Food Safety and Hygiene Practices in Agriculture Marketing
Food safety is a broader concept that means the foods we consume are free from all possible contaminants and hazards. Food hygiene refers to the practices used to safeguard the quality of foods from production to consumption.
Is Food Safety and Hygiene Important?
Customers always concern about the safety and the quality of foods that they are purchasing. So farmers and sellers have to consider growing and handling foods using good food safety practices.
Because of carelessness about food safety, almost 1 person in every 10 people suffers from foodborne diseases (Source: WHO).
Food hygiene practices aim to prevent food spoilage, inform people about the methods of maintaining the safety of foods to protect themselves from foodborne diseases, prevent foods from adulteration, and to ensure the high value and quality of foods that they are marketing.
Safety and Hygiene Practices in Food Production Chain
Although we concern about food safety and the quality of the products at the market, the market is not the first place that safety and hygiene practices should be taken place. Therefore, we can identify the major occasions of the food production chain where safety and hygiene practices are performed. Some safety and hygiene practices are specific to some production occasions.
1. On-Farm Production
Fertilizer and water sources are the major things that should be concerned regarding the safety and hygiene of the products. Clean water is a crucial factor for hygiene food production. Contaminated water can cause negative effects for both plant and human health. For example, E-coli is a bacteria that comes from fecal materials that can last for a long period in soil and on plants. Since surface water can be contaminated with animal feces, chemicals, and household waste it is better to use sub-surface irrigation practices. Also when using fertilizers, especially farm manure you need to strictly adhere to hygiene practices. You have to avoid manure types that can cause allergy, toxic, and diseases to humans.
During harvesting, you must ensure that products do not contact the soil, because harvest can be affected by soil-borne diseases. Therefore, the use of proper containers to harvest is a good hygiene practice. Also produce external damages (bruises, cuts, cracks, etc.) Should be culled because they can be easily susceptible to diseases and they can act as disease vectors for other produce. Culled produce should be removed far from the field.
Washing and cleaning should be done as soon as produce is harvested. It can be done in the field itself or after bringing it to the warehouse. This will help to remove contaminations such as dust, chemicals, soil, etc. Water that used to wash produce should be clean water. It is better to use cold water if possible because it helps to reduce the heat in the produce. Although producers washed their produce, cleaning them before consuming is a good hygiene practice. All the equipment used during cleaning, harvesting, and other practices should be well sanitized.
3. Packing, Storing, and Transportation
Packaging materials should be made according to the food contact material regulations. Otherwise, you may not sure whether there are any toxic materials in the package and whether those materials have mixed with the product.
All the packing materials, transporting vehicles, and storerooms should be well sanitized. During transporting produce, the vehicle should be a covered one and if it has a cold room facility it would be much better. Warehouses must be well enclosed to ensure safety from any kind of contamination.
4. At the Market
This is the place where consumers buy produce. Customers are always looking for good looking, healthy foods for a fair price. So produces should always be fresh and high in both internal and external quality. External quality will attract customers at that moment, but the internal quality of your product will motivate customers to buy from you continuously.
Wearing gloves, hair covers, and face covers like protective items are good safety and hygiene practices that can be practiced by the market seller.
Apart from this, in India, there are legal regulations to ensure the safety and hygiene of the food products in the markets.
Food Safety and Standards Act – 2006
This Act consolidates the laws relating to foods. The performing body under this Act is the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India. It imposes science-based standards and ensures the safe throughout the food production chain.
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