for the produce industry (Carder, 1999). On-site visits replace

classroom training for producers in the OGVG program and contain these elements, all

employed by the same resource person from season-to-season to enhance trust and

increase efficiency, so site information and producer attitudes do not need to be explored

each visit. On-site visit components include:

      discussion of current food safety issues, using recent media headlines;

      a walk-through of a site with producer to view any changes and;

      discussion of any new site documentation or GAPs that buyers may be asking for;

      visual inspection for anything that poses an obvious risk and discuss food safety

       components and reminders;

      help producer complete documentation or get information to design site-specific

       forms; and,

      provide a short training session with all workers.

C) Verification

Verification provides a producer and buyers with a record of how well on-farm food

safety strategies are being implemented, can reveal potential areas of concern and, over

time, can provide the data that demonstrates improvement. Though suggested by all three

groups of reviewed documents, only OGVG and third-party audit systems provided

guidance for verification of GAPs. Verification is the primary focus of third-party

auditing firms and all audit schemes reviewed were similar in structure and objectives,

including documentation review, site inspections and then assessing an overall score.

Audits can provide a snapshot of a producer's facilities and documentation, but many

auditors lack the microbiological or chemical testing capabilities, or interest, that may

enhance a program's credibility. Audits are easy for retailers to implement and understand

as a set of common and established guidelines are provided to both buyer and supplier.

OGVG employs verification based on the microbiological sampling of water (source and

wash) and product, and a review of documentation with a producer and observation of

practices. The OGVG program is essentially a miniature audit performed by an industry

representative (so not entirely third-party, but with no connection to a site) and supported

by pathogen testing. Though the International Commission on Microbiological

Specifications for Foods (1989) suggests that routine microbiological examination of raw

vegetables is unlikely to reduce hazards to any great extent and is not recommended,

OGVG has taken on-site visits as an opportunity to create a history of microbiological

data, and as a communication vehicle for producers. Mr. Hoffman reported that OGVG's

stance, verified through retailer anecdotes, is that by openly providing sample testing

methodology and results and visit dates is sufficient verification that appropriate steps are

effectively being taken to produce safe food. However this is not the case for all retailers.

D) Communication program

OGVG is the only organization within the reviewed program guidelines that engages in

risk communication with consumers about food safety on the farm. This component is

not promoted by any other program, and is in fact discouraged by two of the third-party

auditors, where it is dictated that the food safety certification logo is only for business-to-

business communications and must not appear on end-point products. OGVG

communicates the on-farm food safety program activities through information on the

organization website, opinion articles and media inquiries. From 1998-2003 the program

generated 74 media hits (opinion pieces or quotes in media accounts). Internally, member

newsletters have been created and distributed to OGVG participants to keep stakeholders

apprised to the activities of the program, the visit schedule, any problems encountered by

OGVG staff and emerging issues in the industry. The OGVG program also has a

mechanism to distribute time-sensitive information, such as boil water advisories. Mr.

Hoffman suggested that the communication activities of OGVG enabled the industry to

speak as one voice, which he believed was particularly important if food safety was used

as a trade barrier.

E) Crisis management

Crises that create the need for emergency response can sometimes be avoided if proper

monitoring systems are in place. In other instances, crises hit without warning, and all

that can be done is damage control to prevent the issue from escalating. OGVG employs

a crisis management component to the on-farm food safety program differing on this

issue from all other reviewed guidelines. OGVG food safety co-ordinators are available

24 hours a day, seven days a week to help producers cope with any food safety crises that

may arise, and can co-ordinate a response for the whole industry. Crisis management

services and training is offered through two of the third-party auditing firms at additional

costs, and is not part of the standard on-farm food safety program. Mr. Hoffman

suggested that including crisis response as a component of the food safety program was

what he felt was a natural extension and enhanced the utility of the service as producers

had a place to turn if something failed with their on-farm systems or an unexpected event

occurred. He also suggested that the utility of other programs should be called into

question as they offer no guidance to producers on how to prepare for a crisis could affect

an entire industry.

Cost comparisons

Cost of implementation and return on investment are contributing factors to the effective

implementation of on-farm food safety programs. It has cost OGVG producers a total of

$439,622 since 1998 to implement the on-farm food safety program. This cost averaged

over five years results in an actual cost of $399.66 per OGVG member. This program

has also been supported by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food as a pilot for on-

farm food safety implementation, reducing the real cost to individual growers to

approximately $200 per year. OGVG program costs retrieved from organization

documents and on-site visit activities since its inception are shown in Table 4.3. Phase 1

costs included developing the program guidelines and establishing a baseline of

microbiological sampling data across all producers. In Phase 2, only Leamington-based

producers were targeted, with seven smaller producers in the rest of Ontario participating.

Phase 3 was focused primarily on the rest of Ontario who were missed in Phase 2.

Growing schedules contributed to this split in phases as many smaller members outside

of the Leamington area do not produce vegetables in the summer; it was decided that the

program would focus on these producers when the majority were in full production.

Phase 4 was reduced in size due to a costly trade conflict that the entire industry was

engaged in with U.S. producers. Phase 5 on-site visits and microbiological sampling

focused on the largest producers and those who required the visits to satisfy buyer


It has been estimated that on-farm food safety verification programs supplied by third-

party auditing groups can cost up to $985 per location, for only the verification step

(Suslow, 2000). Much of the work done by OGVG in Phase 1 is provided to producers

participating in third-party audits, with all costs concentrating on the verification

component. These costs can be much higher depending on size, type of production and

selected program. For one grower, a total investment of $4,400 (of which $1,300 is an

annual maintenance cost), was reported to implement an on-farm food safety program

(Guelph Food Technology Center, 2004). Wall and colleagues (2001) suggest that the

cost of auditing will decrease as more producers are required to participate, though extra

savings may have to be allocated to promoting program specifics to consumers.

Table 4.3. OGVG on-farm food safety program costs and on-site visit totals 1998-2003.

                           Phase 1        Phase 2          Phase 3       Phase 4    Phase 5

                           (1998-2001) (Spring 2001) (Fall 2001) (2002)             (2003)

Staff and material costs $104,000         $67,100          $32,525       $27,820 $92,120

Microbial testing costs    $29,000        $14,842          $16,500       $15,715 $40,000

On-site visits             200            91               70            75         171


Documentation and guidelines

The HACCP-based guidelines and recommendations for producers employing GAPs as

part of an on-farm food safety strategy are similar for all reviewed programs. There is a

difference however, in the emphasis of how the programs are verified. As there are time

constraints of a third-party audit, the focus appears to be on visible, easily verified

program components. Worker training is required or suggested by all reviewed groups

but there is little guidance on what makes an effective training program, which is

important, especially with the prominence of worker hygiene as risk factor. All on-farm

food safety programs have a mechanism to keep records of risk-reduction practices. The

documentation provides a quick reference to specific practices for interested buyers or

and also for regulators in case of an outbreak without an in-depth investigation. The

documentation medium does not matter, whether it’s a checklist that is posted on the

wall, a computer spreadsheet or a notebook, as long as it is accessible, complete and is

kept up-to-date; the proper and timely completion of documentation is the important

factor. Relying on documentation review and site observation may not be sufficient

verification as producers can readily clean and sanitize a site for an announced audit and

potentially falsify documentation, degrading the certification. As more research is

completed in this area, guidelines must be revisited and evaluated for relevance.

Implementation aide

An implementation aide is available to growers participating in the OGVG on-farm food

safety program as part of the program. This help in designing site-specific systems and

infrastructure is also available from many of the third-party audit firms, though at an

additional cost (which were not readily available). In agriculture, differences between

sites and the on-farm food safety strategies make the implementation aide a necessity for

some producers for whom the priority of food safety may be changing based on other

economic factors, as explored in Chapter 3. By not receiving this aide, or training on food

safety issues, the implementation could be variable, an not readily revealing through

verification. On-site implementation aide also builds trust between program

implementers and the producer which is valuable in crises and communication.


Verification can demonstrate to a buyer that a producer or a program is accomplishing its

goals in reducing food safety risks. Audits may provide a snapshot of a producer's

facilities and documentation but do not effectively reduce risk as producers are not

required to understand the reasons for employing it. By openly providing program data to

a buyer, it demonstrates that a producer has nothing to hide and that steps are being taken

to produce safe food. Judging on the increasing number of retail firms requesting

verification through third-party audits, it appears that the retail industry has accepted

auditors as an effective assurance system. This research reveals that simply auditing is

insufficient, and that producers need and expect assistance meeting guidelines,

addressing communication and functioning in a food safety crisis.


Because third-party audits are retailer-driven solutions to food safety, it is not surprising

that communication materials for consumers are discouraged, as they may believe that it

indicates there is a difference between products' safety on retailers' shelves. This belief

can provide a false sense of security for consumers and is not in line with risk

communication theory. It is not apparent whether other programs will employ a

communication program in the future. Without a proactive communication program, the

story of risk-reduction on the farm can be lost, and may be perceived as less credible.

Crisis management

Crises are events that require rapid decisions. If handled correctly, a crisis can enhance

the reputation and credibility of the organization. If handled incorrectly, a crisis can

irreparably harm the organization or an entire commodity group. By not including crisis

management as a structured component of a program producers and their buyers are not

preparing themselves for outbreaks. To add a crisis component to a program would add

utility to a producer especially in a situation where a producer requires an on-site

resource to help assess a potentially damaging situation (such as a flood or other

contamination risk). If a producer must request crisis help from a firm who also audits

them, the producer may not request such assistance for fear of buyers being alerted. Crisis

management should be provided by the industry as part of an on-farm food safety



If a program is seen to be too expensive to implement, as discussed in Chapter 3,

producers are more likely to reject participation. As the return on investment is not

realized in higher selling prices or reduced input costs producers may not implement

programs to their fullest if utility is not seen. Third-party audit systems are an inflated

cost and compared to the OGVG program costs, are not needed, and are not providing

full value to producers. The extra savings from implementing the OGVG system could

be used to marketing the system and brand development, where the OGVG program

lacks the most.

The passionate champion

The success of the OGVG on-farm food safety program can further be traced to Mr.

Hoffman's individual push and for conceiving the idea for this program. His involvement

in the development and applicability of on-farm food safety to real agricultural situations

was paramount in the success of this program. Without Mr. Hoffman's involvment as an

early adopter of integrated on-farm food safety programs (including stakeholders,

communication and crises components) this project, and others following it may not have

occurred. OGVG's on-farm food safety program can be directly traced to Mr. Hoffman's

drive to differentiate product from competitors and practice proactive risk management.

Research limitations

This project is limited by the information that was provided by OGVG as well as what is

publicly available about the other reviewed programs. This information may be missing

segments that could skew results and influence the discussion or the findings. This

research component also did not incorporate information from retailers or consumers

about on-farm food safety program expectations, which also could have affected the

results and discussion of the components of a complete program.

Chapter 5. On-farm food safety program recommendations and conclusions


There is no single correct way to include all of the items that are components of an on-

farm food safety program; rather, programs should be tailored to buyers' needs with the

goal of retaining or enhancing market share. The components of a program must also be

flexible enough to include the smallest of growers while catering to the needs of large

growers. A common voice from a group of producers is more credible and can be used to

support a crisis situation that affects an entire industry. It is also more cost effective for

programs to be implemented through a group of producers. Return on investment must be

evident to producers to increase participation. While participation in on-farm food safety

programs will most likely not result in increased selling prices, a well-conducted program

can enhance relationships necessary to expand an industry.

Program design template

Industry-led, regulator supported

Food safety programs for produce farmers should be industry (or specifically commodity

group) -led initiatives, supported by Canadian federal and provincial regulators. Industry

itself is in the best position to implement on-farm food safety programs because its

members possess the best understanding of market drivers and buyer demands. This

needs to be addressed by a team of passionate champions who will provide the base for

implementation through innovation; adapting industry-specific programs rather than

following lowest common denominator-style formulas. Many Canadian produce industry

organizations have the infrastructure to develop on-farm food safety programs but that is

not enough. The capability to provide field resources to farmers, such as food safety co-

ordinators, is a necessity for a comprehensive system. Regional producer organizations,

where extension-like infrastructure is already in place and integrated with regulators, may

be better suited to provide on-farm support than their national counterparts. Industry

groups have greater capability and motive to employ risk managements programs

efficiently and effectively while providing value to producers. The individual producer

has many different priorities at any given time during the growing season. Industry-led

programs that provide in-field support and resources do not require the grower to be a

food safety expert, thus overcoming some of the barriers to implementing on-farm food

safety programs. A grassroots approach to on-farm food safety also provides practicality

and the flexibility needed for a successful program. Because individual farms have

different practices and different risks, the one-on-one support provided by a food safety

expert or resource person is necessary for some producers and could be best provided by


Regulator support should be provided to producer groups implementing on-farm food

safety programs. This support may be in the form of increased surveillance of pathogens,

better outbreak investigations, research into new risk-reduction technologies and funding

implementation. Current funding for on-farm food safety initiatives, at least in Canada,

appears to be directed to national-based groups only, excluding provincial or regional

groups from creating or implementing unique programs. The national approach may not

be the most effective way to fund such programs as it forces competitors to conform,

removing the benefit of the differentiation of product that some producers desire. A push

for a national standard for food safety has been suggested in recent years but can be

detrimental to Canadian producers if any part of the system is perceived as a weak link.

Verification of producer group actions could be expensive and difficult, but the standard

is useless without such verification.

Dynamic program based on the best available science

Most on-farm food safety programs have similar guidelines and good agricultural

practices because they are based on established evidence-based risks, and proven risk-

reduction strategies. It can be more efficient and effective to build upon an existing

program than building an entire system from scratch. Having science as common link

between on-farm food safety programs is also a good foundation to resolve potential

conflicts between retailers, producers, and/or regulators. The specific needs of producers

in the horticulture sector are dynamic, while new research, emerging pathogens and

consumer demands demonstrate that the landscape of produce food safety is changing

constantly. Producers need to be prepared to respond to unknown issues and programs

must remain dynamic and flexible enough to manage such unknowns. The future cannot

be predicted, but implementing a proactive strategy including skilled people, excellent

surveillance and vigilance can aid in reacting to the unknown. Regulators should be

assisting producers in identifying the parameters of evidence-based risks and guidelines

as many of the on-farm issues have common factors such as soil, water contamination

and manure use. Canadian federal and provincial government agencies should support

industry resource personnel in identifying emerging issues.

All on-farm food safety programs should include and evaluation component from the

development stage. The information provided from an evaluation can help risk managers

answer questions from participants about return on investment and whether the program

is meeting the objectives that were set out at the beginning. An evaluation can also help

determine whether new goals and objectives should be established based on emerging

issues. A program cannot be static or it will become obsolete, and other industry

competitors can capitalize on its shortcomings. An evaluation activity at a defined time

interval can also strengthen the buyer and public perception that a program is current,

which may be especially useful in or following a crisis situation.

Involve stakeholders

Retailers and consumers are the stakeholders who are currently driving on-farm food

safety program implementation. Producers have little cause to react if neither of these

groups have clear expectations for risk-reduction practices or specific demands. At the

grocery store, consumers generally expect products to safe and rarely engage in risk

discussions. At the same time, development of effective on-farm food safety program

should include input from buyers (including packers, shippers and retailers), and

consumers to ensure the programs address the issues of most concern to them. Involving

packers, shippers and retailers also provides an opportunity to establish relationships with

them and explore other value chain initiatives, where program costs can be recouped and

profits increased. Value chains, similar to on-farm food safety programs, are only as

good as the weakest link. By strengthening relationships it is possible that partnerships to

strengthen links can be established. It is also important to include regulators who can

support initiatives either through funding, extension services or research resources. The

goals of an on-farm food safety program should be to involve all stakeholders with the

hope of reducing controllable risks, and the economic impact resulting from an outbreak,

or liability situation.

Some producers believe that food safety is necessary, but still think it is a nuisance to

implement. If an organization implementing an on-farm food safety program can provide

a benefit to a producer through stakeholder relationships then motivation to participate

may increase. Stakeholder discussions and expectations are even more important if a

producer's product is exported from Canada, because crises can lead to trade issues.

Media coverage of produce-related outbreaks supports the notion that stakeholders may

react differently when imported food is involved. This increases the need to include

buyers and consumers other countries, but the costs of employing it may be prohibitive.

Employ transparent external proactive risk communication strategies

An on-farm food safety program should include a proactive risk communication

component to address public perception of produce safety. This communication program

should also make reference to local, national and international guidelines and the reasons

behind them. Historically, producers, and retailers have been hesitant to communicate

their risk reduction strategies with consumers, believing that consumers may believe

there is something wrong with their product and choose a product that does not

acknowledge risks. An ideological change is required for these members of the farm-to-

fork continuum. An open and transparent system describing all risk-reduction practices

employed by the industry can proactively protect a sector from allegations of concealing

risky practices, and also can build relationships with consumers and open a dialogue

about agriculture. Disclosing all data and information about a program can also motivate

producers to comply, as verification would be accessible.

A transparent system is not complete by just providing the risk reduction information to

an audience of retailers and consumers; it is imperative that the audience understands

why risk reduction practices are being performed and how they actually work. Using

media outlets and even industry websites or information packages to promote programs,

while linking the practices with other news items (such as an outbreak, or trade issue) can

enhance consumer confidence and can be useful when encountering an unknown or crisis

situation. When rapid and clear links between illnesses and products appear, the

likelihood of a high level of media coverage is increased. Having risk managers and

producers available to media to discuss aspects of growing and transportation, including

employee-training programs, would strengthen the position of the industry and provide

proactive risk communication message content. This is especially important if a

commodity has been stigmatized as a risky food. It is likely that any subsequent outbreak

coverage will be amplified and producers need to embrace this situation and describe

actions clearly and quickly so the story is not completed by incorrect sources.

Employ program-specific multi-dimensional internal communication strategies

Producers need to be vigilant and constantly reminded about food safety by risk

managers. Some producers may reject the managerial and mindset changes if not

reminded of the importance of risk management actions and an economic incentive is not

available.   Internal communication of on-farm food safety program guidelines, producer

implementation aid and emerging issues is needed for a complete program. This

communication should be directed by the implementation team at managers, with the

goal of changing behaviours. On-farm food safety programs should not waste money by

putting producers in classrooms; funds should be invested into effective on-site visits or

other personal communication strategies. On-going research and continuous evaluation of

the communication strategy is required to determine the most-effective ways of

communicating with employees, to develop more practical documentation, and to better

integrate on-farm food safety programs, with nutrient management plans, spray records

and environmental farm plans to create a farm-specific approach to produce production.

Internal communication of crisis situations management is also important because it

affects the entire industry. Communication strategies should be aimed at ensuring

everyone involved understands the requirements, documentation, and principles. The

goal should not be to make every producer a food safety expert, just to recognize risks

and provide an avenue to ask questions about such risks. Communication strategies

should include the use of non-technical terms (like germs or bugs instead of bacteria) and

some attention to the connections between behaviours on the farm and historical

outbreaks. As with hygiene training for employees, simply providing the tools and

information in a passive form is not enough to ensure a behavioural change in all

participants, especially those who are not motivated to participate fully.

Risk managers should also provide guidelines on how to ensure their employees are

trained on an ongoing basis. Risk managers may provide this training on-site to

standardize the topics and ensure that the training is done correctly. This can be

supported by passively providing ongoing information similar to factsheets that focus on

food safety. The influence and retention of such information may be greater than if the

active training sessions were to standalone. Placing safe food handling and production

practices in an everyday context, as well as continually providing the answers to the "why

is this important?" questions will result in a more complete and effective food safety



A good on-farm food safety program needs a variety of components that alone are

meaningless but together provide a picture that shows a producer is proactive about

reducing risks. In short, on-farm food safety programs should be clearly designed so

producers can: say what they do; do what they say; and verify that it works. The top-

down approach that has been adopted by many of the governmental, national producer-

led, institutional groups is adequate for producing generalized guidelines and providing

direction to growers about GAPs. At least within horticulture, however, implementation

is required from the bottom-up, with resource experts on the farm with producers, helping

farmers with any food safety questions and production adjustments. The individual

producer does not need to be the food safety expert, and should not have to be with so

many other priorities. This grassroots approach provides practicality and flexibility for

the program to be successful. Individual growers may not be interested in paying a

consultant on a specific -issue basis, so a cheaper alternative is to have a regional group

or groups support infrastructure through membership fees and provide the service to all

their growers. It appears that the costly verification steps may be only providing a

transfer of liability to the auditing firms in the event of an outbreak. As these systems are

still evolving this should be explored in the future through historical case studies of actual

outbreaks and how the components of the food system worked and reacted. Participation

of stakeholders has been identified as a missing component in all reviewed programs.

Introducing value-chain initiatives and using food safety, traceability and a strong

communication program to further enhance consumer confidence in produce along the

farm-to-fork continuum can enhance the effectiveness of on-farm food safety programs.


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U.S. National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. 1998. Hazard analysis
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U.S. National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. 1999. Microbiological
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Appendix 1.1. A summary of on-farm food safety programs or guidelines for fresh fruits and vegetables worldwide

Table 1: The On-Farm Food Safety Programs or Guidelines in Canada

Federal Government Initiatives

Program/Guidelines      Developed By             Start Date   Current Status                     Funded By         Reference
Canadian On-Farm        Canadian Federation of                Achieve recognition for national   Agriculture and   Http://
Food Safety Program     Agriculture (CFA) and                 commodity associations programs    Agri-Food
(COFFSP)                Canadian Food            May 1997                                        Canada’s          s_and_projects/onfarm
                        Inspection Agency                                                        Canadian          _food_safety.html
                        (CFIA) (Technical                                                        Adaptation and
                        Support)                                                                 Rural
Code of Practice for                                                                                               Http://www.inspection.gc
Minimally Processed                                           Voluntary implementation.                            .ca/english/plaveg/fresh/
Ready-to-Eat            CFIA                     Feb. 1999    No Audit. Available on website.    CFIA              read-eat_e.shtml

Code of Practice for                                                                                               http://www.inspection.gc.
the Hygienic                                                  Voluntary implementation. No                         ca/english/plaveg/fresh/s
Production of           CFIA                     Sept. 2001   Audit Available on website.        CFIA              prointe.shtml
Sprouted Seeds

Provincial Government Initiatives

Program/Guidelines      Developed By             Start Date   Current Status                     Funded By         Reference
Keeping Berries Safe:                                                                                    
A Grower’s Guide to     Ontario Ministry of                   Voluntary implementation. No       OMAF              MAFRA/english/crops/fa
Preventing Food-        Agriculture, Food and    Feb. 2000    Audit. Available on website                          cts/berry_obgabrochure.
Borne Illness from      Rural Affairs                                                                              html
Berry Crops             (OMAFRA)

National Commodity Associations Initiatives
Program/Guidelines      Developed By             Start Date   Current Status                         Funded By         Reference
On-Farm Food Safety                                                                                                    Http://www.hortcouncil
Guidelines for Fresh  Canadian Horticultural                  Phase 3 of COFFSP:                     Agriculture and   .ca/offs.htm
Fruit and Vegetables  Council (CHC)              1997         Implementation                         Agri-Food
(OFFSP)                                                                                              Canada
Industry Associations/Board Initiatives
Program/Guidelines      Developed By             Start Date   Current Status                         Funded By         Reference
Food Safety             BC Vegetable                          Voluntary Implementation. No           BC Vegetable
                        Marketing Commission                  Audit.                                 Marketing         prod03.htm
                                                              Available on Website                   Commission
Partners in Quality –                                                                                                  Ontario Tender Fruit
PIQ Ontario:            Ontario Tender Fruit                                                         OMAFRA            Producers’ and Ontario
On-Farm Food Safety     Producers’ and Ontario   Feb. 2001    Voluntary Implementation               Healthy Futures   Fresh Grape Growers’
Guidelines For Fruit    Fresh Grape Growers’                  No Audit                               Fund              Marketing Boards. 2001.
and Grape Growers       Marketing Boards                                                                               Partners in Quality – PIQ
                                                                                                                       Ontario: On-Farm Food
                                                                                                                       Safety Guidelines For
                                                                                                                       Fruit and Grape
Processing Vegetable                                                                                 The Ontario       Ontario Processing
On Farm Food Safety     The Ontario Processing                Voluntary Implementation               Processing        Vegetable Grower’s
Handbook                Vegetable Grower’s       May 2001     No Audit                               Vegetable         Marketing Board. 2001.
                        Marketing Board                                                              Grower’s          Processing Vegetable
                                                                                                     Marketing Board   On Farm Food Safety
Ontario Greenhouse                                            All members participating, ongoing                       http://www.ontariogree
Vegetable Growers                                             farm visits, microbiological testing   OMAFRA  
On-Farm Food Safety     Ontario Greenhouse       July 1999    and program support by employed        Healthy Futures   al.pdf
Program                 Vegetable Growers                     food safety coordinators, for          Fund

Agricultural Integrated   AIMS with participation                   Food Safety Coordinators           OMAFRA               Completed
Management                from the Ontario Fruit and                implement pilot project on 20      Healthy Futures
Services (AIMS)           Vegetable Growers            Dec. 2001-   trial farms with 9 commodities     Fund
Project P.I.L.O.T         Association (OFVGA), the     2003         over the 2002 season
                          Ontario Potato Board, the                 On-site visits, microbiological
                          Ontario Asparagus                         testing of water and produce and
                          Growers and the                           program support
                          University of Guelph
Company Initiatives

Program/Guidelines        Developed By                          Current Status
                                                       Start Date                                      Funded By            Reference
Integrated Food           Guelph Food Technology                Use HACCP principles to train          Paid by individual
Safety & Quality          Centre (GFTC)*            Spring      and audit growers. Also, provide       group that
Systems                                             2001        training in SQF (Safe Quality          requests services
                                                                Food) 1000/2000 Codes . Logo
* GFTC is currently working with the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association
to implement HACCP programs on producer’s farms.

Table 2: U.S. On-Farm Food Safety Programs or Guidelines
Federal Government Initiatives

Program/Guidelines         Developed/Administered         Start Date         Current Status              Funded By    Reference
Guide to Minimize          Food and Drug                                                                    
Microbial Food Safety      Administration (FDA), U.S.                        Voluntary                                /~dms/prodguid.html
Hazards for Fresh Fruits   Department of Agriculture      Oct. 1998          Implementation. No Audit    FDA
and Vegetables             (USDA) and the Centre for                         Available on Website
                           Food Safety and Applied
                           Nutrition (CFSAN)

                                                                             12 Month Pilot across the
                                                                             USA, Voluntary                           http://www.ams.usda.g
Fresh Produce Audit        USDA, Federal-State                               Implementation, On-Farm                  ov/fv/fpbgapghp.htm
Verification Program       Inspection Service (FSIS)      Oct. 2001          Scored Audits by FSIS       Individual
                                                                             based on “Guide to          Requesting
                                                                             Minimize Microbial Food     Services
                                                                             Safety Hazards for Fresh
                                                                             Fruits and Vegetables”.
                                                                             No logo used.
                                                                             Audit form can be found
                                                                             on the website
                                                                             Independent third-party
                                                                             audits performed by
                                                                             Federal-State Inspection
                                                                             Service staff.

Microbiological Safety     USDA: National Advisory                                                          
Evaluations and            Committee on                   May 1999           Voluntary                   USDA         /~mow/sprouts2.html
Recommendations on         Microbiological Criteria for                      Implementation, No Audit.
Sprouted Seeds             Food (NACMCF)                                     Available on Website

National Trade Associations Initiatives

Program/Guidelines           Developed/Administered          Start Date         Current Status              Funded By   Reference
Food Safety Auditing                                                            Voluntary Implementation      
Guidelines: Core             United Fresh Fruit and                             No Audit                                od_safety_docs.htm
Elements of Good             Vegetable Association           Sept. 2001         Available on website        UFFVA
Agricultural Practices for   (UFFVA)
Fresh Fruits and
                             UFFVA, National Processors                         Voluntary Implementation      
Field Cored Lettuce:         Association and International   April 2001         No Audit                    UFFVA       ews/wklyUpdate_repor
Best Practices               Fresh-cut Produce                                  Available on website                    t.cfm?id=1032&wklyda
                             Association (IFPA)                                                                         te=4/27/01
Food Safety Guidelines                                                          Voluntary Implementation                http://www.fresh-
for the Fresh-Cut            IFPA                            2001               No Audit                    IFPA
Produce Industry, Fourth                                                        Available on website                    329/publications_show
Edition                                                                                                                 .htm?doc_id=2034
                                                                                Voluntary Implementation                http://www.fresh-
Revised! HACCP Plan                                                             No Audit                      
for Fresh-Cut Produce        IFPA                            2001               Available on website        IFPA        329/publications_show

Food Safety Program for                                                         Voluntary Implementation      
Florida Producers                                                               Farmers receive tool kit                _safety.shtml
                                                             2001               and education on creating
                             Florida Fruit and Vegetable                        food safety program         FFVA
                             Association                                        Florida Fruit & Vegetable
                                                                                Research & Education
                                                                                Foundation was awarded
                                                                                a grant to teach
                                                                                producers about basic

University/College Initiatives
Programs/Guidelines       Developed/Administered By      Start Date         Current Status             Funded By          Reference
Reducing Food Safety      Washington State University,                                                                    http://organic.tfrec.wsu.
Risks in Apples: A Self- Cooperative Extension Home                         Voluntary                  USDA-CSREES        edu/FoodSafetyWeb/Ho
Assessment Workbook       * A* Syst-Farm * A * Syst      May 2001           Implementation. No         Food Safety        me.htm
for Producers of                                                            Audit.                     Grant
Apples, Juice and Cider                                                     Available on website
Food Safety Begins on                                                       Voluntary                                     http://www.gaps.cornell
the Farm: A Grower’s                                                        Implementation by          USDA-CSREES        .edu/
Guide, Good               Cornell University             2001               Cornell GAPs Team:         and US FDA
Agricultural Practices                                                      members in 16 different
for Fresh Fruits and                                                        States train growers and
Vegetables                                                                  packers
Extensive Regional       North Carolina State                               Implementation of fresh    Initially Funded
Food Safety Program      University                                         produce safety             by USDA-
                         (NCSU)                                             guidelines, risk           CSREES
                                                                            management, recall
                                                                            information etc. in a
                                                                            cooperative effort by 11
The UVM Apple            University of Vermont           April 2000         Implementation             USDA               uvmapple/foodsafety/de
Program                  Extension                                          No Audit                                      fault.html
                                                                            Available on Website

Food Safety in                                                               Voluntary                     
Vegetable Production    University of California, Davis   Feb. 2002          Implementation             UC Davis     electnewtopic.foodsafet
(Several Documents)     Cooperative Extension                                No Audit                                y.htm
                                                                             UC Cooperative
                                                                             Extension farm advisors:
                                                                             address issues relating
                                                                             to production practices,
                                                                             resource management,
                                                                             pest management, food
                                                                             safety, and worker

Good Management         Penn State: College of                                                             
Practices for Safe      Agricultural Sciences                                Voluntary                               part7/part79a.htm
Production of Fresh                                       July 2001          Implementation             Penn State
Market Apples and                                                            No Audit
Apple Cider                                                                  Available on Website

Industry Associations/Board Initiatives

Programs/Guidelines     Developed By                      Start Date         Current Status             Funded By    Reference
                                                                             California Growers,        California   http://www.calstrawberr
Quality Assurance       California Strawberry             1996               shippers and processors    Strawberry
Program                 Commission                                           voluntarily implement      Commission   p

                                                                             voluntary quality
                                                                             assurance program: field
                                                                             sanitation, traceback,
                                                                             soil and water testing,
                                                                             pesticide use, GAPs

Hazard Analysis Critical   International Sprout Growers                      Voluntary                   IFPA     
Control Point (HACCP)      Association (ISGA)                                Implementation. No
Check List                                                                   Audit. Available on
Industry Company Initiatives

Programs/Guidelines        Developed By                   Start Date         Current Status              Funded By          Reference

                                                                             Dole’s growers only                  
                                                          1998               supply them and are         Dole Fresh         dustrial/safety/index.ght
Good Agricultural          Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc.                        required to follow          Vegetables Inc.    ml
Practices in the Field                                                       guidelines. Monitored in
                                                                             the field. Facilities are
                                                                             ISO 9000, 14000 and
                                                                             AIB certified
Individual Company Initiatives
Programs/Guidelines        Developed/Administered By      Start Date         Current Status              Funded By          Reference
                                                                             Three Step Process.         Individual Group   http://www.davisfreshtech
ProSafe Certified          Davis Fresh Technologies                          Auditors offer              Requesting         .com/prosafe/index.html
program                    (Based in the USA)                                certification               Services
                                                                             Internationally. No
                                                                             microbiological testing.

                                                                        Bilingual Staff Develops    Individual Group
Food Safety              Scientific Certification                       and Implements Food         Requesting
Management and           Systems                                        Safety Programs             Services
HACCP Programs                                                          Internationally. Third
                                                                        Party Audits. HACCP-
                                                                        based Certification
                                                                        Teach, evaluate and                  
                                                                        verify.                                        m/index.html
                                                                        Affiliated Auditors (i.e.   Individual Group
                                                                        AAC Consulting,             Requesting
Food Safety Services*                       and       Services
                                                                        Primus Auditors
                                                                        Worldwide offer
                                                                        certification through
                                                                        Provide third party
Good Agricultural                                                       auditing services           Individual Group
Practices (GAPs)         AAC Consulting Group                           Food Safety and             Requesting
                                                                        HACCP services.             Services

Retailer Initiatives
Programs/Guidelines      Developed/Administered By   Start Date         Current Status              Funded By          Reference

                                                                        Audits conducted by H-                         H-E-B Fresh Produce
                                                                        E-B Quality Assurance                          Code of Practice. 2000.
H-E-B Fresh Produce      H-E-B                       1999               Partners. Approval is by    H-E-B
Code of Best Practices                                                  facility and/or process
                                                                        not by suppliers (not on
                                                                        the farm).
                                                                        Microbiological Testing
                                                                        of Water Mandatory
* Subway contracted Primus Labs, as the third party auditor of all their suppliers of lettuce, tomatoes and green peppers in North
America. Subway mandated that all suppliers be in compliance by Feb. 2001
* Safeway, Albertson’s and Publix Supermarkets Inc. have also requested third party audits of produce suppliers through Primus Labs

Table 3: On-Farm Food Safety Programs or Guidelines Worldwide


Program/Guidelines       Developed/Administered By     Start Date         Current Status                Funded By    Reference
                                                                                                                     Code of Practice For
Code of Practice For     Food Safety Authority of                         Voluntary                                  Food Safety in the Fresh
Food Safety in the       Ireland                       Sept. 2001         Implementation.               FSAI         Produce Supply Chain in
Fresh Produce Supply     (FSAI)                                           No Audit                                   Ireland. 2001. Food
Chain in Ireland                                                                                                     Safety Authority of Ireland
Fresh Safe Food: Food    Cooperative Research Centre                      National Food Safety             
Safety Guidelines for    for International Food        Dec. 1998          Guidelines. Training for         
the Australian Fresh-    Manufacture & Packaging                          Industry. Fresh Safe
Cut Produce Industry     Science                                          Food
                         (CRS for IFMPS) and The                          Certification Logo
                         Fresh-Cut Industry
Hygiene Code for Fruit   Netherlands, Product Board                       Voluntary
and Vegetable Growers    for Horticulture                                 Implementation. No
                                                                          Use guidelines to certify        
EUREPGAP Fruits and      Euro-Retailer Produce         Oct. 1997          International Certification   Individual   es/index_e.html
Vegetables               Working Group (EUREP)                            Bodies (i.e. Primuslabs).     Requesting
                                                                          Use of EurepGap Logo.         Services
                                                                          Growers contact
                                                                          certification body.
                                                                          Certification of              Individual
Assured Produce          Checkmate International plc   June 1997          individuals                   Requesting
Scheme (APS).            (CMi)                                            Internationally               Services

AIB Consolidated                                                                                                     http://www.aibinternationa
Standards for Fresh                                                    Certification by AIB auditors.   Individual
Produce and Fruit      AIB International                               AIBI Gold Standard Logo          Requesting   rds/Packinghouses/
Packinghouses          (AIBI)                                                                           Services

Global Food Safety     CIES – The Food Business       May 2000         Certification – CIES Logo           
Initiative Guidance    Forum                                           not on product, only on          Individual
Document                                                               business communications          Requesting
                                                                       System not ready until           Services
                                                                       Spring 2002
SQF Program*           WA Department of Agriculture   1995             Accredited companies can            
                       and SQF Institute (Based In    (SQF2000)        certify individuals. Both     Individual      index.html
                       Lausanne, Switzerland)         1999             programs use logos            Requesting
                                                      (SQF1000)                                      Services
*Société Générale de Surveillance S.A. (SGS)
and as previously mentioned the GFTC, are examples of groups qualified to use the SQF program and logo.

Appendix 2.1. Produce related outbreaks from 1990-2003

  Date     Vehicle                                Pathogen           Number Ill   Reference
 Jan-90    Fruit                                  Norovirus            217           30
 Jan-90    Cantaloupe                             S. Chester           245           31
 Feb-90    Salad                                  S. Montevideo        320           12
 Mar-90    Fruit                                  Norovirus            238           12
 Apr-90    Strawberries                           Hepatitis A           51           12
 Jun-90    Tomatoes                               S. Javiana           176           44
 Jul-90    Salad                                  Hepatitis A            3           38
 Aug-90    Salad                                  Hepatitis A           39           38
 Oct-90    Alfalfa sprouts                        S. Anatum             15           12
 Nov-90    Vegetables                             G. lamblia            27           37
 Dec-90    Lettuce                                Hepatitis A          130           12
 Mar-91    Fruit                                  G. intestinalis       10           12
 Jun-91    Melon                                  S. Javiana            39           12
 Jun-91    Melon                                  S. Poona             400            2
 Oct-91    Salad                                  Norovirus             51           12
 Dec-91    Salad                                  Norovirus            117           12
 Apr-92    Lettuce                                S. Enteritidis        12           12
 Jul-92    Salad                                  S. flexneri           46           17
 Sep-92    Vegetables                             E. coli O157:H12       4           13
 Jan-93    Lettuce                                S. Heildelberg        18           12
 Feb-93    Carrots, celery                        Hepatitis A           17           12
 Mar-93    Salad                                  E. coli O6:NM        168           12
 May-93    Watermelon                             S. Javiana            27           12
 Jun-93    Tomatoes                               S. Montevideo        100            3

Jul-93   Salad                   E. coli O157:H7     16   13
Jul-93   Salad                   E. coli O157:H7     10   43
Jul-93   Lettuce                 Norovirus          285   12
Jul-93   Salad                   S. Infantis         35   12
Jul-93   Lettuce, tomatoes       S. Montevideo      122   12
Aug-93   Melon                   E. coli O157:H7     27   15
Sep-93   Melon                   C. jejuni           48   12
Jan-94   Tomatoes (diced)        Hepatitis A         92   31
Apr-94   Fruits and Vegetables   E. coli O11:H43     25    6
Apr-94   Lettuce                 S. Thompson         16   12
May-94   Lettuce                 S. Braenderup       19   12
Jun-94   Salad                   C. jejuni           10   43
Jun-94   Green onion             S. flexneri         97   12
Jul-94   Salad                   C. jejuni            5   43
Jul-94   Salad                   S. flexneri          3   43
Aug-94   Fruit salad             C. jejuni           62   12
Sep-94   Potatoes, asparagus     E. coli O153:H45   507   12
Dec-94   Fruit                   V. cholerae          2   12
Mar-95   Alfalfa sprouts         S. Stanley         128   12
Apr-95   Fresh Salsa             S. flexneri         15   12
May-95   Raspberries             C. cayatenensis     32   12
Jun-95   Lettuce                 C. jejuni            5   43
Jun-95   Vegetables              Norovirus           57   12
Jul-95   Lettuce                 E. coli O153:H48    74   12
Aug-95   Raspberries             C. cayatenensis     38   12
Aug-95   Salad                   S. Typhimurium      14   12
Sep-95   Lettuce                 E. coli O153:H47    30   12
Sep-95   Salad                   E. coli O157:H7     20   12
Sep-95   Alfalfa sprouts         S. Newport         133   45

Oct-95   Lettuce           E. coli O153:H46     11   12
Oct-95   Salad             S. Enteritidis       39   12
Nov-95   Vegetables        E. coli O157:H7      45   12
Dec-95   Lettuce           Norovirus            76   12
Dec-95   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Newport           69   12
Feb-96   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Stanley           30   12
May-96   Raspberries       C. cayatenensis    1465   26
May-96   Strawberries      Cyclospora spp.      10   41
May-96   Lettuce           E. coli O157:H10     61   12
May-96   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Montevideo       650   35
Jun-96   Raspberries       C. cayatenensis       8   12
Jun-96   Salad             C. jejuni            70   12
Jun-96   Lettuce           E. coli O153:H49      7   12
Aug-96   Lettuce           C. jejuni            14   12
Nov-96   Green Onion       Hepatitis A          60   12
Dec-96   Fruit             Norovirus            11   12
Jan-97   Strawberries      Hepatitis A         256   12
Feb-97   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Infantis         109   40
Feb-97   Cantaloupe        S. Saphra            24   12
Mar-97   Lettuce           Cyclospora spp.      29    5
Mar-97   Fruit             Hepatitis A          21   12
Mar-97   Salad             Norovirus            20   19
Apr-97   Raspberries       C. cayatenensis    1012    4
Apr-97   Fruit             Norovirus            23   19
May-97   Basil             C. cayatenensis     341   12
May-97   Cantaloupe        E. coli O157:H7       9   12
May-97   Salad             S. Enteritidis       11   12
Jun-97   Alfalfa sprouts   E. coli O157:H7     108   12
Jul-97   Fruit             C. cayatenensis      26   12

Aug-97   Sweet potatoes    campylobacter spp.    17   12
Aug-97   Salad             Norovirus             14   19
Sep-97   Salad             Norovirus             12   19
Sep-97   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Senftenberg        60   12
Oct-97   Salad             S. Enteritidis        11   12
Nov-97   Sweet potatoes    S. Enteritidis         6   12
Dec-97   Lettuce           C. cayatenensis       12   12
Dec-97   Green onion       C. parvum             54   12
Dec-97   Lettuce           S. sonnei              7   12
Jan-98   Salad             Norovirus              2   12
Feb-98   Salad             Norovirus             35   12
Mar-98   Lettuce           Norovirus             14   12
Apr-98   Onion             B. cereus              2   12
Apr-98   Salad             Norovirus             51   12
Apr-98   Salad             Norovirus             67   12
Apr-98   Salad             Norovirus             12   12
Apr-98   Salad             Norovirus             27   20
May-98   Salad             E. coli O157:H7        2   21
May-98   Salad             Norovirus             25   12
May-98   Salad             Norovirus             22   12
May-98   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Havana             40   12
May-98   mango             S. Oranienburg         9   43
May-98   Salad             Salmonella spp.        3   12
Jun-98   Lettuce           C. jejuni            300   12
Jun-98   Salad             C. jejuni            152   32
Jun-98   Fruit salad       E. coli O157:H7       47   12
Jun-98   Alfalfa sprouts   E. coli O157:NM        8   12
Jul-98   Salad             Norovirus              5   12
Jul-98   Fresh salsa       S. Javiana            17   12

Jul-98   Parsley           S. sonnei         486   12
Aug-98   Parsley           E. coli O6:H16     66   12
Aug-98   Strawberries      Norovirus          41   12
Sep-98   Fruit             Norovirus         270   12
Sep-98   Fresh salsa       S. sonnei         318   12
Oct-98   Strawberries      Hepatitis A        29   12
Oct-98   Strawberries      Hepatitis A        29   12
Nov-98   Green onion       Hepatitis A        43   16
Nov-98   Salad             Norovirus          34   12
Dec-98   Tomatoes          S. Baildon         77   12
Dec-98   Potato            S. Enteritidis     21   12
Dec-98   Mamey             S. Typhi           14   29
Jan-99   Fruit             Norovirus          27   12
Jan-99   Salad             Norovirus          25   12
Jan-99   Salad             Norovirus           9   12
Jan-99   Lettuce           S. flexneri        32   12
Jan-99   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Mbandaka        83   12
Jan-99   Alfalfa sprouts   S. Typhimurium    119   42
Feb-99   Onion             B. cereus           3   12
Feb-99   Lettuce           E. coli O157:H9    65   12
Feb-99   Lettuce           Norovirus          20   12
Feb-99   Fruit             S. Typhi           16   12
Feb-99   Salad             Salmonella spp.     3   12
Mar-99   Salad             Norovirus          43   12
Mar-99   Strawberries      S. sonnei           3   12
Mar-99   Cilantro          S. Thompson        35   12
Apr-99   Salad             Hepatitis A         8   12
Apr-99   Cabbage           Norovirus          50   12
Apr-99   Fruit salad       Norovirus          43   12

Apr-99   Onion               Norovirus            9   12
Apr-99   Salad               Norovirus            4   12
May-99   Berries             C. cayatenensis     94   12
May-99   Fruit               Norovirus           49   12
May-99   Fruit salad         Norovirus            7   12
May-99   Lettuce, tomatoes   Norovirus           20   12
May-99   Cantaloupe          Norovirus           23   12
May-99   Salad               Norovirus           19   12
May-99   Salad               Norovirus           56   12
May-99   Salad               Norovirus            9   12
May-99   Fruit               S. Enteritidis      13   12
May-99   Salad               S. Heildelberg      25   12
May-99   Clover sprouts      S. Saintpaul        36   12
May-99   Basil               S. sonnei           10   12
Jun-99   Salad               E. coli O111:H8     58    7
Jun-99   Melons              Norovirus           61   12
Jun-99   Salad               Norovirus           18   12
Jun-99   Fruit               S. Javiana          11   12
Jul-99   Basil               C. cayatenensis     59   12
Jul-99   Salad               Hepatitis A         40   12
Jul-99   Fruit               Norovirus           44   12
Jul-99   Salad               Norovirus            5   12
Jul-99   Melons              S. Enteritidis      82   12
Aug-99   Salad               Hepatitis A          4   12
Aug-99   Lettuce             Norovirus          127   12
Aug-99   Salad               Norovirus           27   12
Sep-99   Lettuce             E. coli O157:H11     6   43
Sep-99   Cantaloupe          Norovirus            5   12
Sep-99   Fruit Salad         Norovirus           16   12

Sep-99   Lettuce, tomatoes   Norovirus            115   12
Sep-99   Salad               Norovirus             63   12
Sep-99   Alfalfa sprouts     S. Muenchen           61   12
                             S. paratyphi B var
Sep-99   Alfalfa sprouts     javiana               51   23
Sep-99   Alfalfa sprouts     Salmonella spp.       34   12
Oct-99   Lettuce             E. coli O153:H50      40   12
Oct-99   Lettuce             E. coli O157:H7       47   12
Oct-99   Salad               E. coli O157:H7        5   12
Oct-99   Salad               Hepatitis A            2   12
Oct-99   Lettuce             Norovirus              8   12
Oct-99   Salad               Norovirus            245   12
Oct-99   Salad               Norovirus             16   12
Oct-99   Salad               Norovirus             46   12
Oct-99   Alfalfa sprouts     S. Muenchen           38   12
Nov-99   Fruit               Norovirus             42   12
Nov-99   Grapes              Norovirus             15   12
Nov-99   Lettuce, Tomatoes   Norovirus             28   12
Nov-99   Vegetables          Norovirus             12   12
Nov-99   Mango               S. Newport            79   12
Dec-99   Green peppers       Norovirus             62   12
Dec-99   Salad               Norovirus             26   12
Dec-99   Salad               Norovirus             83   12
Dec-99   Salad               Norovirus              7   12
Jan-00   Fruit               Calicivirus           44   33
Mar-00   Mung bean sprouts   S. Enteritidis        75   34
Apr-00   Cantaloupe          S. Poona              46   35
May-00   Salad               Norovirus             69   39
Jun-00   Raspberries         C. cayatenensis       54   27

Jun-00   Mung bean sprouts   S. Enteritidis     12   24
Aug-00   Fruit               S. sonnei          24   33
Oct-00   Cherry tomatoes     Calicivirus        34   33
Oct-00   Grapes              E. coli O157:H7    14   13
Oct-00   Salad               E. coli O157:H7     6   13
Nov-00   Green beans         Calicivirus        30   33
Feb-01   Mung bean sprouts   S. Enteritidis     84   28
Feb-01   Alfalfa sprouts     S. Kottbus         32   10
Feb-01   Alfalfa sprouts     Salmonella spp.    22   10
May-01   Tomatoes            S. flexneri       886   22
Jun-01   Cantaloupe          S. Poona           23    8
Jul-01   Grapes              S. Senftenberg     41   14
Mar-02   Asparagus           Norovirus          85   12
Mar-02   Fresh Salsa         S. Enteritidis    650   12
May-02   Cantaloupe          S. Poona           58    8
Jul-02   Lettuce             E. coli O157:H8    55   12
Jul-02   Tomatoes            S. Javiana        141    9
Oct-02   Cantaloupe          S. Newport         29   36
Oct-02   Lettuce, tomatoes   Salmonella spp.   124   46
Mar-03   Alfalfa sprouts     S. Saintpaul        9   25
May-03   Lettuce             Hepatitis A        17   18
Sep-03   Green Onion         Hepatitis A       250   11
Sep-03   Green Onion         Hepatitis A         8   11
Sep-03   Green Onion         Hepatitis A        80   11
Oct-03   Lettuce             E. coli O157:H7    57    1
Nov-03   Green Onion         Hepatitis A       555   11

1. California Department of Health Services. 2004. Investigation of pre-washed mixed
bagged salad following an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in San Diego and
Orange County.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1991. Epidemiologic notes and reports:
multistate outbreak of Salmonella Poona infections---United States and Canada, 1991.
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 40:549-552.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1993. Multistate outbreak of Salmonella
serotype Montevideo infections. EPI-AID 93-79, 1993.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1997. Update: Outbreaks of
Cyclosporiasis -- United States, 1997. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report. 21:461-

5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1997. Update: Outbreaks of cyclosporiasis
— United States And Canada, 1997. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report. 23:523.

6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1998. Line listings of foodborne disease
outbreaks, years 1990-1997.

7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2000. Escherichia coli O111:H8 outbreak
among teenage campers --- Texas, 1999. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report.

8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2002. Multistate outbreaks of Salmonella
serotype poona infections associated with eating cantaloupe from Mexico—United States
and Canada, 2000-2002. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report. 51:1044-1047.

9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2002. Outbreak of Salmonella serotype
Javiana infections --- Orlando, Florida, June 2002. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly
Report. 51:683-684.

10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2002. Outbreak of Salmonella serotype
Kottbus infections associated with eating alfalfa sprouts --- Arizona, California,
Colorado, and New Mexico, February--April 2001. Morbidity And Mortality Weekly
Report . 51:7-9.

11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2003. Hepatitis A outbreak associated
with green onions at a restaurant --- Monaca, Pennsylvania, 2003.
Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report. 52:1155-1157.

12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003. U.S. foodborne disease outbreak
line listings, 1990-2003. Retrieved November 16, 2004 from:

13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2004. E. coli O157 outbreak summaries.
Retrieved November 16, 2004 from:

14. Cronquist, A. 2002. Multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Senftenberg associated with
green grapes; western states. Fall 2001. Retrieved November 16, 2004 from: iceid/2002/pdf/cronquist.pdf

15. Del Rosario, B.A., Beuchat, L.R. 1995. Survival and growth of enterohemorrhagic
Escherichia coli O157:H7 in cantaloupe and watermelon. Journal of Food Protection

16. Dentinger, C., Bower, W., Nainan, O. An outbreak of hepatitis A associated with
green onions. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 183:1273 –1276

17. Dunn, R.A., Hall, W.N., Altamirano, J.V., Dietrich, S.E., Robinson-Dunn, B., and
Johnson, D.R. 1995. Outbreak of Shigella flexneri linked to salad prepared at a central
commissary in Michigan. Public Health Reports. 110:580-586.

18. Fallding, H. 2003. Hepatitis A outbreak tied to restaurant. Winnipeg Free Press. A3.

19. Florida Department of Health. 1997. Foodborne illness surveillance and investigation
annual report, Florida, 1997.

20. Florida Department of Health 1998. Foodborne illness surveillance and investigation
annual report, Florida, 1998.

21. Griffin, P.M. and Tauxe, R.V. 2001. Surveillance for outbreaks of Escherichia coli
O157:H7 infection summary of 1998 data. Retrieved August 19, 2004 from:

22. Haney, D.Q. 2002. Food Poisoning. The Associated Press.

23. Health Canada. 2001. Outbreak of Salmonella paratyphi B var Java due to
contaminated alfalfa sprouts in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Canada
Communicable Disease Report. 27:133-137.

24. Health Canada. 2003. Outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis phage type 11B in the
provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, June 2000. Canada Communicable Disease
Report. 29:125-128.

25. Health Canada. 2003. Salmonella Saintpaul: Washington And Oregon.
Infectious Diseases News Brief. Retrieved November 16, 2004 from:

26. Herwaldt, B.L. and Ackers, M.L. 1997. An outbreak in 1996 of cyclosporiasis
associated with imported raspberries. New England Journal of Medicine. 336:1548-1556.

27. Ho, A.Y., Lopez, A.S., Eberhart, M.G., Levenson, R., Finkel, B.S., and da Silva, A.J.,
2002. Outbreak of cyclosporiasis associated with imported raspberries, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, 2000. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 8:783-788.

28. Honish, L. and Nguyen, Q. 2001. Outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis phage type 913
gastroenteritis associated with mung bean sprouts--Edmonton, 2001.
Canada Communicable Disease Report. 18:151-156.

29. Katz, D.J., Cruz, M.A., Trepka, M.J., Suarez, J.A., Fiorella, P.D. and Hammond,
R.M. 2002. An outbreak of typhoid fever in Florida associated with an imported frozen
fruit. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 186: 234-239.

30. Lawrence, D.N. 2004. Outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases on cruise ships: lessons
from three decades of progress. Current Infectious Disease Reports. 6:115-123.

31. Lund, B.M. and Snowdon, A.L. 2000. Fresh and processed fruits. In: The
microbiological safety and quality of food. ed. Lund, B.M., Baird-Parker, T.C. and
Gould, G.W. Gaithersburg, Maryland. Aspen. 2080pp.

32. Minnesota Department of Health. 1999. Annual summary of communicable diseases
reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, 1998. 27:13-32.

33. Minnesota Department Of Health. 2000. Gastroenteritis Outbreak Summary.
Retrieved November 17, 2004 from:

34. Mohle-Boetani, J. 2000. Salmonella enteritidis (SE) infection outbreak in Sacramento
and Placer counties, March/April, 2000. State of California, Department of Health
Services. CA EPI 00-09.

35. Mohle-Boetani, J.C., Farrar, J.A., Benson Werner, S., Minassian, D. Bryant, R.,
Abbott, S., Slutsker, L. and Vugia, D.J. 2001. Escherichia coli O157 and Salmonella
Infections Associated with Sprouts in California, 1996–1998. Annals of Internal
Medicine. 135:239-247.

36. Muskoka-Parry Sound Health Unit. 2002. Personal Communication.

37. Nguyen-the, C. and Carlin, F. 2000. Fresh and processed vegetables. In: The
microbiological safety and quality of food. ed. Lund, B.M., Baird-Parker, T.C. and
Gould, G.W. Gaithersburg, Maryland. Aspen. 2080pp.

38 Pebody, R.G., Leino, T., Ruutu, P., Kinnunen, L., Davidkin, I., Nohynek, H. and
Leinikki, P. 1998. Foodborne outbreaks of hepatitis A in a low endemic country: an
emerging problem? Epidemiology & Infection. 120:55–59.

39. Pollack, M.P. 2000. Foodborne illness, diagnosed - USA Colorado June 29, 2000.

                                                                              40. Taormina,
P.J., Beuchat,, L.R. and Slutsker, L. 1999. Infections associated with eating seed sprouts:
An international concern. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 5:626-634.

41. Texas Department of Health. 1996. Outbreaks of Cyclospora Infections
Disease prevention news. 57(11):1.

42. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1999. Consumers Advised Of Risks
Associated. Retrieved November 17, 2004 from:

43. Washington State Health Department. 2000. Confirmed outbreaks of foodborne
disease, Washington State, 1990-1999. Retrieved June 16, 2003 from:

44. Wood, R.C., Hedburg, C. and White, K. 1991. A multistate outbreak of Salmonella
javiana associated with raw tomatoes. Epidemic Intelligence Service 40th Annual.
Conference, CDC. Atlanta, GA. April 1991.

45. Van Beneden, C.A., Keene, W.E., Strang, R.A., Werker, D.H., King, A.S., Mahon,
B., Hedberg, K., Bell, A., Kelly, M.T., Balan, V.K., MacKenzie, W.R. and Fleming, D.
1999. Multinational outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype newport infections due to
contaminated alfalfa sprouts Journal of the American Medical Association 281:158-162.

46. Yanoshak, H. 2002. Steakhouse Reopens After Salmonella Outbreak.
Bucks County Courier Times. October 13, 2002. Retrieved October 17, 2002 from:

Appendix 2.2. Food Safety Network produce-related commentary articles appearing
in representative media sources

National Post
Douglas Powell
May 5, 1999
On April 10, a five-year-old Winnipeg boy fell ill. Four days later he was hospitalized
and subsequently diagnosed with E. coli (sometimes called hamburger disease), leading
to a recall of suspect hamburger. Luckily, the boy recovered. Every year, hundreds of
thousands of Canadians get sick, and some die, from the food and water they consume.
Last year was a banner year: Outbreaks of E. coli were linked to fermented meats, potato
salad and unpasteurized apple cider; cyclospora in Guatemalan raspberries once again
felled 300 or so in the Toronto area; and salmonella in the cheese portion of Schneider`s
Lunchmates laid low over 700 people, largely schoolchildren. With such fodder, the
Professional Institute of the Public Service (PIPS), the union that represents federal
government scientists (including the veterinary meat inspectors, epidemiologists and
other health professionals), could have focused on the shortfalls in our food safety system
in its 1999 conference which begins Saturday. PIPS got the program title right: Is your
food safe? Its agenda, however, seems nothing more than a chance for outgoing Senator
Eugene Whelan to have onelast kick at the BST can. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration in 1993 approved genetically engineered recombinant bovine
somatotropin (rBST or rBGH). Despite some claims, rBST, which boosts milk production
by 10% to 20% in dairy cows, has been deemed safe for humans by almost every major
regulatory, medical or dietary body around the world. In more than five years of
American use, there has been no known or reported case of human ill effects. A two-year
monitoring program, established by the FDA in conjunction with approval, found little or
no animal effect. The predicted decline in milk consumption has not happened. The
predicted increase in antibiotic residues in milk has not happened. The supposed
willingness of the majority of American consumers to pay more for rBST-free milk has
not happened. Instead, rBST has emerged as a niche drug used on certain animals during
certain stages of lactation. This dairy farming management tool produces the same
amount of milk with fewer cows, yielding a small but incremental environmental benefit
and an economic incentive for dairy farmers. And because consumer choice is a
fundamental value for North American consumers, a small market for rBST-free milk has
developed in certain states, particularly Vermont and Wisconsin. Yet anti-BST paranoia
has gripped Canada for over a decade. Finally, Health Canada, mired in the muck of
regulatory review over that period, established two outside, expert panels. The animal
panel, assuming that Canadian dairy farmers were incapable of appropriately managing
rBST, found a risk. Health Canada took this as a cue to ban the product. The American
experience begs a challenge. The human health panel, like every other human health
panel based on the best available science, concluded the product was safe. That was not
good enough for Mr. Whelan, who has once again hauled various experts and charlatans
before the Senate agriculture committee to question rBST`s safety. This weekend`s
conference continues the inquisition. Health Canada`s accusations of harmful effects
stem from a 90-day rat oral toxicity study conducted in the 1980s, which it incorporated

in the assessment process, along with a report of the antibody response to oral rbGH. In
response, the FDA conducted a comprehensive, page-by-page audit of its rBST approval,
including studies upon which the Canadian reviewers relied. The conclusion: FDA
believes that the Canadian reviewers did not interpret the study results correctly and that
no new scientific concerns exist regarding the safety of milk from cows treated with
rbGH. The Health Canada report would have failed as a undergraduate assignment
because of its unsubstantiated assumptions and sloppy thinking. Of course, critics will
contend the science was biased, the science was bought, and other nefarious goings-on
(one radio phone-in caller told me the cattle with ill effects were secretly buried). The
rBST controversy does reveal that, at a time of nutritional bounty, when food is both
affordable and plentiful, there is a serious crisis of confidence in the way food is
produced, and an even further lack of faith in science itself. Scientists must take seriously
the need to communicate with a public audience, especially about questions of funding.
More basic, though, is how best to incorporate public judgments about new technologies
without compromising science`s central role in decision-making? It`s a question other
industries have grappled with, especially the chemical sector, and the best solution seems
to be based on opening all aspects of decision-making to scientific and public scrutiny.
While there is lots of talk about such openness in Ottawa -- transparency is the preferred
buzzword -- don`t hold your breath. For example, Health Canada has conducted risk
assessments of E. coli in cider, and of salmonella in alfalfa sprouts, yet refuses to publish
the documents. Health Canada could also require better labeling. The U.S. Food and
Drug Administration has, since last September, implemented mandatory labeling for
unpasteurized apple cider and warned certain consumers not to eat alfalfa sprouts, in both
cases due to the occasional presence of bacterial pathogens which can make people,
especially the very young and old, very sick. Canadian regulators have failed to take
similar actions, although the risk remains, irrespective of geography. At the PIPS
conference, a panel of senior federal government regulators will attempt to explain the
federal position, but the remainder of the conference features those renowned assessors of
scientific risk, the Council of Canadians, and scientists who are more concerned with
soundbites than sound science. The bigger issue here is, how could a union that
supposedly represents the scientists in government -- and there are lots of good scientists
in government -- organize such a blatant anti-science conference? Douglas Powell is an
assistant professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph and
a co-author of the 1997 book, Mad Cows and Mothers Milk. His next book, Reclaiming
Dinner, will be published later this year.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Douglas Powell
July 9, 1999
Guelph, Ont. -- Dr. Heather Lane has an indulgence. As dean of student affairs at
University of Toronto`s Victoria College, she`s busy. And in the spring, occasionally,
she`ll buy a pint of imported raspberries for a treat. Last year, Dr. Lane was one of the
305 people who were stricken with cyclospora in an outbreak linked to Guatemalean
raspberries. Toronto is yet again in the midst of a cyclospora outbreak. The television
news reports last week describing people with the same symptoms brought

uncomfortable memories for Dr. Lane. While not as immediately painful, the message for
consumers must be similarly disconcerting. First, Dr. Jay Keystone, a University of
Toronto professor of medicine, last week recommended washing imported produce with
soap and water. By Friday, Bill Mindell, York Region`s director of infectious diseases
control, was quoted as saying (correctly) that, ``This soap business has confused people.
We are not recommending it. There is nothing that will clean this bug off.`` Research has
demonstrated that washing raspberries and other fruits removes only about 15 per cent of
any cyclospora parasite that may be present. Further, the focus on imported produce
sends a comforting -- but erroneous -- message that home-grown produce is somehow
more safe. Fresh fruits and vegetables are increasingly recognized as a significant source
of foodborne illness. Salmonella in sprouts, alfalfa and others. E. coli O157:H7 in
unpasteurized juices. Listeria in cabbage. And so on. Most recently, some 20 people in
the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia, were stricken with Salmonella
muenchen after consuming drinks directly or made with unpasteurized fresh-squeezed
orange juice packaged by the Sun Orchard Co. of Tempe, Arizona. Nature is not benign.
So what are consumers to think? A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is actively
promoted as the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. And it is. The challenge is, how to
maximize the benefits of a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables while minimizing known
risks. Several Ontario groups have responded to this challenge. For example, I began
working with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association (OGVGA) almost
two years ago to help their farmers deliver high-quality, greenhouse-grown tomatoes,
cumbers and peppers that are microbiologically safe. We recognized that many of these
pathogens simply cannot be washed off; they need to be controlled on the farm, and at all
subsequent steps to the kitchen table. We all know to thoroughly cook raw meats, to
handle them carefully, and to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen. But fresh fruits
and vegetables seem so natural, so benign, that many consumers rarely give them a
second thought. Indeed, a 1998 survey found that fresh fruits and vegetables ranked at the
bottom of the worry list for Canadian consumers. Yet outbreak after outbreak tells us we
should worry about fresh fruits and vegetables; imported or not. The very characteristic
that affords dietary benefit -- fresh -- also creates microbiological risk: because they are
not cooked, anything that comes into contact with fresh fruits and vegetables is a possible
source of contamination. The water used for irrigation or rinsing? Is it clean or is it
loaded with pathogens? Do the workers who collect the produce follow strict hygienic
practices such as thorough handwashing? Are the vehicles used to transport fresh produce
also used to transport live animals that could be sources of microbial contamination? The
possibilities are almost endless. By employing the principles of the Hazard Analysis
Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, such risks can be identified, and control steps
enacted. In conjunction with the greenhouse vegetable producers, we developed a plan
that all producers can follow, to reduce the risk of microbial contamination. And last
week, OGVGA, with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural
Affairs, hired a full-time person to visit every farm over the next year to ensure that the
guidelines are being followed; to ensure that producers understand their responsibility to
produce microbiologically safe food; to ensure that the guidelines are not just another
document gathering dust on a shelf. But it`s not enough to say farmers are doing the right
thing. They need to prove it. Microbiological data will be collected over the next year, to
prove that Ontario-grown greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are safe. If

results suggest otherwise, the problem will be identified, and changes enacted. Dr. Lane
says that affords her some level of confidence when buying fresh produce. Safe food,
from farm-to-fork, is what all Ontarians expect, and deserve. Ontario`s farmers are
meeting that challenge. Douglas Powell is an assistant professor in the department of
plant agriculture at the University of Guelph, and the co-author of the 1997 book, Mad
Cows and Mother’s Milk. His next book, Reclaiming Dinner, will be published later this

National Post
Douglas Powell
July 14, 1999
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned consumers yet again that raw
alfalfa, clover and radish sprouts can cause foodborne illness, after some 200 people were
sickened with salmonella bacteria in three separate outbreaks in just the first half of 1999.
On Saturday, the FDA issued a nationwide warning not to consume unpastuerized orange
juice distributed by by Sun Orchard Inc. of Tempe, Arizona. So far, 52 cases of
salmonella poisoning in Washington state have been linked to the unpasteurized orange
juice. Other states, as well as B.C. and Alberta, have reported dozens of additional cases.
While American regulators and media outlets aggressively highlight serious risks in the
food supply, Canadians were treated to the latest rantings -- and anyone who watched the
Ottawa press conference Friday would say rant was a mild descriptor -- about the alleged
dangers of genetically engineered foods. There they were, representatives of the Sierra
Club of Canada, wraping themselves in the cloak of safe food while railing against the
demons of multinational corporations, complicit government and genetic engineering of
foods. The group was apparently launching an information campaign to inform
consumers in supermarkets in seven Canadian cities that the food they may be eating is --
gasp -- genetically engineered. The actions by the Sierra Club on Friday were reminiscent
of the American Greenpeace back in June when they released a report which showed that
the leading U.S. baby food maker and two producers of medical foods were selling
products that contain genetically engineered foods. The American response was a
collective, so what? And rightly so. Stories based on soundbites rather than sound science
are proliferating, and groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are masters, throwing
off lines like, ``The Gerber baby isn`t smiling today. Unlabeled genetically altered
products leave parents little choice but to have their children used as guinea pigs in this
corporate experiment with our food.`` Please. All genetically engineered foods in Canada
undergo years of rigorous testing and evaluation, including potential risks to the
environment and to human and animal health, before they can be used or sold in Canada.
Since 1995, farmers in Ontario and throughout Canada have increasingly chosen to pay
extra for genetically-enhanced corn, soy, canola and potato seed because, quite simply, it
works: increased yields on the same amount of land, reductions in chemical use, more
efficient farming systems. However, the attempt to improve any food can possibly lead to
unexpected consequences. For example, in the laboratory, in one instance, a human
allergen was transferred from one crop to another. During the preliminary assessment
process, the company immediately discontinued the experiment. And that is why Canada
has a strict approval process, to ensure that such products do not reach the marketplace.

Are there environmental risks? Yes, but they are small and can be managed. That is why
Ontario corn producers who grow genetically engineered Bt-corn are, for example,
required to devote 20 per cent of their acreage to non-Bt varieties. The goal is to
maximize the benefits of a particular agricultural tool or product -- the agricultural use of
antibiotics, agricultural biotechnology, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables -- while
vigorously minimizing known risks based on the best available science. But most galling
about Friday s performance was that one newspaper headline refered to the Sierra Club as
safe food activists. Please. If they were really concerned with the health of Canadians and
safe food, the Sierra Club would be launching a campaign to inform consumers about the
hundreds of thousands of Canadians who get sick each year -- and the few who die --
from the food and water they consume, not one of which has anything to do with genetic
engineering. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables -- even, if not especially, the
organic kind -- are increasingly recognized as a significant source of foodborne illness.
Yet a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is actively promoted as the cornerstone of a
healthy lifestyle. And it is. The challenge, again, is to move beyond the infantile
recognition of a risk (The sky is falling! The sky is falling!) to robust management
systems that maximize benefits and minimize risks. We all know to thoroughly cook raw
meats, to handle them carefully, and to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen. But
fresh fruits and vegetables seem so natural, so benign, that many consumers rarely give
them a second thought. Indeed, a 1998 survey found that fresh fruits and vegetables
ranked at the bottom of the worry list for Canadian consumers. Yet outbreak after
outbreak tells us we should worry about fresh fruits and vegetables; imported or not. The
very characteristic that affords dietary benefit -- fresh -- also creates microbiological risk:
because they are not cooked, anything that comes into contact with fresh fruits and
vegetables is a possible source of contamination. Several Ontario groups have responded
to this challenge. I began working with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
Association (OGVGA) almost two years ago to help their farmers deliver high-quality,
greenhouse-grown tomatoes and cumbers that are microbiologically safe. We recognized
that many of these pathogens simply cannot be washed off; they need to be controlled on
the farm, and at all subsequent steps to the kitchen table. By employing the principles of
the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, such risks can be identified,
and control steps enacted. In conjunction with the greenhouse vegetable producers, we
developed a plan that all producers can follow, to reduce the risk of microbial
contamination. And last month, OGVGA, with funding from the Ontario Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, hired a full-time person to visit every farm over the
next year to ensure that the guidelines are being followed; to ensure that producers
understand their responsibility to produce microbiologically safe food; to ensure that the
guidelines are not just another document gathering dust on a shelf. But it`s not enough to
say farmers are doing the right thing. They need to prove it. Microbiological data will be
collected over the next year, to prove that Ontario-grown greenhouse tomatoes and
cucumbers are safe. If results suggest otherwise, the problem will be identified, and
changes enacted. Those are the basics of a safe food program, unlike the hysterical
meanderings of groups like the Sierra Club. But even if science says that genetically
engineered foods and conventional produce are safe, consumers worry about other things
and need choice. Absolutely. Consumer choice is a fundamental value for shoppers,
irrespective of science. Foods in Canada are labeled on the basis of health and nutritional

data, but there are a variety of other voluntary labeling systems based on religious
preference (kosher, halal), growing preference (organic) or nutritional preference (low-
fat, low-salt). A market for biotechnology-free foods, labeled as such, may also emerge to
meet consumer demand. However, many consumers will continue to make food
selections based on taste, price and nutritional content before other considerations.
Labeling guidelines must accommodate all of these values. Farmers, processors,
distributors and others in the farm-to-fork continuum are constantly striving to improve
the safety, quality and efficiency of the Canadian food supply. Genetic engineering is one
additional tool that, with vigilance and oversight, can help achieve those goals.

December 6, 2001
Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Douglas Powell and Ben Chapman
Ontario`s Agriculture Minister, Brian Coburn, told one newspaper last week the same
thing that seemingly every other agriculture minister in every province, state and federal
government in the West has said at least once: ``We have safe food in Ontario, the safest
in the world, and we intend to keep it that way.`` How can every jurisdiction in the West
have the safest food in the world? The statement was particularly counterintuitive given
the array of food safety infractions documented in Ontario Auditor-General, Erik Peters`
annual report last Thursday, including poorly inspected meat, goat milk with high levels
of bacteria and a small percentage of local produce with high levels of chemical residues.
The province says it has already implemented many of the auditor`s recommendations,
hiring more inspectors, mandating tougher fines, bolstering risk-based approaches to food
safety. Further, third reading of new food safety legislation, the first provincial overhaul
in over three decades, is expected in December. Regardless, the report, coupled with a
fresh outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Ontario and yet another series documenting short-
falls in restaurant inspections -- this time in Hamilton -- and food safety is once again
front-and-centre in Ontarians` minds. The auditor`s report will hopefully go some
additional way towards dispelling persistent myths about the safety of food in Ontario:
that small and local is better (food safety depends on knowledge and willingness to act to
control pathogens in food, regardless of size); that only government can deliver safe food
(making customers sick is a bad business strategy, as farmers, processors and retailers are
all too aware; government has an oversight role but the actual inspections can be done by
industry themselves); and that genetic engineering is a significant food safety issue (there
are risks, but making people sick is not one of them; nevertheless, Greenpeace was active
Friday stickering foods in a Toronto Loblaws purported to contain genetically engineered
ingredients instead of placing warning labels on raw sprouts, raw meats and
unpasteurized juices). Coupled with the Walkerton E. coli O157:H7 outbreak of last year
-- which destroyed the myth that Ontario water is clean -- and consumers are rightly
demanding the systems to deliver safe food. So what are the components of a great food
safety system? What would allow a government-type to legitimately say, we have the
safest food in the world? The answer is as complex as it seems intuitive. Here are five
key components. 1. Effective and rapid surveillance systems. As noted in the auditor`s
report, surveillance of foodborne illness in Ontario is poor. If government and consumers
demand programs to enhance the safety of the food supply, there should be a system of

surveillance -- of numbers of sick people, of incidence of contaminated food -- to should
that a particular program is working or not. The FoodNet system of active surveillance in
the U.S. is as good a model as any and should be incorporated into Canadian efforts. 2.
Effective communication about the nature of risk. It`s not enough to say, ``We have safe
food,`` especially when outbreaks of foodborne illness are documented on an almost
daily basis. Instead, all players in the farm-to-fork continuum (Danes say, stable-to-table;
fish people say, boat-to-throat), including farmers, processors, distributors, retailers,
consumers and others need to talk about the risks inherent in any food production system
and ways to reduce that risk. 3. A credible, open and responsive regulatory system. Those
same players want to know what the rules are, and they want those rules to be fair.
Ontario Bill 87, the Food Safety and Quality Act, goes some way toward such objectives,
as did the creation of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at the federal level. 4,
Demonstrable efforts to reduce levels of uncertainty and risk. Programs have been -- or
need to be -- created to reduce risk on the farm, right through to the kitchen. For example,
Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers have worked with our lab for the past three years
to create, implement and monitor a food safety program for greenhouse cucumbers and
tomatoes. On-site visits have been conducted with each of the 220 OGVG members and
the primary areas of focus are water quality, worker hygiene, cleanliness of equipment,
proper storage and transportation of the product. The OGVG has taken a hands-on and
intensive individual grower approach to food safety, providing information and
instruction to operators on how to identify and address potential microbial issues while
following Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. Similar
efforts have been undertaken with the processing vegetable growers in Ontario and we
have now starting working with Ontario field fruit and vegetable growers. Such programs
received funding from the provincial government but were delivered by the growers
themselves in conjunction with researchers in the field. 5. Evidence that actions match
words. Having a program is nice, but discerning customers will demand the data, the
proof, that such a program is actually working. Regardless of who conducts the testing or
inspection, such results need to be public, for researchers and others to offer a critical
perspective, to compare the effectiveness of Canadian standards with those of other
countries, to identify and rectify problems, and to assure consumers that perhaps, some
food is safe. Douglas Powell is scientific director and Ben Chapman a graduate student
with the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph

The Kitchener -Waterloo Record
Douglas Powell
May 25, 2002
Last weekend we had another long weekend -- beer, barbecues and, unfortunately, food
poisoning. Two years ago, Canada was just beginning to have some myths about
Canadian clean water being shattered as reports trickled out about an outbreak of E. coli
O157:H7 in Walkerton, Ont. In the end, 2,300 were sickened and seven killed, all in a
town of 5,000. So far, 2002 looks like another banner year for epidemiologists and others
investigating outbreaks of food-borne illness. In the past week, cantaloupes grown in

Mexico have been recalled across North America because of salmonella; there was an
outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 at a banquet in Ottawa; and now an outbreak of shigella
with some 300 people thought to be sickened by Greek-style pasta salad.
But it`s not only dangerous pathogens which are proliferating, so are a variety of food
safety myths and, even worse, confounding advice from those who should know better --
both of which could actually increase the risk to Canadian consumers. Is the food getting
worse? No. While direct comparisons are impossible because of statistical limitations, it
is clear that the ability to detect the sources of food-borne illness have increased
substantially through the use of DNA fingerprinting and other technology. And food-
borne illness is certainly reported and discussed more widely than in the past. Incidents
which in the past would have been written off as the ubiquitous 24-hour flu -- which
doesn`t really exist -- are increasingly linked to food and water containing pathogens
which make us sick. The shigella outbreak is a reminder of the importance of cleanliness.
Your grandparents had it right -- wash your hands. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention estimates that food-borne illness could be reduced by 20 per cent if
people practised proper handwashing. But that`s only 20 per cent. And that`s why food
safety is discussed in a farm-to-fork system, because there are many opportunities for
different bugs to get into different foods at different points of the food chain. The shigella
outbreak may not have been due to poor sanitation by foodhandlers, but rather on the
farm. There have been numerous outbreaks of shigella linked to scallions, parsley and
celery. Were any of these ingredients in the pasta salad? The father of the three-year-old
Newmarket, Ont., girl who was released from hospital last week after a bout of E. coli
O157:H7 was quoted as saying that the source was ``still a mystery and we`ll likely never
know,`` but he has a hunch that his daughter picked up the bug from a hamburger at a
fast-food restaurant. ``We won`t eat hamburger meat anymore, especially if it`s cooked
anywhere but at home,`` he said. Except that those fast-food burgers were probably quite
safe. The foods Canadians and others think cause food-borne illness -- chicken,
hamburger, the last meal they ate -- are actually low on the list. More likely is the salad
and other food consumed fresh. Cooking a burger at home can be tricky. Previously,
consumers were advised to use the colour of hamburger patties as an indicator of
thorough cooking. Pink meat meant cook the burger longer and brown meat indicated the
burger was ready to serve. Today`s research shows that colour does not guarantee the
death of all bacteria. One study proves that some burgers turn brown prematurely at
lower temperatures -- temperatures too low to kill the bacteria within the hamburgers.
Other methods such as juice colour and textural appearance are also poor indicators of
doneness in hamburgers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recognizes that the only
way to ensure safe burgers is by actually measuring their internal temperature. But
temperature determination can be a tricky process because hamburgers cook at different
rates in different areas, depending on thickness and fat content. It was found that when
the outer temperature of hamburgers reaches a temperature of 71.1 C (160 degrees F), the
inside is only at a temperature of 56.7 C (134 F), which is not hot enough to kill E. coli.
The recommended final temperature for the inside of hamburgers is a minimum of 71.1
C. This temperature is hot enough to kill harmful bacteria and makes burgers safe.
However, the outside of your burger may resemble something more along the lines of the
Leaf`s playoff puck. And while there are efforts to convince consumers to use a
thermometer to check the doneness of their burgers -- grab the burger with tongs, insert

sideways and wait 30 seconds -- the practicality of such a procedure is open to debate.
Personally, I make my own burgers, make them thick and stick a thermometer in them.
When I asked how many of my 40 graduate students in a food safety class use a
thermometer to check doneness, not one answered in the affirmative. For social
gatherings where alcohol and hunger come into play, precooked burgers may be the way
to go. But don`t forget the salad. And that means ensuring that farmers and others in the
farm-to- fork food safety system are doing what they can to reduce the risk of microbial
food safety problems. Perceptions about the causes of food-borne illness are powerful but
often misleading. Even Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant blamed his recent bout
with food-borne illness on the last meal he ate. Except that it rarely happens that way.
Often the culprit bugs have incubation periods of two days to two weeks. The suppliers of
food -- farmers, retailers, food service -- are increasingly taking steps to verify that they
are supplying safe food. After all, making one`s customers sick is a bad business strategy.
But for consumers, they need to ask the hard questions. Douglas Powell is an assistant
professor and scientific director of the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph.
Final Photo: TORONTO STAR / Two years ago this month, Canadians had a rude
awakening about the quality of our drinking water. Walkerton, Ont., was in the midst of
an E. coli epidemic. The Walkerton Medical Centre was seeing 50 cases a day -- even the
fountains in the hospital were shut down. Out of a town of 5,000, 2,300 got sick and
seven people died.

The Kitchener- Watleroo Record
Douglas Powell
August 9, 2002
Looks like I picked the wrong week to send my kids to camp. From sea to diarrheal sea,
North Americans have been stricken by illnesses most likely transmitted in food. Two
years ago, Canada was just beginning to have some myths shattered about Canadian clean
water as reports trickled out regarding an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Walkerton. In
the end, 2,300 were sickened and seven killed, all in a town of 5,000. Now, 29 attendees
at a cheerleading camp in Washington State have been stricken with the same bug,
including a teenager whose kidneys were so damaged that she is on dialysis. Sleuthing by
health investigators sparked a U.S.-wide recall of a brand of Romaine lettuce last week,
which was clearly implicated in the outbreak. That`s lettuce. Sure, there are lots of
outbreaks related to hamburger -- the second largest recall of ground beef in U.S. history
involving some 18 million pounds is underway right now because of E. coli O157:H7 and
illness in some 30 people -- but at least hamburger can be cooked to reduce the risk. The
point is, foodborne pathogens can lurk anywhere, and the idyllic settings of camp, cruises
and cookouts can leave revelers complacent about food safety. Summertime and the
living is easy. After all, it`s natural. Recently up to 17 passengers got sick with a so-
called Norwalk- like virus aboard a Via Rail train that left Jasper for Toronto on July 5,
the second incident that month. Those passengers, in turn, infected as many as 100 people
whom they came in contact with after leaving the train. And a similar outbreak affected
between five and 10 passengers on a Via Rail train that left Toronto for Vancouver on

July 16. A Norwalk-type virus also raced through a Christian children`s camp on the
Sunshine Coast in B.C. in July. Same for cruise ships. Seven crew members and 163
passengers among the 1,266 on a seven-day Alaskan cruise came down with Norwalk
virus the week before last. After disinfection and setting sail, another 189 of the ship`s
1,318 passengers and 29 of its 564 crew were found to be stricken upon returning to port
on Thursday. The next outing was cancelled. Theme parks? Visitors to Universal Studios
Japan, when not faced with terrorizing rides featuring the characters from Jaws or
Jurassic Park, have had to deal with a contaminated water supply and out-of-date food.
The county fair? Make sure there are handwashing stations. For example, last year`s
Ozaukee County Fair in Wisconsin came complete with 25 confirmed cases of infection
caused by E. coli O157:H7 with more than 200 more people reporting symptoms. State
health investigators linked the illnesses to people visiting the cattle barns and petting zoo
at the fair, then not washing their hands before eating. And last week, health authorities in
the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, said they believe children may have been infected with
E. coli O157:H7 from animals at a petting zoo. Three of the children had to receive
kidney dialysis How about a trip to the beach? Twenty-six people were sickened in July
at Sherkston Shores, just east of Port Colborne, Ont.; cause unknown. World Youth Day
may have left a pile of sewage for one retail outlet in Toronto, but at least the Pope got
out of Canada without leaving a trail of sick Mounties. In 1984, the Pope visited the
restored 350-year-old Jesuit mission of Ste. Marie-among-the-Hurons in Midland, Ont.
After departing, 1,600 hungry Ontario Provincial Police officers who had worked the
ropes gathered for a boxed lunch. Of those 500 officers who chose ones with roast beef
sandwiches, 423 came down with salmonella. But those officers have shown, over the
years, that a touch of the flu -- as foodborne illness is often mistakenly referred too -- is
more than a couple of days praying at the porcelain goddess of foodborne illness. Some
five to 10 per cent of those officers have developed reactive arthritis which will plague
them for life. For those who can`t wait to get their kids back to the safety of school (as a
father of four), September may be, as the ads say, ``the most wonderful time of the year,``
but in July? -- forget it. A report by researchers at the University of California in San
Francisco published in the July issue of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal found
that over the last 25 years, outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to subsidized school
lunches in the U.S. sickened tens of thousands of students and school staff, sent hundreds
to the hospital and caused one death. But for now, the kids are at camp. A Nova Scotia
summer camp was forced to close the other week after 60 of 77 kids, the camp director
and 13 other staff got sick. Health officials ruled out food, and instead reasoned that
someone came to the camp with a gastrointestinal illness and spread the virus, although
they conceded it`s possible the virus could have spread through food. A camp news
release was cited as saying the camp cook is an experienced professional, with 30 years`
experience at summer camps, who works full time in the food-service industry, and that,
``In fact, we believe the quality and consistency of the food service at the camp is one of
the major drawing cards to kids returning.`` Except quality and safety are not the same
thing. Dr. Robert Strang, medical officer of health for the Capital health district, was
cited as saying last week that food was likely mishandled, adding, ``We`ve identified
really one major problem in food-handling at the camp that they`re being made aware of
and is being corrected.`` There is a particular kind of food snobbery that people resort to
in response to the incessant headlines about foodborne illness, along the lines of, ``I eat in

the best restaurants`` or ``I only buy fresh produce at the farmers` market.`` Maybe, but
that has nothing to do with safety. Those responsible for our children for a week of
parental relief, those preparing and serving on cruises and cookouts, those who grow,
harvest, distribute, process, sell and prepare food -- everyone in the farm-to-fork food
safety system -- need to put the myths of food safety aside and concentrate on proper
training and reducing risk. For example, University of Georgia researchers reported in
New Scientist last week that long fingernails on chefs, bakers and others who work with
food could be a health hazard because they harbour 90 per cent of the bacteria that
accumulates on hands, and that even vigorous washing does not remove all the bacteria
under long or artificial nails. So if you`re preparing food, keep those fingernails short.
Despite the outbreaks, our food remains largely safe. The suppliers of food -- farmers,
retailers, food service -- are increasingly taking steps to verify that they are supplying
safe food. After all, making one`s customers sick is a bad business strategy. But for
consumers, they need to ask the hard questions in the restaurant, the grocery store, at the
cookout, at home. Set the myths aside, ask about basic sanitation, and then enjoy the
summer. Douglas Powell is an assistant professor and scientific director of the Food
Safety Network at the University of Guelph.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Ben Chapman
October 11, 2002
Produced in Canada. It`s not a Celine Dion CD, the Stanley Cup or those fine exemplars
of Canadian cinema, the Porky`s movies, it is a tomato, or a pork chop, or a peach. The
United States and Japan have recently suggested mandatory country-of-origin labelling
for many imported foods, primarily as a way to bolster sales of domestic product. This is
a big deal for countries like Canada and Australia, which are serious exporters of food.
Michael McCain, president of Maple Leaf foods, recently said that country-of-origin
labelling is just another example of food safety masquerading as a non-tariff trade barrier.
Probably, but why not pick up the challenge and run with it? If Canadian food is as safe
as many say it is especially when compared to other countries -- then let`s proudly
proclaim the maple leaf on our $23 billion worth of food exports each year. On one
condition: that the talk about safe Canadian food can be backed up by some hard,
publicly available data. That data, and transparent access to such information, are the
foundation of any food claim -- safe, organic, better for your heart, may restore hair
growth. Canadian consumers can now choose among a cacophony of low-fat,
nutritionally enhanced staples reflecting a range of political statements and perceived
lifestyle preferences, far beyond dolphin- free tuna. And to go with the Salt Spring Island
goat cheese, the all-organic carrots and the Echinacea-laced Snapple is a veritable
sideshow of hucksters and buskers, flogging their wares to the highest bidder or at least
the most fashionable. But with repeated outbreaks of foodborne illness colliding with the
social desire to celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving, in what way can consumers become
confident about the food they eat? The federal government figures that the best way is to
brand Canada, with a series of top-down, decreed standards that farmers and others in the
farm-to-fork system are supposed to follow. Individual commodities have followed such

a path -- Vidalia onions gained national status in the 1970s and by 1991 were recognized
as the state vegetable of Georgia -- but a country? Is it possible to have enough checks in
place to ensure that the claims are true? Or could continued outbreaks of foodborne
illness -- which will happen -- lead skeptical consumers to view claims of safety and
superiority with a critical eye: Buy Canada becomes Blame Canada. Food is a dominant
force, not only in our social and biological lives (we have to eat) but, for a resource-laden
country like Canada, one of economic priority. But as Thanksgiving approaches and we
celebrate the bounty of the harvest, we must also recognize that dangers lurk, that food
can cause illness, and that it usually isn`t what we thought. The U.S. Center for Science
in the Public Interest`s latest report on what foods are most dangerous (the report has
significant faults but at least is designed to answer a consumer question of what should I
do?) concluded that produce-related foodborne illness was on the rise, blaming ``sloppy
farm practices,`` such as the improper use of manure on produce fields or using
contaminated irrigation water. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a significant, if not the
most significant, source of foodborne illness today in North America. The very
characteristic that affords dietary benefit -- freshness -- also creates microbiological risk:
Because they are not cooked, anything that comes into contact with fresh fruits and
vegetables is a possible source of contamination. Is the water used for irrigation or
rinsing clean or is it loaded with pathogens? Do the workers who collect the produce
follow strict hygienic practices such as thorough handwashing? Are the vehicles used to
transport fresh produce also used to transport live animals that could be sources of
microbial contamination? The possibilities are almost endless. And just last week, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration re- issued a three-year-old warning that children, the
elderly and people with weak immune systems should not eat raw or lightly cooked
sprouts, because of yet another E. coli outbreak associated with alfalfa sprouts. The FDA
is clear: ``Those persons who wish to reduce their risk of food-borne illness should not
eat raw sprouts.`` There are lots of risks out there. Is branding Canada a way to reduce
them? It`s unlikely. Forget the top-down bureaucracy; individual groups, like the Ontario
Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, will develop, build and maintain food safety credibility
if customers demand it. Programs based on putting science into action on the farm and
elsewhere, backed up by meaningful, transparent data, win market access. Sure, the
branding of these programs along with other Canadian initiatives such as Cattle ID
program and the Canadian Quality Assurance program for pork can be used to gain
market access in the U.S., but we are only as strong as our weakest link. Branding
Canadian food as safe becomes a promise that if broken may have dire consequences. If
Canada happens to lose its BSE-free (also known as mad cow disease) status in the
future, how will the problem influence produce exports, or conversely, would a
salmonella outbreak on fresh fruit, such as the one at the A&P in Bracebridge, Ont., the
other day, cause a drop in chicken exports? Maybe ``Produced in Canada`` should remain
with hockey, has-been singers and low budget movies. But by all means, individuals and
groups should continue -- as they always have -- to enter the international arena and come
out winners. Summary - `` Fresh fruits and vegetables are a significant, if not the most
significant, source of foodborne illness today in North America. `` Ben Chapman is a
graduate student with the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph.

November 7, 2002
National Post
Ben Chapman and Lisa Mathiasen
Milk, it does a body good. Calcium, protein and bovine growth hormones. Contrary to a
Maritime Dairy Association advertisement, there are bovine growth hormones in all milk,
including that from Canadian heifers. It's natural. Perhaps the group is referring to a
synthetic, genetically engineered bovine growth hormone which has been widely used in
the United States for almost a decade, has undoubtedly been used in some Canadian dairy
cattle, is safe and is indistinguishable from the naturally occurring version. But by not
distinguishing between evidence-based and fictional risks in advertising and labelling, the
Maritime Dairy Association is promoting misinformation bordering on hucksterism in the
grocery aisles. Fortunately, Tuesday's U.S. elections and a Canadian parliamentary
decision have reduced or abated, ever so slightly, the rise of fictional claims on food
labels. Voters in Oregon Tuesday defeated Measure 27, a proposed law which "Requires
Labelling of Genetically Engineered Foods Sold or Distributed In or From Oregon," by a
3-1 margin, demonstrating that Oregon is more that just a beautiful, lush state somewhere
in the Northwest where The Goonies was based. Supporters of Measure 27 called it a
people's initiative that would address safety concerns about GE foods that are untested
and pushed on North Americans by evil corporations. Even Sir Paul McCartney chimed
in, supporting Measure 27 through his association with the UK-based Friends of the
Earth. And much will be made of a coalition of the agriculture, food processing and
restaurant industries opposed to the measure, a group that spent upwards of US$5-million
on the No campaign. Except that, had the measure passed, i would have set a dangerous
precedent. The people of Oregon declared Tuesday there was no need to label their Baby
Ruth bars and Dr. Pepper with something like "may contain high fructose corn syrup
from genetically engineered corn." But don't 93% of Americans want mandatory
labelling on GE foods? Canadians too? Some do, but apparently not a majority. Perhaps
that is because when citizens actually contemplate the options and alternatives of
labelling, they decide to stick with health and safety and, rather than imposing a
preference on all, to leave consumer choices such as GE-free to a voluntary, market-
driven system. Labelling is not about choice; Greenpeace and other activist groups state
plainly in their literature that the products of genetic engineering may
 cause some unknown, theoretical health or environmental harm and should therefore be
banned. However, in the absence of a ban, everything should be labelled to provide
consumer choice -- and that will produce a de facto ban. Consumer choice? What about
the choice to avoid real health risks? Last week the United States banned the importation
of Mexican cantaloupes citing a handful of recent salmonella outbreaks traced to
improper growing conditions and poor irrigation water. No public word on what
Canadian regulators are contemplating about this real health issue. But perhaps they'll be
able to find some time, now that Liberal MP Charles Caccia's Private Member's Bill for

the mandatory labelling of GE crops in Canada has been deemed not votable. For
practical purposes, the Bill can't
 be reintroduced until the next session of Parliament, which could be at least a year. Any
GE food that has been demonstrated to cause a health and safety issue is already required
to be labelled. The Canadian General Standards Board will soon release rules to guide the
voluntary labelling of GE or GE-free foods, hopefully to limit the amount of marketing
nonsense already proliferating in North American grocery stores. A proponent of GE
labelling from day one, David Suzuki launched his cross-Canada Human Element tour in
Toronto this week with popular artists (if Randy Bachman can still be called one) to
promote the balance of humans with the ecosystem. Undoubtedly, this ex-geneticist will
yet again attack the lack of mandatory GE labelling in Canada, but this time he'll be
taking a page out of Oregon's book, getting a little help from your friends. I've got some
advice for Mr. McCartney and Mr. Suzuki's artists: In the words of Sir Paul himself, "Get
back to where you once belonged." That place is the recording studio; Ringo is still
around, crank out some tunes and stay out of the labelling issue, there are enough
problems there already.

The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo)
December 18, 2002
Vomit-ridden cruise ships, deserted emergency wards, empty classrooms. The Norwalk
virus is casting a pall across North America, including four different cruise ships. On the
Disney line, Chip and Dale may soon be known as Upchuck and Diarrhea. Less noticed
but deliciously ironic is that the Norwalk outbreaks are occurring during America`s
National Hand Washing Awareness Week. And the best guess for the current scourge of
ships and schools? Poor sanitation, especially handwashing. The United States` Centers
for Disease Control (CDC) has said that the cruise- related outbreaks of, as one food
safety dude described it,Nor-walk/Nor-trots/ Nor-runs virus, originated with passengers
boarding the ship rather than food or water. Last month, the CDC issued new hand
hygiene recommendations, just in time for the annual up-with-handwashing calendar
event, an observance polite and trusting Canadians don`t seem to recognize. The CDC
report states that handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the
spread of infection and advocates the use of alcohol-based hand rubs for health-care
workers. Many food-processing plants have workers squirt the alcohol sanitizers upon
entering the line floor, and fruit and vegetable growers are getting in on the practice as
well, providing hand sanitizers in the field and the greenhouse. Such focus on alcohol-
based hand rubs is replacing the previous notion of traditional soap and water as the only
tools in fighting bacteria and contamination. It may also contribute to an already confused
public, which can now choose between three types of microbial removing agents: anti-
bacterial soaps, alcohol-based hand rubs and the cheaper traditional soap and water. It
leaves many wondering which type of handwashing product they should use. Health
Canada advises the public to avoid using anti-bacterial soap and similar bacteria-fighting
household cleaning products, promoting traditional soap and water, which they deem the
most effective way to prevent infection caused by bacteria. Why is this? The inclusion of

friction into the handwashing equation agitates the dirt that may be stuck to your hands,
allowing it to be removed along with the potential pathogens living in it. Soap has
antibacterial action itself; there isn`t a need to pay extra for anti-bacteria labelled soaps.
Alcohol-based gels also take less time to use than soaps, thereby making them convenient
for health-care workers. These products are useful when no water is available for
traditional handwashing. Although using alcohol-based gels is an easier way to destroy
potentially harmful bacteria in a convenient and quick method, the public should not
completely abandon soaps. Alcohol-based gels significantly reduce the number of micro-
organisms on skin, are fast-acting and cause less skin irritation, if the skin is clean and
free from dirt, blood, grease or other contamination material. The evidence shows that
alcohol-based sanitizers reduce surface bacteria, but without the friction they do little to
address sneaky microbes. Although the convenience and speed of alcohol-based hand
gels may be appealing to consumers, the most effective method of handwashing is still
plain old soap and water. Though perhaps not practical for the public, the CDC
recommends the use of alcohol-based gels in day-care centres, hospitals and nursing
homes, where close physical contact with people at high risk of infection, such as infants,
the sick and the elderly, may occur. They are popping up at petting zoos as well, an
activity that has been linked to outbreaks in recent years. Mickey Mouse is not off the
hook on this one either; his gloves do little to stop the spread of transmission of bugs if
they are not cleaned and sanitized between tasks. As Canadian singer Avril Lavigne asks,
``Why does it always have to be so complicated?`` Food- and water-borne illness will
always be difficult, with changing bugs, changing lifestyles and complacency. Norwalk
virus, named after an outbreak that occurred in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1968, is here for the
long haul. Always wash your hands with warm soapy water after using the toilet and
before preparing foods. Drinking-water supplies should be protected from contamination
with raw sewage. Shellfish should be cooked thoroughly. Vegetables and fruits should be
washed before eating. Handwashing, in the field, at food service and in the home, can
help. Summary - `` Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the
spread of infection. `` Ben Chapman and Christine Hunsperger are researchers with the
Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph.


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