Do you have a plan to reduce risks from wildlife in your produce fields?
When wildlife comes in contact with fruit and vegetable production areas, the risk of foodborne illnesses increases. If growers are to mitigate some of the risk posed by wildlife, they need a plan.
Wildlife pose a clear and present risk to the safety of fruits and vegetables. More than simply walking through fields and grazing, wildlife’s urine and feces may carry pathogenic E. coli. Because of this, it is important to have a plan to help minimize their impact on food safety. When devising a plan, there are some specific points to keep in mind.
- Where are potential problem spots? A wildlife risk mitigation plan should delineate the various land features around your production areas and the risks associated with these features.
- How will these areas be monitored? You should explain how you intend to monitor for these risks and document that you monitored each and every time you performed a check.
- What will you do if you see excessive wildlife? This can be done in a general way by listing a number of tactics that may be employed or the individual mitigation steps can be spelled out.
The auditor is looking for evidence of a system written in the Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) Manual to minimize incidence of wildlife in the field, visual evidence that it is taking place and documentation that it has been taking place in the past. Writing a wildlife mitigation policy is the first step. Implementing changes or developing mitigation strategies on your farm is the next step. Documenting that you are monitoring fields and selectively harvesting produce is the final step.
To obtain more information about mitigating wildlife in growing areas from a food safety perspective, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Work Group and ask for guidance document AFSM003-01.