Food Safety on Strawberries
May 26, 2020
Enhanced Safety Practices on California Strawberry Farms
By Tim Hammerich, with the AgInformation Network of the West
Strawberries are grown year round in the state, so when COVID-19 hit, harvest was in full swing in Southern California. Luckily the industry has developed a strong food safety training program over the past 15 years including print and video materials as well as in-person training.
This allowed them to respond quickly, says California Strawberry Commission Communications Director Carolyn O’Donnell.
“So starting with that baseline of food safety, we were able to build off of two specific pillars that are in that food safety program. And that includes coming to work when you're well and not coming to work when you're sick. And the other one is about adequate hand-washing,” said O'Donnell
The commission has leveraged the strong established food safety training program to get the word out about emphasizing these pillars. O’Donnell says they have also been communicating directly with employees.
“We've been running on public service announcements on Spanish language radio throughout the central coast of California where strawberries are being grown,” O'Donnell said. “And then we've been also doing a Saturday morning hosted program for about an hour on our radio station that definitely caters to that farm worker audience. And we've brought in a health person every time to talk about the ways to stay healthy, not only on the ranch, but when you're at home.”
The program, called the “I Pick Safety” program, allows employees to work safely, and consumer to know that their delicious California strawberries are safe to eat.