Good Fruit Grower

September 2016

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38 SEPTEMBER 2016 Good Fruit Grower S anitize gloves again after employee breaks if they were set on an unwashed table. Hang tools with bristles down in a closet when not in use. Turn up water pressure high enough to move dirt, but not so high it splashes it around. More than anything, though, approach all packing facility duties with a mindset of food safety, industry offi - cials and sanitation supervisors say. Don't just clean to mark a box on a checklist. Think like a pathogen. Ask yourself, "If I was a germ, where would I be hid- ing," said Laura Grunenfelder, technical issues manager for the Northwest Horticultural Council. In the era of food safety pressure, the potential for con- tamination may seem endless, but industry offi cials and food safety supervisors have just as many tips and ideas for how to combat foodborne illnesses. Washington's tree fruit industry has been staging hands-on workshops inside warehouses to help packers learn best practices to keep pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria), Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli) or salmonella off their apples, cherries and pears. Listeria is the pathogen of highest concern to the fruit industry because it's the most serious; as many as 30 percent of Listeriosis cases result in death. The bacteria lives and grows in temperatures ranging from freezing to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, at a wide array of pH levels and inside controlled-atmosphere rooms. The Washington State Tree Fruit Association started the cleaning and sanitation workshops a year ago after a Listeria outbreak traced to caramel apples that were packed at Bidart Brothers in Bakersfi eld, California, killed seven people and hospitalized 34. "An outbreak like that can cause signifi cant losses for the whole industry," said Jacqui Gordon, director of education and member services for the Tree Fruit Association. If one shipper causes an outbreak, the whole industry gets a black eye. Sales drop for everyone. In late July, the organization fi nished its third round of the workshops, which feature both classroom presen- tations and facility demonstrations in both Spanish and English. Already, they've attracted more than 250 people so far. The association spends about $800 on each work- shop, which costs $45 per person. More are planned for next year. The clean Workshops go on-site to warehouses to show workers where those pesky pathogens could be hiding. by Ross Courtney

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