With haskap berry time rapidly approaching Haskap Canada would like to remind producers of their responsibility to ensure sanitary conditions in their orchards and processing facilities. Recently, at least 30 people contracted hepatitis A after consuming a frozen berry juice blend. Improper hand sanitation on the part of food preparers/handlers is most often the cause. Hepatitis A can be passed on through feces.
If you are a large producer/processor, or are thinking of becoming one, or if you are selling to restaurants or commercial food chains, or are thinking of doing so, then you should be aware of the Canada GAP program regarding the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables. This is a food safety program for companies that produce, pack, and store fruits and vegetables meant to implement and improve effective food safety procedures.
If you are a smaller scale grower you should at least read the Canada GAP protocols and seriously consider how you can make your orchard/product safe for the public, to whom you have a responsibility. Here are some very simple items to think through:
- Do you take sanitation in your orchard seriously?
- Do you believe yourself to be responsible if someone becomes ill after eating fruit from your orchard and its cause is traced back to you?
- Can you afford to pay damages for such a situation, especially if you have no safeguards/guidelines in place?
- Do you wash your hands thoroughly before going to your orchard? (It sounds ridiculous to ask, but do you know how to wash you hands properly? You're never to old to learn, and hopefully humble enough to do it.)
- Do you supply sanitizing gel, soap and water with which orchard users may wash?
- Do you wash your hands after visiting the bathroom? (Many people do not.)
- Do you have adequate bathroom facilities at your orchard?
- Do you encourage visitors to your orchard to wash/sanitize their hands before entering it?
- Do you allow animals/livestock in your orchard?
- Do you restrict wildlife access to your orchard?
- Do you instruct your visitors to follow a printed protocol that includes these and other sanitation guidelines? (Such as: Do you make visitors aware that if they are infected with a communicable disease, that they can spread it to others through improper personal sanitation?)
- Do you keep a record of orchard users and their contact information?