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.
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.