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Mind the GAP!

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 07/28/2016 More stories >>

Visit the CTAHR Farm Food Safety website for more information.

Visit the CTAHR Farm Food Safety website for more information:

Food brings people together. It’s essential to family and cultural traditions and can be an important way to connect with the ‘āinā. It nourishes bodies and spirits. But there’s one thing it shouldn’t do—make us sick. The FDA estimates some 48 million cases of foodborne illness affect the US every year, caused by bacteria and other microorganisms in milk, meat, and produce. That’s where food safety and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) come in.

The CTAHR Farm Food Safety Outreach team is headed by Lynn Nakamura-Tengan (second from left), with statewide support from Kiersten Akahoshi, Sharon (Motomura) Wages, Jari Sugano, and Jensen Uyeda (left to right). The group educates farmers, producers, and food handlers to produce the best and safest product possible. Whether they’re just learning the GAP basics or need in-depth information, the team has it covered. Fact sheets, videos, checklists, and workshops offer information on growing, harvesting, washing, sorting, packing, and transporting raw fruits and vegetables based on GAP to reduce microbial risks in produce. Using these practices can also help growers meet expectations for the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule and audit requirements.

Jensen Uyeda (left) helps a local banana
producer to mitigate pests safely.

Jensen Uyeda (left) helps a local banana producer to mitigate pests safely.

Recommendations are specifically designed for Hawai‘i’s farms, distinctive in their predominantly small size, the different range of crops, and the diverse ethnic composition of the agricultural workforce. They include pest-management strategies for rodents, birds, pigs, and slugs; appropriate and legal usage of crop-protection chemicals, fertilizers, and composts; and following the EPA Worker Protection Standard rules. Workers must practice proper hand-washing procedures before harvesting and handling produce, make sure food-contact surfaces are clean, and use water of appropriate quality for irrigation and crop rinsing. Harvesting baskets, refrigerators, and trucks must be cleaned and well maintained so they don’t become sources of contamination. Just as importantly, each unit sold must be labeled with farmer contact information and the appropriate field and harvest information, to allow trace-back to a specific field in the event a product must be taken out of the market system. There are guidelines for aquaponics and hydroponics, for greenhouses and packing sheds, for selling food at farmers’ markets.

All this—and much more—helps to ensure that the food produced in the Islands, for local consumption or export, contributes to health and nourishment—not foodborne disease.