Bridging the GAPs: Approaches to Treating Water On Farms

Importance of SOPs

At the core of food safety systems are the actions that employees perform. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) outline specific tasks that need to be completed and outline the steps to perform those tasks. SOPs should be written clearly and concisely so that anyone can follow them. In order to test the SOPs effectiveness, it is ideal for growers to share the SOPs with someone else to read and perform the written tasks. At the same time, growers should watch the individual carry out the tasks to see if it is clear what needs to be performed. Although written SOPs are not required by the Produce Safety Rule, written SOPs help ensure proper compliance and implementation of critical tasks, in particular, irrigation water treatment.

For SOPs supporting irrigation water treatment, the following points should be considered (Adapted from:

1. Step-by-step instructions to ensure the water treatment is correctly implemented by following the SOPs

2. Location and name of any supplies needed

3. When and how often practices should be completed


What records are needed or necessary


What critical limits need to be met


What is being monitored

7. What corrective actions to perform if critical limits are not met

This section addresses the key components within SOPs, including: critical limits, monitoring, corrective actions, validation, verification activities, and recordkeeping.

Cr itical Limits

For an irrigation water treatment to be effective, certain science-based, measurable parameters are identified and established. These are known as critical limits. A critical limit is defined as a maximum and/or minimum value, or a combination of values, to which a parameter must be controlled to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of an identified hazard. Known hazards for irrigation water include E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. Microbial indicators for fecal contamination, i.e., generic E. coli are also used as indicators of potential contamination of enteric organisms. If a critical limit is not met, the treatment is out of control, that is, a deviation has occurred and the potential for contaminated water that could pose a risk to consumer health exists.

Critical limits should relate to a process or treatment that can be easily measured. Examples of critical limits for antimicrobial pesticides could include chemical concentrations, contact times, pH, turbidity, and flow rate.


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