Bridging the GAPs: Approaches to Treating Water On Farms

For some growers, microbial testing may not be a suitable option due to land leasing or rotation, and treatment of irrigation water may be a more feasible option. The Produce Safety Rule does not require testing of surface waters or a grower to maintain a microbial water quality profile if a water treatment is applied that is intended to lower the risk of microbial conta mination of food safety concerns. However, it’s important to understand that the Produce Safety Rule provides a set of minimum food safety standards. Most buyer requirements or third-party certifications require growers to test irrigation water; buyer requirements may also include treatment of irrigation water for food safety. Testing will likely be included in implementing a treatment system providing validation and verification that a treatment is effective.

Identify all true statements regarding agricultural water, as defined by the FDA within the Produce Safety Rule (21 CFR Part 112).

o Agricultural water includes water used in activities on covered produce that is intended or likely to contact produce that is intended to, or likely to contact covered produce or food contact surfaces. o Irrigation water can serve as a vector for pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, that may cause foodborne illnesses. Surface waters pose the highest risk of contamination of foodborne pathogens, as compared to ground or municipal water. o The Produce Safety Rule establishes microbial water quality criteria where each source of agricultural water must be tested for E. coli, unless a treatment is applied to the water that is intended to lower the risk of microbial contamination of food safety concerns.

o Treatment of agricultural water is an example of a corrective measure to apply, if the grower does not meet the E. coli threshold as established by the FDA.

o Buyers may require growers to treat their irrigation water for microbial contamination of food safety concerns.

All of the above statements are true.

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Factors to consider when choosing a water treatment method

When choosing a water treatment, a grower must consider various factors in order to find one that works in his or her situation. Each farm or operation will have specific needs and constraints that will drive the best option that works in each situation. The following considers several factors:

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