Technology and automation are expected to play a big role in fresh-cut produce facilities of the future.However, when it comes to producing a product that’s both safe and fresh, produce processors must combine the efficiency of these new systems with the expertise of well-educated employees. Fortunately, there are lots of resources employers can use to train their staff in effective fresh-cut safety practices.
While systems like the Accu-Tab® Calcium Hypochlorite Feed System are a low maintenance, affordable way to automate operations, the expertise and attention of your staff is vital to growing and protecting your business. For example, our system offers precise, consistent chlorine delivery; however, the employees managing it still must know how many hypochlorite tablets to deploy, depending on how much water is being used.
In any professional setting, knowledge is power, and industry training programs like the United Fresh Foundation, International Produce Training, the University of California Davis Postharvest Technology Center and others offer facilities USDA-accredited and on-site or off-site courses. These courses train employees in the fundamentals of produce inspection and standards in addition to courses on individual commodities.
Educating your employees on these best practices can minimize losses and encourage fresher, more attractive output. An employee that has not been formally trained by a USDA-accredited program may not know the difference between a bruised berry and a decaying one, or how much rib discoloration on a head of lettuce is acceptable. These decisions can have profound effects on your bottom line. Inspection and commodity courses teach your employees how to protect your inventory, your reputation, and of course, your customers.
Fresh-cut produce facilities should be aware of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)—a preventative approach to food safety that is mandatory for juice and meat processors but is non-binding for produce processors. However, the FDA still recommends employee training for maximum safety. You can read the FDA’s full HACCP guide for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables here, which includes the following recommendations:
- Disease Control: Establish policies for reporting employee illnesses, train supervisors to identify symptoms, and contain employee injuries and wounds.
- Cleanliness: Establish good personal hygiene practices as well as sanitizing gloves and other handling equipment.
- Training: As noted earlier, USDA-accredited training courses are a great way to prevent inadvertent contamination or spoilage of produce. The FDA’s HACCP standards recommend training produce processing employees in the following:
- Hand washing technique.
- Roles and responsibilities of different positions in the facility, from those who identify deficiencies in the end product to those who monitor the pH levels and temperature of wash water.
- Sanitation principles and practices, including sanitation of processing equipment, and tools, as well as proper chemical storage. Specifically, the FDA advises that all water that eventually becomes a component of fresh-cut produce, including contact with equipment and surfaces, comply with Federal, State and local requirements. (A modern chlorination system can be a great avenue through which to educate your employees about these practices.