College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Plant Science & Landscape Architecture

Food Safety of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

The Walsh and Beaulieu Lab collaborates with Deanna Baldwin of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Dave Martin, UME Baltimore County, to develop an outreach program in food safety (GAPs) education.  We've developed a two-year approach to garnering GAPs certification.  Farmers typically begin by attending short informational programs at winter meetings.  Following up on that, we offer a series of day-long training sessions for writing a detailed GAPs plan for MDA and/or USDA certification.  For growers wishing additional certification, we also provide advanced training and assistance in developing a Harmonized GAPs Plan.  In April 2015, we launched a Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/Hwy301FruitVegNews to provide updates on Food Safety and GAPs training programs.

 Extension Resources for the MDA GAP Audit Program

  1. Food Safety Resource List
  2. MDA GAP Basic Requirements
  3. MDA GAP Audit
  4. MDA GAP Skeleton Food Safety Plan  (Editable Word document)
  5. MDA GAP Documentation
  6. List of Maryland Water Testing Labs

Frequently Asked GAPs Questions in Video Format

These video clips were developed to answer questions frequently addressed in our food safety trainings.  This project was funded with Specialty Crop Research Initiative Funds (SCRI).

In Depth Videos:

  1. How to Take a Water Test
  2. Using Chlorine Bleach
  3. Sanitizing Produce Containers

FAQs Covered in our Food Safety Trainings:

Click on each subject title to be taken to a YouTube Playlist that directs you to videos on that subject.  If you want to watch a specific video, use the Playlist on the side.

  1. General Food Safety and Microbiology
  2. Pre-Harvest Contamination
  3. Fertilizers, Manure and Composts
  4. Worker Health and Hygiene
  5. Wildlife and Livestock
  6. Pre-Harvest Water Quality
  7. Good Handling Practices
  8. Post-Harvest Water Quality
  9. Traceback and Traceability
  10. Third-Party Audits and Federal Regulations

To request a food safety audit or for more information on additional audits, visit the Maryland Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices website.

Additional fact sheets can be found at the University of Maryland’s On Farm Food Safety website 

Microbial Evaluation of Water Sources in Maryland

In 2013 and 2014, 28 agricultural water sources were sampled across Maryland by University of Maryland Extension.  Samples were tested for E. coli, total coliform bacteria, pH, electrical conductivity and turbidity. Vegetable grower sites were selected to represent various geographic areas including the Eastern Shore, Southern, Central and Western Maryland. Monthly samples were taken from 16 surface water sources (including ponds and springs) and 12 well sources from April through September 2013. When comparing the E. coli results to proposed national FSMA standards (126 MPN/100mL): 56% of surface water sources and 8.3% of well sources had higher than proposed standards. Highest E. coli counts were recorded for surface sources in the months of June, July and August. The project’s results are used in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training and to develop on-farm water quality baseline information for Maryland growers.

For more information on the project you may find it here.

Reducing Barriers Maryland Farmers Face in Implementing GAPs

The University of Maryland (UMD) has worked with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to develop a state-wide audit program offered at no cost to the farmer. The MDA GAPs certification program serves as an educational and inspection tool to encourage farmers to implement GAPs and documentation to minimize the risk of contamination. By passing the inspection and receiving the GAPs certificate, farmers are more likely to expand their markets into wholesale venues and restaurants. Additionally, growers will be more prepared for upcoming food safety regulations and more advanced third-party audits, such as the USDA Harmonized GAPs audit.

This Extension and Audit program has been described in two posters.  We would like to thank the growers who participated in trainings and filled out the evaluations.

1. Reducing Barriers Facing Maryland Farmers in Implementing GAPs through the MDA GAP Certification Program

2. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Food Safety Trainings by Determining Factors that Influence Grower Adoption of Food Safety

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